Several years ago, while serving in the Diocese of Cleveland’s missions in El Salvador, we celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation with the auxiliary bishop of the diocese. One of the missionaries asked him, “How do the people here look at the Church?” He replied, “They look upon the Church either as a ladder or as their mother.” In other words, some look upon the Church as a means to get something; others look upon the church as a personal relationship.
We all could ask the same question about our own parish. How do you look upon the parish? I might offer the response that we look upon the parish in a similar way that the Salvadorans look upon the Church. Some look upon the parish as if it is a gas station; others look upon the parish as a family — a place to form a personal relationship with Christ. In which category do you fit? If you look upon your parish as a gas station, it means that you use the parish primarily to fulfill your personal needs. If the Mass times are convenient for you, and if the religious education and sacramental preparation is to your liking, then you come to this parish. If these things aren’t to your liking, then you go elsewhere to have your needs fulfilled.
If you look upon the parish as a family — a place to form personal relationships, especially with Jesus Christ, then you make a commitment to the whole parish to take part in parish life to its fullest — to receive and to give. That is the difference. You don’t go looking for cheaper gas prices in order to get what you want. You look at the needs of the parish and say, “How can I help make this parish more welcoming, more prayerful, more serving and more loving?”
The best way that I know to accomplish all of this is by making a strong commitment to stewardship as a way of life. The celebration of the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the parish family, our Christian life. The commitment of time is primarily to the weekly celebration of the Eucharist. The commitment of our talents means that we share our gifts with others by being involved in parish ministries. We make a financial commitment of our treasure because we are born with a need to cheerfully give back to God from all of the many blessings, financial and otherwise, that He has given us.
A stewardship way of life is our response to God’s call to us to become like Him. This means that we become a generously-giving person from all that God has given us.