You Belong to God – You Are Not Your Own! The Core Values of Stewardship

The readings that we hear proclaimed this weekend present us with a reminder of something that is very true and yet very contrary to the way most of us think today. These readings remind us that we belong to God and do not belong to ourselves. This, I think, is exactly the opposite to the way most of us think. It is certainly the opposite of the way the world today would like us to think about ourselves. My own sense is that most of the anger and difficulties that people have towards God and the world are based on the fact that we refuse to recognize that we truly do belong to God and that He is in charge of the world and of our lives. We all like to live under the impression that we belong to ourselves, that we are in charge of everything, and that God is supposed to listen to what we tell him to do and follow our instructions. I remember very clearly one of the great spiritual lessons that Bishop Mikloshazy, one of my favorite instructors in the seminary, used to always say to us was at the heart of the spiritual life: “Remember that God is God and you are not.” This truth is also at the heart of the Stewardship Campaign that Cardinal Collins has asked the parishes of the Archdiocese to focus on in the coming years. For that reason, this weekend, I would like to focus upon four core values that are at the heart of Stewardship and that follow from this Sunday’s readings. I take these values from a book that has been shared with our parish’s Stewardship Committee by the Archdiocesan Office of Faith Formation. The book is called Making Stewardship a Way of Life, by Fr. Andrew Kemberling and Mila Glodava. They identify as the Core Values of Stewardship: 1) Identity; 2) Trust; 3) Gratitude; and 4) Love. All of the readings this Sunday calls us to embrace these values.

  1. Identity:
    The readings this Sunday remind all of us that God is our Creator. We are all made in His image and likeness and everything that we have is from Him. The gifts that we enjoy in this world are given to us for a time to use, but in the end we must all return them to God when He invites us to join Him for all eternity in Heaven. Like the rich man, who fools himself into thinking he can hoard all his goods for eternity, one day each of us will be called back to God and will have to leave those things that we have accumulated here on earth. Even our bodies are not our own. As Paul tells us in the letter to the Colossians, one day we will be invited to rise with Christ. When that day comes, we will share in Christ’s heavenly life and the things of this earth will have no value. We are called to remember that we are from God and we will return to God. On this earth we are but pilgrims. While here on earth, we are to use what has been given to us conscious of our identities as children of God who are passing through this world as Stewards; using what we have for today and returning it to God when our time on earth is complete. This reality calls us to use our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit where we are to encounter God and show His love for our brothers and sisters and to use the goods of this world as Stewards who use what we need to live fulfilled lives, but also pass on and protect what is needed for others. Our identity as children of God calls us to use the gifts of this world responsibly and in such a way that recognizes that they are gifts from God intended for the good of all. 
  2. Trust:
    Because we are all God’s children, and everything we have is from Him, we are called to trust. Much of the injustice that we see in the world today is a result of people failing to trust in God. Those who have, must always have more. Each individual is set on a path of accumulating as much as he or she possibly can, without regard to what is needed to be happy.  We see people, like the rich man in today’s Gospel, who accumulate more than they can ever spend, because they do not trust that they will ever have enough. Trust in God invites us to believe that God will provide for our needs and calls us to accept the invitation to be generous with our earthly possessions. Trusting God does not mean that we abandon prudence or practical considerations about the future. However, it does call us to recognize that we cannot control everything and to let go and let God have His proper place in our lives. Trust calls us to provide for ourselves reasonably, but also to use our goods in a way that recognizes our identities as God’s children and His providential care in our lives. If we are God’s children, we live conscious that God has also given us the gifts of this world to share with others and to assist those who are in need. 
  3. Gratitude:
    Ultimately, the real reason that we as Christians ought to have gratitude is given to us today in the second reading from the letter to the Colossians: Jesus has saved us from death and invites us to share in eternal life with Him. In the face of this tremendous gift, we are to view all of this earth’s passing treasures as gifts to be used in light of the resurrection. Our identity as children of God also calls us to recognize that God has created everything for us and that we ought in thanksgiving to use these gifts with an awareness from whom they have been received and to whom they will be returned when we are called to share in the resurrection. Every time we come to celebrate the Sunday Mass, we are invited to celebrate and give thanks for Christ’s victory over death. The word “Eucharist” itself is derived from the Greek word for “Thanksgiving.” We are to give thanks for creation, life and the redemption that Christ has won for us by the way we use and share the gifts of creation. At Mass, Christ gives Himself to us again in the gift us His body and blood. His gift of Himself is an invitation for us to give of ourselves, using the gifts of our time, treasure and talents as a thanksgiving for all we have received from Jesus and our loving Father.
  4. Love;
    Having been made in the image and likeness of God who is love, we too are called to be a people of love. This is a logical consequence of the values of identity, trust and gratitude. Because God has loved us so much, we are called to love all of our brothers and sisters. God has created us out of love; it is from this that we have gained our identity. God’s loving providence continues to provide for our ongoing needs during our earthly pilgrimage; this is why He invites us to trust Him. Everything that we have if from God; this why we are called to gratitude. Because all of these realities ae signs of God’s love, we are called to love our brothers and sisters as God has loved us. Another word for love is “charity,” but charity can lead people to think only of giving money. Love calls us to assist people not only through gifts of money which support our communities and churches. Love invites us to spend time with those who are lonely and marginalized. Love calls us to share our talents so that what God has given us may also be shared with others.

The readings this Sunday remind us of one of the central truths in life. One day, we will be required to return to God all that he has given us. If this reality is approached only from the selfish and self-centered way that most of us think, this might seem like a very sad lesson. What is the point in living if we are going to lose everything? This is a question that we will have to face if we live in a way that denies our identity as children of God, refusing to trust in God’s care and providence. If we do live a selfish and ungrateful life which is devoid of love, then everything truly is in vain. However, this is not the way God invites us to live!!!! God invites us to live conscious of our identity as His beloved children made for eternal life. Knowing that we are His beloved, for whom He has made everything, God invites us to trust in His love and providence. Conscious of what He has done for us, and the salvation that has been won for us in His Son, God invites us to a life of gratitude for His goodness. This gratitude is to be shown in the love that we show our brothers and sister by sharing from what God has provided us of our time, treasure and talent with our community and Church. The message of this Sunday’s readings is that nothing we do will be in vain if we live our lives according to the core values of stewardship—those of identity, trust, gratitude and love.

Let us continue to pray that each of us and our community may continue to strive these core values of Stewardship in our lives.

Fr. Michael McGourty
Pastor—St. Peter’s Parish– Toronto