Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing
compared to love in dreams.
– Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
Parents know instinctively that love means sacrifice. Getting up at night for a sick child, doing without things to provide food and education, perhaps setting aside personal goals for the sake of the family. Loving – real loving – is tough.
That’s why the word stewardship makes me nervous.
It’s a good word; Jesus used it in the Gospels, and our church uses it today. But it can sound too distant, objective – an accountant’s word, asking how we should invest wisely. It’s not a lover’s word. And because it’s not a lover’s word I don’t think it gets to the heart of the matter it tries to address.
To me, being a disciple of Christ means falling in love with what God is doing in the world through Christ, primarily in His Church. That encompasses delighting in the natural world and trying to conserve it; supporting efforts to aid the poor; trying to build up genuine humanity in people I meet, rather than tearing them down; and making sure, to the extent that I can, that the visible sign of Christ’s presence, the local parish, flourishes so people can find Christ.
For me, good stewardship in the parish means things like ensuring that finances are properly monitored; that ceremonies and programs run on time and competently; that donations are expended wisely; that buildings are maintained; that employees are treated justly; and a hundred other things. But that’s “running a church,” which is an important job I enjoy; but it’s not the heart of the matter. I don’t make personal and financial sacrifices to keep an organization running smoothly. I sacrifice – personally and financially – because I love what God is trying to do in the parish, and want to help out with that as much as I can.
Every fall the diocese encourages parishes to have a “stewardship renewal,” and I think that’s a good thing. But I’m asking you to imagine it as a recommitment to love. Ask yourself, “Am I in love with what God is doing in the world? Can I find (and create) a part of that in Our Lady of Grace?”
There’s no doubt that we need your financial generosity so that our mission and our ministries can continue. The more you give, the more we can do together in the name of Christ. So I’m asking you to sacrifice, as I do, out of love for what God is doing here. Look at your present level of giving; ask yourself if you can do more (again, out of love); and if you can, begin to give more.
(I’d also encourage you to consider using WeShare for electronic giving. You can find a brochure by the doors of the church if you’d like more information.)
People don’t become saints – or inspire other people to become saints – by being only good managers of the church’s business (or of their own giving). That’s important, but it’s not enough. I’ve told the story, but it bears repeating: Some years ago a person was asked what her religion was. She answered, “Oh, I don’t have a religion; what I have is a love affair with the Living God.”
Christianity is, ultimately, that: a love affair with the Living God. Keeping that love alive takes sacrifice. These weeks of “stewardship renewal” are a time to take stock of how I’m doing at building up that Love, for my own sake and for the sake of others whom Christ wants to touch through our parish. . Until next week, peace.