March 20, 2011 — Second Sunday of Lent
It’s hard to practice stewardship as a way of life if you don’t trust God. On the part of the individual Christian, if you don’t have a faith that goes beyond mere intellectual assent, it would seem pointless to spend your time in prayer. It would seem foolish to use your talent serving others without any contract specifying the payment you’ll receive. And if you devote a portion of your treasure in God’s service – possibly even the tithe, a tenth of your income – maybe you won’t have enough left to pay all your bills and put some aside.
Even for pastors and others with administrative responsibilities in the Church, adopting stewardship as a way of life seems risky. Will enough people (the right kind, those with money, that is) respond to God’s invitation to keep the parish solvent? Can we really give up all the fundraising gimmicks that have been used to keep the doors open and the lights on?
Abraham then provides a model of putting one’s faith in God into action. Isn’t amazing how much faith he had? He was willing to leave his homeland in response to God’s invitation to find a new home. He took all that he possessed with him, so he would have no reason to go back. Two additional details demonstrate the greatness of Abraham’s faith.
First, a bit of information given immediately after today’s First Reading: Abraham was 75 years old when he began his journey. That’s an age when most people have settled down or are preparing to do so. Few of us would be willing to head for a country where we’ve never been, knowing that we will not return to the place we call home, at such an advanced age.
Second, and perhaps even more startling: Abraham didn’t know where he was going. The Lord had not given him a roadmap with a clearly-marked route and destination. He didn’t have a realtor’s glossy brochure or the image of a likely-looking address he had downloaded from the Internet. All he had was God’s invitation to go “to a land that I will show you.” And trusting the Lord to show the way and let him know when he got to his journey’s end, Abraham went. What an act of faith!
Psalm 33, the Responsorial Psalm for today, reinforces the message of a faith that is strong enough to be put into action. “Upright is the word of the Lord, and all his works are trustworthy,” we heard; and we declared our faith as we sang the response, “Lord, let your mercy be upon us, as we place our trust in you.”
Like Abraham, we may not know the route our journey in faith will take us. Abraham had experiences that tested his faith, and moments when he questioned God and even doubted him. But in the end, God’s faithfulness and Abraham’s responsiveness kept him on the right path. St. Paul, in today’s reading from 2 Tim 1, tells us that we, like Abraham, will find that things do not always go smoothly. “Bear your share of hardship for the gospel,” he wrote. But, he reminds us, we are not alone, for we have an unbeatable resource, “the strength that comes from God.”
Yes, living a life of stewardship – being willing to commit our time, talent, and treasure to the service of God – requires faith that the Lord will provide for us and guide us on our journey. But as the Father instructed Peter, James, and John during the wonderful experience of the Transfiguration of Jesus, “Listen to him.” And we have Christ’s own encouragement, “Rise, and do not be afraid.”
When we’re willing to follow God’s leading to the place that he will show us, we have only to begin. Why not start today?