When most people hear the word stewardship, they immediately think of money. Stewardship is actually a way of life grounded in faith, hope and love. Christ calls us to be good stewards of the earth and the gifts that He provides such as the air we breathe, the water we drink, the animals and plants which provide our nourishment. He gives us a soul which allows us to think, to be an individual and to love and above all to have free will to choose all things of life. In Genesis 1:28, God gives us dominion over the earth and all that dwells in it. He gives us these gifts, not to be abused, but for our needs and pleasure. We have a responsibility to use these gifts wisely - to be good stewards of the earth and all that dwells in it.
Our response to these gifts, as disciples of Jesus Christ, is to live with an attitude of gratitude. To be thankful for the bounty that God has generously bestowed on us, and to allow our appreciation to permeate every aspect of our lives. We return the best and first fruits of our labor as Abel did, not the leftovers as Cain did. We do this through our gifts of time, talent and treasure. All that we are and all that we have is God's gift to us. All that we become is our gift to God.
As disciples of Christ through our initiation in Baptism, our giftedness in Confirmation and our nourishment in the Holy Eucharist, we are called to step out in faith, with courage, to be Christ's Body here on earth - to be His presence to all we meet and all who call out to us for help. The Vatican II document on the role of the laity in the Church tells us, "Wherever there are people in need of food and drink, clothing, housing, medicine, employment, education; wherever men lack the facilites necessary for living a truly human life or are tormented by hardships or poor health, or suffer exile or imprisonment, there Christian charity should seek them out and find them, console them with eager care and relieve them with the gift of help."
St. Teresa of Avila clarifies this in her prayer:
Christ has no body now on earth but yours;
No hands but yours;
No feet but yours;
Yours are the eyes through which
is to look out Christ’s compassion to the world;
Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which He is to bless now.
In 1992, the Bishops of the United States wrote a pastoral letter,
"Stewardship: A Disciple's Response."www.usccb.org/stewardship/index.htm In this letter, a Christian Steward is defined as one who receives God's gifts gratefully, cultivates them responsibly, shares them lovingly in justice with others and returns them with increase to the Lord. Bishop Wilton Gregory, President of the Bishop's Conference emphasized that, "All of us, in varying degreees, have been given talents, abilities and favors that attest to God's generosity. It remains our awesome responsibility to make a return on that which we have received."
Scipture tells us that where our hearts lie there also lies our treasure. If our hearts lie with God and those things which are important to God, then that is where we will place our time, talents and treasure. Children must also be taught stewardship. Proverbs 22:6 tells us, "Train children in the way to live, and when they are old they will not depart from it." Listed below are ways that each age group can practice stewardship:
- Teach children to share toys.
- Encourage them to help others in their own small ways.
- Bring them along when you volunteer in activities.
- Let them help choose the local charities you support.
- Serve in different parish ministries: Youth Group, Choir,
- Be a peer counselor at school or on a community hotline.
- Share part of their income with the parish and community charities.
- Help with parish socials, receptions, the Giving Tree, etc.
- Continue spiritual reading and study.
- Commit to a lifestyle of Christian stewardship.
- Be a good steward in the workplace
- Be of service in the parish or in community organizations.
- Choose a parish ministry to be involved in with your family or friends.
- Share your particular talents at school or parish training sessions.
- Be a good steward of the environment. Become involved in recycling efforts!
- Move toward the goal of giving 5% of your income to the parish and 5% to other charities.
- Become involved in any ministry.
- Share your career or hobby experience with school children or other organizations.
- Become involved in parish organizations.
- Name the parish and/or other charities in your will.
- Prayer can be a special ministry for those who are homebound or sick.
- Telephone others who are homebound.
- Help with parish mailings.
- Share your faith with children and grandchildren.
giver of life and source of our freedom,
we are reminded by the Psalmist
that Yours is
"the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it."
We know that it is
from Your hand
that we have received
all we have and are and will be.
Gracious and loving God,
that You call us to be
the stewards of Your abundance,
the caretakers of all
You have entrusted to us.
Help us always to use your gifts wisely
and teach us to share them generously.
May our faithful stewardship
to the love of Christ in our lives.
We pray with grateful hearts,
in Jesus' name.