The practice of stewardship is a Christian way-of-life process, one that requires putting our baptismal call to discipleship into a process of ongoing, life-long, committed action, and thereby facilitating and supporting the Church’s mission of proclaiming and teaching, serving and sanctifying.
In the process of conveying this way-of-life process, the U. S. Bishops’ opened their 1992 pastoral letter, Stewardship – A Disciple’s Response, with the following quote: “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (1 Pt 4:10) Importantly, they also continue by stating: “Once one chooses to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, stewardship is not an option.” This beginning sets the stage for the five-part plan — the spiritual conversion journey — of the pastoral letter.
This universal call to holiness is predicated upon recognizing God as the origin of life, and from thereon, the source of all we are, all we have and all that we ever will be. In generous, sacrificial and proportionate gratitude, we are then to receive, accept and share this varied giftedness, in love of God and neighbor, by serving the mission of our parish, our diocese, and the wider universal Church.
The process of recognizing, receiving, accepting and sharing our God-given giftedness of our time, talent and treasure challenges all of us to be faithful stewards of the totality of this giftedness. We must do so not only so that we might tithe 10 percent, or otherwise share directly in love and service to God and neighbor, but also so that we may be importantly mindful of our use and/or management of the other 90 percent.
There is always the nagging question: “What are our priorities?” Are we first focusing on “wants” or that of simply meeting our “needs?”
One gauge for identifying our priorities is to conscientiously take a look our checkbook, credit card statement and our calendars. What do they say about us? Where are God and neighbor in the process of prioritization? How often does time with God in prayer, or the works of mercy, appear on our calendars? Do our checkbooks or credit card statements reflect the hoarding and accumulation of stuff or overindulgence in pleasure or entertainment?
The “Cheerful Giver” recognizes God’s varied giftedness; he receives, accepts, and unfolds it, thus serving others in a “cheerful,” life-long, way-of-life process. For “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Cor 9:6)