Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 23, 2004
Share your God-given talents
Stewardship benefits both person, parish
The Shepherd Speaks
By ARCHBISHOP THOMAS COLLINS
An enthusiastic advocate of stewardship was talking with a friend, who responded: "That's all fine, but how is stewardship relevant to me? Why should I care?" Those are good questions.
Stewardship basically is a conscious effort to help each of us to realize deeply that God has blessed us with many gifts (often classified according to the categories of "time, talent, and treasure"), that we should be willing generously to share them, and that as a community we should devise ways of giving opportunities for everyone to do so. We should consider the benefits to our parish communities and our archdiocese, and to each of us personally, that can follow from that.
First of all, stewardship is intended to increase the active engagement of us all in the life of our parishes, as we are invited to become more involved in the numerous ways of serving others. Through our Baptism and Confirmation, we are called to be active participants in the life of the Church, not just passive observers.
So much in life can be modelled on the stance of the couch potato, aimlessly flicking the channel changer, but that leads nowhere. A parish in which all are actively engaged is an exciting and rewarding community, not just a supplier of spiritual services, where we pull in to tank up with what is offered. It is a lively faith family that challenges us as disciples to do great things for Jesus, in the spirit of the Acts of the Apostles.
Taking part in such an engaged community is the first great benefit of stewardship, a benefit for each individual and for our whole community.
Another benefit is a fairer sharing of the responsibilities of parish membership. Sometimes a few people carry a disproportionate share in the work of the parish. They can become overworked and can then, discouraged, simply drop out of all involvement.
Or the leadership of a parish can become concentrated in a few dedicated people, and others can feel left out. Neither of these situations is healthy. Many hands make light work, and as more parishioners are engaged, each can experience the joy of giving without being threatened with the danger of burning out.
In addition, what a benefit it will be for all of our society if more and more of the generous energy of all 345,000 members of our archdiocese can be activated, to bring the life of the Gospel to a world so desperately in need of it. Stewardship is a conscious and careful effort to activate that energy, and focus it effectively in the service of God and neighbour.
At a personal level, we can all become caught in routine. Because they are so freely offered by Jesus, even the great gifts of Word and Sacrament can be taken for granted, and each of us can become dull in our devotion to the Master. We go to Mass Sunday after Sunday, but slip into passivity, and so lose our sense of wonder at the marvels of our faith.
The word of God goes in one ear and out the other, and even the Eucharist itself can become routine as we are blinded to the awesome encounter with our Risen Saviour, and are no longer shaken by the startling challenge of the final words of Mass: "Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord." Truly put that into practice, and the life of each of us will be made new.
We often hear the wise saying "Faith is caught, and not taught." People first became attracted to Christian discipleship because they noticed the witness of the disciples, not so much their words but the vibrancy of their lives, and the profound joy that radiated from them. That is what attracted me to stewardship: the obvious effect on the lives of those who had experienced it.
It really is more blessed to give than to receive, and as we live generously we always receive far, far more than we give. Stewardship is not a new program, or some magic solution to the challenges we face. It means a change of heart for each of us, an "attitude of gratitude" that permeates the whole of our life as disciples. That is its greatest benefit.
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