For many stewardship parishes across the country, we are approaching the time of year for the annual Stewardship Renewal. This time is a chance for us to reflect on how each of us is living out our discipleship in Christ. It truly is an important time in the life or a parish and in our individual lives, as well.
Perhaps the most common question I am asked from parishioners at my parish — Immaculate Conception in Willoughby, Ohio — in regard to living stewardship is, “Why do I have to fill out a Commitment Card each year?” There are two primary reasons a stewardship parish should ask each household to return a Commitment Card each year. First, it is important to formally re-commit ourselves to the parish, similar to how spouses celebrate anniversaries, or how we renew our baptismal vows at Easter. Secondly, we need to annually reevaluate our commitments, because a lot can change in a year. You may have more free time to devote to ministries, or you may have received a raise that enables you to support the parish more generously.
St. Augustine said, “For the good man there is no law.” That is to say, the good person instinctively does the good and does not need any laws directing him or her to what is a good thing to do, and what is not a good thing to do. We could apply this same principle to our participation in the Stewardship Renewal. A person who is already living stewardship is doing what needs to be done. So why fill out a Commitment Card each year?
The answer is that there is one more thing that needs to be done: being a good example. Jesus Himself submitted to the ritual of baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River not because Jesus needed to undergo this ritual of purification, but rather so that He would be a good example for all of the people at that time. The same is true for everyone in the parish. If you are already participating in stewardship as a way of life to the best of your ability, your parish still needs you to be a good example for others who are new to living stewardship. By filling out a Commitment Card, you are being a good example for those who need some help.
Remember that stewardship is taking care of the gifts God has given us — which is everything in our lives. A good steward uses his or her time, talent, and treasure for the good of the Church and the benefit of those in need. But, ultimately, stewardship is about our individual need to giveback to God in thanksgiving for all He has given us.