Yesterday, pastoral leaders from around the Archdiocese of Anchorage gathered to learn more about stewardship, not as a program, but as a spirituality, a way of life.
The theme for the day was: “Be Not Afraid: Making a Gift of Self.”
Our guest speaker for the day was Deacon David Krueger from the Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska. In addition to being a permanent deacon, he serves as a client manager for Catholic Stewardship Consultants. We are grateful for his presence and witness.
The spirituality of stewardship is rooted in a strong sense and knowledge that all I am and all I have comes from God as complete gift. It is biblically rooted in the belief that God created all things, and has entrusted his creation into our hands to manage and keep. (Genesis 2:15). “The earth is the Lord’s and all it holds, the world and those who dwell in it.” (Psalm 24)
We know that God not only created all things, and each and every person, but then showed the depths of his love in sending us His Son, Jesus Christ. (John 3:16) The spirituality of stewardship is rooted in our own encounter with Christ. One who lives as a steward is profoundly rooted in a living relationship with Jesus Christ. In this relationship, we are convinced of God’s love, of his faithfulness, and are thus filled with gratitude for all the good that God has done for me / us. (See Psalm 126:3; Ephesians 2:1-10)
In the face of such love, and in relationship with Christ, one cannot help but desire to respond in love – to make a gift of self in return – to answer Love with love. Of course, this natural response compliments the other reality simultaneously in play, namely that Christ not only calls us into this relationship, but also sends us in his name to be witnesses and servants. Thus, the culmination of stewardship is discipleship.
As one grows in this spirituality of stewardship, she begins to learn to trust God at deeper and deeper levels. She is free to share her talents, her time and treasure without fear, because she has come to know of the abundance of God’s capacity to provide for her, and that God will not be outdone in generosity. This spirituality is not another version of the Gospel of prosperity, but rather a lived experience of a profound need to give because God created us to share. In short, the Christian is called to live as Christ – to make a complete and generous gift of self.
One of the many points that Deacon Dave made during his presentations is that in some ways, to refer to people in the parish as volunteers is misleading, because serving our faith family is something that comes naturally. Jesus calls, Jesus leads, and we follow – serve – assist. In other words, we are not ‘volunteering’ as much as we are simply doing our part as a member of the family. When I was growing up, there were no volunteers in the family, just everyone doing his or her part, working together – sometimes out of necessity and expectation – but mostly out of love.
The parish exists to build up the Body of Christ in the world. When a parish is living its mission well, it models how the broader human family is to live. I have come to know and believe that when we preach the Gospel in all its fullness; when we live the Gospel with integrity, then everything else will fall into place, and every need will be provided for out of the abundance and faithfulness of God. God is not only faithful, but fruitful, and he expects us to bear good fruit in his name and service.
I find myself saying often: To follow Jesus is to know him; to know him is to love him, and to love him is to serve him in one another. That is discipleship. This is stewardship.
As I have now completed my first full tour of the parishes of the Archdiocese, I am certain that we have many faithful leaders who are living a life of discipleship, in generous service to the Lord, his Church, and his people. It was a pleasure to spend time with them yesterday, and an honor to serve with them in this local Church of the Archdiocese of Anchorage.
Our time together fittingly ended with the celebration of Mass.
More pics to follow!