More than 20 years ago, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a pastoral letter titled Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response. This document was an invitation to follow Christ Who gave of Himself for us. Each of us is called to serve our neighbors and to be stewards of God’s creation and of all that has been entrusted to us. However, to truly understand stewardship, we must look to the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist is the total gift of our loving Savior to us. Stewardship is our response to that gift.
Even the word “Eucharist” implies stewardship. The word “Eucharist” finds its roots in the Latin word eucharistia, which in turn came from the Greek word eukaristos, which meant, quite simply, “gratitude” or “thanksgiving.” How fitting that we, who are called to be a stewardship people, celebrate at the focal point of every Mass an act of thanksgiving and gratitude — namely, the reception of Jesus’ gift to us — the Eucharist.
In their pastoral letter on stewardship, the bishops speak of the Eucharist in this way: “The Eucharist is the great sign and agent of this expansive communion of charity… we enjoy a unique union with Christ and, in Him, with one another. Here His love — indeed, His very Self — flows into us as disciples and, through us and our practice of stewardship to the entire human race.”
When we receive Christ’s Body in the Holy Eucharist, we hear the minister say, “The Body of Christ.” To this, we respond, “Amen” – which means in Hebrew, “Yes; it is so.” This is the essence of stewardship. We should enter the Church for Mass out of “gratitude.” We recognize the presence of the Lord in Holy Communion, and then we truly receive the Lord. What is left for us to do is the fulfillment of stewardship — that is, sharing what we have received in love of God and neighbor. Our entire experience speaks to stewardship — we are grateful; we recognize the real presence of the Lord; we receive the Lord; and then we share what we have received.
Christ’s gift to us through the Eucharist is an invitation to us. We are called to give beyond what is convenient or what may be comfortable. We are called to forgive even when forgiveness may not be deserved; we are called to love even when that love is not returned. We are called to love as God loves us.
The Eucharist is stewardship celebrated. The Mass is more than a ritual. It is an actual encounter with God, with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We need to respond to the Eucharist with our complete selves. What we experience in the Eucharist should, in turn, translate into our daily lives. We are committed to the Church, which is Christ’s body. We show our love for His body by acts of charity and generosity. We spend time in prayer, expressing our gratitude and our love.
God’s greatest gift to us is Christ’s great love for us — this was shown when He was crucified on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sins and to give us eternal life. God’s love for us is without limit, and He offers Himself to us in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. Stewardship is how we respond to that gift.