Stewardship

Apr 27, 2015

I expressed my concern about the state of volunteering in our parish at the Masses April 19. What I shared at the time was my concern that in some cases people who had committed to volunteering for a task were simply not showing up thus placing an unreasonable burden on a few. This past Sunday I included in the bulletin a new "Time and Talent Commitment" sheet and asked everyone to fill one out.

Stewardship is an obligation we all have. The Old Testament mandates giving 10% of income. It also requires that God get the "first fruits" from the fields and livestock. These were given as a sacrifice to God. In the New Testament the requirement has become more demanding. The Parable of the Talents (Mt. 25:14-30; Lk 19:12-28) makes it clear: 1. we are each given a different amount, 2. our task is not just to give those back to God but to do so with an increase.

The principle that underlies stewardship is that God has given us everything: life, who we have become, the earth, time, treasure and talent. In gratitude we respond to God by growth in holiness (life and who we become), caring for the earth, and by giving of our time, treasure and talent.

Stewardship is clearly not just about money. Along with treasure we give time and talent back to God. In some ways giving treasure is the easiest of the three in a wealthy country like ours. For some people giving a small donation does not "hurt" at all. However, Fr. Andrew Greeley points out that, on average, Catholics give 1.5% of income. Jews average 2.5% and Protestants average closer to 5%. All this while Catholics remain the second wealthiest demographic behind Jews and the best educated because of superior Catholic Schools.

The United States bishops gave the very best definition of stewardship I have ever heard in their 1992 pastoral letter called Stewardship: A Disciple's Response. In it they define a good steward 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."

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