At the end of every year, every adult is busy filing taxes. We all need to account for every single dollar we have earned. We are all very sincere and careful to account for everything, to avoid being penalized. What comes to your mind when you hear stewardship mentioned here in church and receive a letter from the parish about stewardship? It should not be confused because stewardship does not only mean money; it is about everything that God has given us.
As we come towards the end of our liturgical year, in a couple of weekends, we are going to hear from the readings about stewardship. How have I lived the whole year in service to God and His Church? Did I fulfill my baptismal promises? The true message of stewardship, however, is not about how much the church expects of its members. It is about the expectations of our God, and our answer to His question, “What have you done with all that I have given to you?”
Today’s first reading and the gospel are good examples of giving without expecting returns and hoping and trusting in the Lord. Do we ever give either money or services without expecting returns? True wealth consists not in what we keep but in what we give away. Possessions are a great responsibility. The Lord expects us to use them honestly and responsibly, and to put them at His service and the service of others. We belong to God and all that we have is His as well. He expects us to make a good return on what He gives us. Have you ever reflected on the prayer/grace before meals?
“Bless us, O Lord, and these your gifts,
which we are about to receive from your bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen!”
This means it is all from God, not from our hard work. We might argue it is from our hard work, but who has given us good health to work hard? Everything leads back to the source.
There are three kinds of givers: grudge givers say, “I hate to give”; duty givers say, “I ought to give” and thanks givers say, “I want to give.” Today’s readings are calling us to give without any reservation, to give freely and from the heart. Here we are not just talking about giving money. It is also giving of ourselves and of our time to God, our family and our neighbors. We need to do all this with a generous and full heart as did the widows in the first reading and gospel.
If our giving is less than it should be, then Jesus is speaking to us in a special way. It’s that we can give ourselves in different ways to different people. We might put it this way: “The best gift to an enemy is forgiveness; to a friend is loyalty; to a child is a good example; to a father is honor; to a mother is our heart; and to neighbor is our hand; and to God everything.” (Francis Balfour)
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Peter Patrick