November 7, 2008


Advancing the Church’s mission

One of the first principles of Christian spirituality is that God will provide.

Stewardship builds on this principle. It reminds us that God’s goodness and generosity are unlimited, the source of everything that exists.

As the beneficiaries of God’s abundance, we are called to “receive gratefully” and “share generously” all God’s gifts.

Trust in God’s Providence does not mean that we can sit by and do nothing.

As stewards of creation, we are called to work tirelessly, to develop and grow God’s gifts, and to “give them back with increase.”

It is because we trust in God’s faithfulness that we refuse to be discouraged or defeated during times of adversity.

As Christian stewards, we know that Christ has already achieved the victory we are fighting for. He is the source of our confidence and hope. He is the absolute assurance that God will provide!

True stewardship is a work of the Holy Spirit. It is the presence and power of God active in the world, making sure that we have everything we need to proclaim the Gospel and to be “the seed and beginning of that kingdom” here and now.

The Spirit gives us everything we need. Sometimes we worry that it is not enough. That is when the Holy Spirit gently reminds us that God has already given us everything we need, and more, to be grateful, responsible and generous stewards of all creation. That is when we remember that God is with us always. And that God will provide.

As stewards, our job is to be grateful. To accept responsibility. To share generously with others out of justice and love. And to give back to God with increase. This is how Christian disciples respond to the Lord’s invitation. With hope. With love. And with great joy. We should never be discouraged or lose hope. God will provide.

There is an old saying, “When you pray for potatoes, reach for the hoe.”

Confidence in God’s Providence doesn’t excuse us from working hard to proclaim the Gospel and help build the Kingdom. In fact, it motivates us to do more—and do it more enthusiastically—with a heart full of gratitude and generosity for God’s goodness to us.

Sometimes we hear it said that in the old days, before Vatican II, Catholics were only expected to “pray, pay and obey.” This is a caricature, of course, but it describes a moment in the life of the Church when many had lost sight of the universal call to holiness—and of every baptized Christian’s responsibility to carry out Christ’s work on Earth.

But when you think about it, “pay, pray and obey” is not entirely negative.

Prayer is certainly the most important thing any Christian is called to do. Authentic prayer means entering into a relationship with God that is personal and loving. The first responsibility of every disciple of Jesus Christ is to be a person of prayer.

Obedience is also a basic Christian duty. We are all invited to discern God’s will for our individual lives and for his Church. Obedience requires openness and careful listening. It means setting aside our own agenda for the good of others. Obedience isn’t easy, but it is essential to our growth and development as individual Christians and as a community of faith.

Finally, there is the notion that Catholics should “pay” for the privilege of being members of the Christian community. We all know that Church support is important, but it’s a grave mistake to think that “obligatory giving” can ever be enough to satisfy our baptismal responsibility to be full, conscious and active members of the Body of Christ.

Yes, each one of us is called to pay—to contribute our time, talent and treasure—to build up the Kingdom of God.

As Christian stewards, we have an obligation, and a profound opportunity, to pay for the privilege of life in Christ through our gifts of self and through our active engagement in the Church’s life and ministry.

So, the next time we are asked what our role is in advancing the mission of the Church, we can honestly answer “pray, pay and obey” in the very best sense of those terms.

—Daniel Conway

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