Stewardship: A Grateful Response to God’s Love
God reveals His perfect and infinite love for us most visibly in His Son, Jesus Christ. A steward makes God’s love visible by imitating Jesus. As the United States Bishops wrote in their Pastoral Letter, “Stewardship is the Response of the Disciple to God’s unconditional love for us”. Stewards bask in the wonder and awe of God’s Love. The more deeply one grows in love for God, the more one grows in heart to see stewardship as a way of life. Stewards see everything good as gifts received from God and they respond in gratitude with the gift of self.
The Sacrament of Baptism calls Christians to a lifelong vocation of discipleship as Children of God made in His Image and Likeness. We are called as disciples to follow Jesus, to grow in holiness by the graces God showers upon us. As recipients of God’s loving grace, our hearts leap with Gratitude. “How can I repay the Lord for all the good He has done for me?” (Psalm 116:12).
To imitate the love of Jesus Christ is a most challenging task. In our human nature, this is not possible. Yet, we have not first loved God. God loved first loved us. By opening our hearts to receive the gift of God’s love, we begin to love in a way that transcends our human nature. This call to love is not just a feeling of love, but rather, it is a decision to love. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (I Corinthians 13:7). The disciple perseveres to love through all stages of life. To love may be very difficult at some stages and easier at others. But we do not walk this journey of life alone. Without question, Jesus’ model and commandment was to love and grow in holiness. “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 14: 34-35).
Stewardship is a conversion journey of receiving God’s love and returning love to Him. A conversion requires prayer, reflection and time to allow God to show us who we are, and the person of love that we can become. Throughout the conversion experience, the disciple yearns to change and grow into the person God created them to be - a steward uniquely His own, but united in one Body through Jesus Christ. Stewardship transforms lives because of its love, and it is in this transformation process and conversion journey towards love that we give new life to the Church. “If you wish to come after me, you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. For if you wish to save your life you will lose it, but if you lose your life for my sake you will save it.” (Luke 9: 23-24)
The famous Christian author, C.S. Lewis, once wrote, “A person whose hands are full of parcels cannot receive a gift.” Today, one of the spiritual evils facing our nation is a growing materialism and consumerism. When one holds so tightly to material possessions, one cannot receive the spiritual gifts that God wishes to give to His beloved children. God transforms a steward beyond mere human kindness to a love of sacrifice and detachment, enabling the steward to continually receive God’s gifts. When a steward loves God above treasured earthly possessions, God provides the grace for the steward to love to an even greater depth. This depth of love is a growth in holiness. This is one of the joyful rewards of a stewardship way of life.
In the deepening conversion of love, the steward learns to give of self through time, talent and treasure, not out of obligation and duty, but out of sincere desire. The steward recognizes within the very nature of the human person, an inherent need to give. For the steward, this way of life and giving of love becomes as natural as breathing itself.
The conversion to stewardship as a way of life is a journey of the individual, the family, the parish, the diocese and the Universal Church. What makes such conversion possible? As stated above, it is God’s love for us that lies at the heart of such conversion. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16). It is God’s desire that we have life. Jesus came to give life and to give it abundantly, (cf. John 10:10). Jesus Christ is the foundation of the stewardship way of life. He is the capstone of the structure.
With Jesus as the foundation, certain elements, such as hospitality, prayer, formation and service, referred to as “The Pillars of Parish Stewardship” need to be in place within the parish structure enabling parishioners to convert to a stewardship life through the giving of self in time, talent and treasure. Recognizing that this conversion is primarily a call from God made possible through grace He bestows upon us, the task of conversion to stewardship is part of our response to discipleship.
Together in our journey of faith, may God bless us and may we respond as faithful disciples - faithful stewards.