For many stewardship parishes around the country, including my own parish — Immaculate Conception in Willoughby, Ohio — October is one of the busiest months of the year, as it is the month of the Annual Renewal. The renewal is another invitation to continue to follow Christ in a committed way.
Many Catholics still do not have a clear understanding of what it means to live stewardship as a way of life. I say this because, each year, when we conduct our renewal, I get complaints from people who say that all of this talk about stewardship is just about money or getting volunteers, and doesn’t have anything to do with God. Such complaints reveal a lack of understanding.
In 1992, the bishops of the United States wrote an important pastoral letter about stewardship. One insight they offer is this: “Something else must come before the practice of stewardship. People need a flash of light — a certain way of seeing — by which they view their world and their relationship to it in a fresh new light.”
What is this flash of insight? St. Ignatius of Loyola famously described it in very simple terms: God created us for a reason – to be with Him forever in heaven. He created other things on earth to help us achieve this goal. As a consequence, we should use earthly things to grow closer to God, or remove them if they are a hindrance. One could say that the “conversion to stewardship” comes when we truly believe that everything we have should be used for God’s purposes.
Everything should be used for God’s purposes. Everything we have is God’s gift to us, and so it makes sense to say that everything should be used for God’s purposes. Next month, as a nation, we will celebrate Thanksgiving Day. Even in the midst of all the problems we personally face in our daily lives, and amidst all the problems we are facing as a nation, we all have a great deal to be thankful to God. This time of renewal is a good time to reflect on God’s goodness to us and to realize just how blessed we are. With such great blessings comes a great responsibility to share what we have with others, to use what we have for God’s purposes. Ultimately, that is what the stewardship way of life is all about.