Once upon a time, in a parish far, far away it was time for the annual parish fundraising campaign. The pastor arranged to have a man give a witness talk about the benefits of giving. The man was well-known in the parish and in the community at large. He had been very successful in business and was very wealthy.
At the appointed hour before a very full church, the man stood in the pulpit to address the parishioners. Although he was now successful and wealthy, he came from a very poor family who always lived on the edge of dire poverty. As a young man on his own in the world his circumstances were not much different. His rent was due, there was no food in the apartment, several bills were unpaid, and he was terrified homelessness was not too far down the road. He found himself in church as a visiting missionary priest told stories of even more desperate need of a people in an area beset by violence and natural disaster.
The man told the parishioners that he realized he was at a turning point in his life. He reached into his pocket and placed his last dollar in the collection basket. Now looking back, he said “Yes, I chose to give all my money to God. I believe He has blessed me for that and it’s why I am very rich man today!” He paused for dramatic effect.
That was when the voice of an elderly woman carried throughout the church: “I dare you to do it again!”
We are in the midst of our Annual Pastoral Appeal and I am hopeful, grateful, and trusting that we will again do what is ours to do in support of the diocesan ministries and programs; that we will respond to the blessings in our lives. That response is a metric of how we as a parish think about Biblical stewardship — the ways in which we return our time, talent, and treasures to God.
Having just read that last line, maybe you are thinking what I thought some 30 years ago sitting in the pews of a small Catholic church in rural Virginia. “OK, Father, sure…you say time, talent, and treasure, but what you really mean is treasure, treasure, treasure.” There is a part of present-day me that thinks in the face of the old rubrics, “Geez…30 years later we need a new approach, new branding, a different way to engage the parishioners. Maybe there is a clever new alliteration and tag line that can engage and motivate people.”
Maybe, maybe not. What I do know is that our giving of time, talent, and treasures is just a possible external indicator of the more important roots of biblical stewardship. Stewardship is not fund raising; it is not theology. It is a way of being in relationship with God and this community. It is the path and way of life that leads to the affirming words: ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 23:25).
If stewardship is like a tree, what is most noticeable are the leaves, flowers, branches, and the trunks of time, talent and treasure. But as every arborist and gardener knows, it’s all about the roots. Healthy roots yield the possibility of a healthy tree; it just needs to be planted in the right soil. The roots of stewardship are the roots of any relationship: identity, trust, gratitude, and love – planted in the soil of faith in God. It is those four basic characteristics that allows one to “dare to do it again.”
We don’t have to give everything away to realize God’s blessings, but we do have to respond to the blessings we receive in our lives — to realize who we are and whose we are, to respond to the Bishop’s appeal with gratitude and love, and to give generously, trusting that God will supply what we truly need. Such is the calling of the good and faithful steward.
Please support the 2018 Annual Pastoral Appeal.
You can give online and read more on our parish website.