By our baptism, we have a vocation—a calling—to be disciples of Jesus Christ. This call is urgent, personal, and requires a full response. There is no shortage of obstacles to this calling, as in our increasingly secularized environment there is pressure to marginalize and privatize faith to make room for materialism and consumerism. Nonetheless, the Lord wishes us to “be perfect…as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Mt 5:48) and answer his call in a way which touches on every aspect of our lives. Discipleship is the context of any discussion of stewardship.
Stewardship begins with the invitation of Christ through our personal vocation. This call is urgent, as is our need to care for, nurture, and discern it. Our vocation will require the unique gifts and circumstances given to us by God, and our stewardship of vocation necessitates listening to the voice of the Lord as to how he wants us to use these. Following our vocation won’t always be comfortable—the cross—as it requires every bit of us.
Christ is the supreme teacher of stewardship, as his self-emptying was complete. Further, Christ made it clear that the accounting of our stewardship will relate both to spiritual realities AND temporal realities (the things of this earth). Through his parables and teachings Christ warned that He expects a return from the goods he bestows—this includes not just those specially ordained for church ministry (clergy & religious), but all the faithful. While the task may seem daunting, the reward is great! In fact, Jesus tells us the reward is a hundredfold!
Vatican II teaches that all human activity—everything you and I do throughout an ordinary day—must be fulfilled in such a way that builds up the Kingdom of God. From the beginning, God asked us to be co-creators with him in Eden (as when he called on Adam to “cultivate and care for” the earth (Gen 2:15)) through work. As stewards of our work and world, we too are asked to recognize the beauty of the earth, the beauty of noble human work, and “acknowledge God’s dominion” (Pastoral Letter, 27) in all of it. Through the redemption of Jesus Christ, we are further asked to be co-redeemers with Him as part of being a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). That is, we can join our selves to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ by offering our own prayers, sufferings, joys, and work to the Lord on the altar.
As a member of the One Body that is the Church, a steward recognizes his duty to care for that body. According to his gifts and talents, the steward first cares for the “Domestic Church”—his family and home. This then extends to caring for his local parish, supporting generously its programs and mission. Finally, the local Church—the diocese—must also be supported in accordance with his means. In union with the Church, the steward will be transformed into an instrument of Evangelization, the mission of the Church. The devoted caretaking of his time and talents will radiate—almost unintentionally—from him and draw those around him closer to Jesus Christ. As part of this, a steward strives to build up his community in solidarity. The focal point of all his stewardship—the tending of his gifts for the advance of the Kingdom of God—is the Eucharist, which as the cause of our unity enables us to unite all our stewardship to the Father in love.
Stewardship requires conversion of heart—new insight into God’s call. A steward, conscientious and faithful to his vocation, is accountable for everything he is and everything that has been given to him. While this vocation to be a steward takes countless forms—as countless as the combinations of time and talent—the model for all the Church is the Blessed Virgin Mary. Through her faithful “yes” to God, she exemplified a most perfect stewardship of her vocation and generosity in its fulfillment. Her stewardship over her children continues, as we can look to her for guidance.
Source: Stewardship: A Disciple's Response: A Pastoral Letter on Stewardship. Washington, D.C.: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2002. Print.