WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Fr. Stefano Penna says, 'Stewardship is Jesus Christ, a true person.'
In most relationships that result in marriage, the couple does not come together because of shared principles. Rather, they fall in love. Because of their love for each another, a new behaviour emerges.
"If you know you are loved, you can do anything," said Father Stefano Penna.
Likewise, people are not inspired to convert to Christianity because of abstract doctrines such as communion, Church or Eucharist. They will be Christians if they encounter Christ's love.
"This is actually a critical thing in understanding why and how we must engage the world today for bringing people into an encounter with Christ and teaching them to be good stewards," said Penna.
"Stewardship isn't an idea. Stewardship has a face. Stewardship is Jesus Christ, a true person."
Penna's message is that stewardship is not about showing the world how much you love Jesus. On the contrary, stewardship is about showing the world how much Jesus loves you. Discovering oneself loved by Christ is the essence of being a Christian.
His talk on the person of Jesus Christ, Grace Offered, was to be given at this year's Stewardship Day in March. With its cancellation, a CD of his April 12 talk at Newman Theological College as well as an informative booklet will be distributed to parishes in May, and made available to anyone interested.
A girl who falls in love with a boy will want to know him more. She will seek answers to the questions of what his passions are, what makes him tick and what his family is like.
"The same thing happens to Christians when they discover themselves being the object of God's love. They encounter that in a real way, and their world is blown open when all of a sudden they long to know more and more about the one who loves them," said Penna.
He recommends that people open the Bible and spend 15 minutes of quiet time reading the Gospels. Through the Holy Spirit, their hearts will be opened to an encounter with Jesus. To be a Christian means encountering him regularly.
"It's like at the Eucharist. We bring bread, wine and water, and we put it on a table.
"That's what we offer to God, and what does he give us back? God gives himself. This is the divine economy: all we give is a little bit and a lot comes back to us," said Penna.
In John 14, Jesus says there are lots of rooms in his Father's house, and he will prepare a place for you. Jesus is the economist or the steward, the one who organizes the house.
Who is the steward of your house? What does your house say about the person in charge of arranging it? What's the first thing people see when they come into your house - the television, family pictures or knickknacks from around the world?
Or, is it a house that has been organized by God, a reflection of the great house in heaven to which you are going?
"That's the question that underlies stewardship. Is Jesus our economist? Do we hand over to him stewardship of our house?" asked Penna.
Most people try to be economists of their own homes. The result is that in many homes television has become the economy, days are organized by TV viewing and the rhythms of life are based on people's favourite programs.
TV changed the world, and how people spend their time shifted. Their treasures and their hearts lie in TV.
"The economy of the world is I'm going to do something for you and then you're going to pay me back, and I want it to be fair," said Penna. "If it's not going to be fair, I want it to be unfair in my favour."
That is not God's way. For God, what one does and how one works are not of utmost importance. What really counts is that God has loved us first.
The second of Penna's three talks on stewardship is set for 7 p.m. on April 26 at Newman College.