I find that the stewardship way of life is often challenged by a “myth” that is very difficult to change. This myth provokes a misunderstanding of the term “stewardship,” and a pleasant expression is replaced by a tense one, which sets eyes rolling. Some “get it,” some don’t, and too many think of stewardship in terms of fundraising — a “program” or strategy that promises to increase one’s offertory. This is the myth to which I am referring!
It is often thought that successful stewardship is measured only in dollars and cents. This is also a myth. As I talk with priests and lay people throughout our community, within our diocese and around the country, I notice that more people hang on to this myth — more than I care to admit. Not only do people defensively hold on to this misunderstanding, but they are also convinced that there is no other perspective about stewardship than their preconceived notion, and nothing is going to change it. This really becomes a challenge to those who are trying to evangelize the stewardship way of life and convince others to do the same.
What is there to do for someone who is absolutely convinced that the stewardship way of life is an all-inclusive answer to authentic discipleship? My first response is, “don’t give up!” Persistence pays in the long run, and if we truly believe this is what Jesus is calling us to do, we can’t give up. Opportunities will present themselves to witness to the stewardship way of life. Seizing such opportunities to inform, instruct and encourage the stewardship way of life as an expression of our discipleship can happen when we least expect it. Be prepared and do not fear to say the word “stewardship” — explain it as the practical, understandable way to live life as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Jesus knew that some of his followers would understand and embrace his call to discipleship simply and wholeheartedly. He also knew that there are others who would take a little more time to understand “the call” and respond with faithful stewardship. He would never give up on those who deserved a little more attention.
Granted, it can be discouraging when my brother priests are stuck in the “money mode,” due to the fiscal responsibility we have as pastors to balance budgets and provide for all the needs of a parish family. Those responsibilities cannot and should not be ignored or neglected. But when the “myth” about stewardship overpowers the fiscal responsibilities of parish administration, we will find ourselves on a very different level of our spiritual growth and expression of faith. It is an easy trap in which to find ourselves — I have been there too often, myself.
I readily admit, I don’t completely “get it” yet, for I am quite comfortable — enthusiastic, even — that embracing the stewardship way of life is a lifelong process that promises unlimited possibilities, and is a potential that knows no bounds as only the Holy Spirit can provide. I am more convinced than ever we all are called to live the stewardship way of life. It has been my hope and prayer that as you read this, more are “getting it” than those who do not.