Dear Fr. Zagloba,
I can understand why you don’t want to jump into a full-blown annual stewardship campaign right now. Your concern that the focus on making a commitment to pray, serve, and give might be too much for the parish is certainly valid.
Let’s back up for a minute. First off, we don’t have to jump into campaign mode right away. You’re the pastor of the parish, and of course you must keep the pastoral perspective as your top priority. Let’s take a moment to look at how stewardship fits into the big picture of parish life.
What’s the big picture?
When the bishops wrote the pastoral letter, “Stewardship: a disciple’s response,” the title itself is a crucial clue to understanding the big picture. Stewardship is something that a disciple does. It’s the lifestyle that a disciple lives. It’s the way that a disciple views and uses their time, talents, and material resources.
So before we ever get to stewardship, we have to talk about discipleship. Discipleship is the process by which the Church teaches people to live the life of faith. Jesus said in the great commission, “Go therefore and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” So the work of the Apostles, and you by extension and ordination, is to make disciples.
So what does it mean to make disciples? Lots has been written about this but I think that this sentence from the catechism sums it pretty neatly: “Becoming a disciple of Jesus means accepting the invitation to belong to God’s family, to live in conformity with His way of life: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Paragraph 2233)
Stewardship is not optional
So in order for you to make disciples, you have to teach people how to live their lives according to the will of the Father. This means stewardship. The model that Jesus gave us to live as disciples is the good and faithful steward. The one who puts his talents to work in the marketplace and is able to give his master 10 talents upon his return.
The parable of the steward also points out that the life of stewardship is not some kind of ‘optional thing’ that Christians can do if we can get around to it. The servant who buried his talent and gave it back without increase was cast into the outer darkness. Refusing to embrace the model of the good steward will have serious consequences!
If stewardship is not optional for the disciple, then teaching about stewardship is not optional for the disciple-maker. This means you, Fr. Zagloba, with all due respect. You have a responsibility to teach the members of our parish to live the Gospel generously.
And you’re right… preaching and teaching about stewardship might shake people up a bit. It might irritate them because it will force them to look at their lives and possibly make some considerable changes. People might even get angry with you because they are comfortable the way they are.
But! But… they might also be converted.
Become a child of God
“Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.” What an amazing promise!!! To be a part of God’s family! This is nothing less than the kingdom of God itself, a free gift from God to all who live their lives according to the Father’s will! At the end of the day, this is what stewardship is all about.
You want the people in our parish to live as sons and daughters of the most high God! This is what you’ll be teaching them when you ask them to fully embrace the call to be disciples of Jesus Christ and live a life of stewardship. This is the greatest gift that you could ever give to anyone. It passes through the Cross and leads to a life of eternal rejoicing in the presence of Most Holy Trinity!
I hope this gets you as excited as it gets me. Perhaps, because of my days as an atheist and my dramatic conversion, this seems like the most awesome thing that could possibly happen to a person. Or maybe it’s bigger than my own personal experience and is, in fact, the most awesome possible thing that could happen to any person who has ever lived. I’m inclined to think the latter.
Pray about it and let me know if you want to continue forward with the stewardship campaign. We can think of different ways to approach the topic of stewardship if this isn’t the way you think we should go. I don’t think you get to bypass the topic altogether, however… it’s just part of what you are called to do.
P.S. The best first step in this may be to start praying and fasting for the Lord to give you a vision for how He wants you to ‘make disciples’. I personally think stewardship campaign, but I could be totally wrong. Jesus not only knows the way, He IS the way.
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