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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Stewardship, Part 3

Part three of the five part series on Stewardship for the Voices newsletter.

The focus on Stewardship comes as a response to several comments heard in and around St. Joan of Arc Parish. “It’s a gimmick to get more money” and “They just want us to do more volunteering” were a couple of the comments.

But, stewardship isn’t a gimmick. Stewardship is a means of grace which enables us to be in tune with the Divine Will in areas that easily become barriers to a deeper communion with God: our pride, our possessions, and our personal freedom. Stewardship is about converting our hearts to both recognize our dependence on our Creator and to honor those gifts He has given us.

As Catholics, we recognize our need to be forgiven, our need for redemption, and our need to be reconciled to the Father. But do we recognize our need to be thankful? It isn’t just a by product of “being brought up right”. Being thankful is an actual need. In our thankfulness we are to offer praise and glory to God, but we are also to give back a portion of what we have been given.

The Biblical standards for offering back to God a portion of what we have been given are high, and they cannot be reached or maintained without vigilant prayer. Without grace, the price seems too high and we give reluctantly or in anger. Sometimes we choose to give nothing at all. Through prayer and petition to the Father, we can learn to be good stewards, and in doing so, learn to keep our time, talents, and treasures in their proper perspective.

When it comes to time, we are called to give one-seventh of our time to prayer, personal devotion, celebrations of the Christian community (weekly Mass, for example), and family. In our culture – a culture with more free time than any other – we are also called to invest our time in the building of the kingdom, through volunteering in our local faith community.

The Biblical mandate regarding treasure is “one-tenth of the annual harvest”. One-tenth of the income given to the work of the Church is a daunting task, and one that can only be obtained through sincere prayer and effort.

We are instructed that 100% of our talent should be utilized for the Glory of God. Even if it is something we think someone else could do better or we are afraid of the criticism of others. Anything that we do well should be nurtured and expanded, and that includes offering that talent as service to the Church.

As a local parish, we do a good job in a lot of ways: we have nearly 1000 adult volunteers, we have many generous givers, and we have people of vast and varied talents who utilize that for the betterment of the community. We are an active and vibrant church. But when we do these things, we demonstrate how much more we could do if everyone participated.

Every Christian is called to give of all three: Time, Talent, and Treasure. Everyone. (It is “and” not “or”.) But to thrive in our giving of any of these “Three T’s”, we must be open to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, helping us to set priorities and manage our resources in a way that will free us to increase our offerings to the point that the Biblical guidelines are a minimum of what we do on a regular basis.

Please consider the prayer below. On a regular basis, ask yourself these three questions and then pray about your answers:
1. Do I regularly thank God for all He has done for me, honoring Him as the Creator and Source of all blessings?
2. Do I return gifts to God in a manner consistent with Biblical precedents, giving from my “first fruits”, not just what is left over?
3. Do I honor God by giving my gifts in a sacrificial manner, not just when I have excess time or money to give?

Then, pray, asking God to open your heart to His Will:

Loving Father,
Who has blessed me with an abundant life,
I thank you for my life, family, friends, talents, and material possessions.
Remind me constantly that everything I possess is a Gift from You.

Lord, I desire to honor You,
Help me be a faithful steward of Your gifts,
To seek Your Will in every facet of my life,
To seek Your forgiveness when I sin,
And to offer you sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise.

Help me to continue my spiritual journey,
And renew my relationship with You daily,
Help me recognize when I am taking my gifts for granted,
And when I am relying more on self than I am on You.

This I ask, through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, forever and ever,


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