Just wanted to share with you the speech that I prepared for this weekend and had the honor of delivering at our parish. God really helped me through it and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would :)
When Father Don asked me if I would be interested in saying a few words about Stewardship at the weekend masses, I was very excited! Perhaps a bit scared and nervous too. It such and important topic in the Catholic life, one that I am very passionate about. Most of the time when we hear the word Stewardship our minds immediately go to tithing and money. Don't get me wrong, that is an extremely necessary part of the Christian life. Without funding the church itself could not continue to lead the world in charitable works, missions, and ministries. Hospitals, schools, soup kitchens, and homes could not continue to work without that money.
But stewardship does not end there at all. Stewardship involves realizing that everything we have comes from and belongs to God. As our responsorial Psalm today says, “Behold God is my helper, the Lord sustains my life.” It is so very easy in our materialistic society to get caught up in the daily life of earning things. “He works hard for the money” has become a mantra and it has allowed us to lose sight of the simple fact that those skills, talents, and even our lives themselves are gifts from God. We do often work hard to earn what we have, and that's good. Yet we must remember where we get the ability to work, the ability to breath, the ability to earn that gift and that the gift itself still belongs to the one who created all that we are and have.
How often do we ponder that the home we have, the car we drive, even the dishes we use for our meals are all gifts from above? Do we treat them as such? I know that when I borrow a car that belongs to someone else, I often take better care of it than I do my own. When I spend the night at someone else's home I take care not to throw my clothes on the bathroom floor, and usually make the bed in the morning, something I fail to do at my own home nearly every day. If we truly believe then that every thing we have, everything we use belongs to God, why then do we treat them as our own personal things?
When I was a young man fresh out of high school I had the privilege of joining a fraternity. Being a member of that organization helped to shape my view of what stewardship is all about. As a young member interested in moving up through the ranks of officers I was installed as a Steward. It was an interesting position and essentially it meant that I got all the grunt work. Here I was the youngest member, and I got to clean the toilets, change the lights, and make sure the air conditioner was on before meetings. I wasn't allowed to just do anything I wanted. It wasn't my building. It belonged to the entire organization. Rather, it was my job to make sure that when members showed up, the building was in an acceptable state of repair. It was my job to take care of what had been given to us, to make sure that it was there when the 'owner's returned.
Now so far I've been talking about 'things'. I'm not a wealthy man and in 2007 I had my spine fused. This has led my family and I into a much lower income bracket than we were used to. We are by no means rich, and we don't have a lot of 'things' to give. What we do have though, especially myself, is time. We also have talent to give, as does every person in this room. God has created each one of us as unique individuals. Only you can do what you do, the way that you do it. There are likely many people in this room who can paint a wall, but there are some in here who really know what they are doing. There are others in this room who can sew together a blanket if they had to, but then there are some who can make beautiful quilts like the ones for our centennial. There are those who can speak well, and those who wouldn't want to be up here talking for any amount of time at all.
You see God wants us to take care of our time and our talents as well. When we truly search our hearts we all have a little time here or there to give. It may not be much. It may only be a few minutes on a Saturday morning. Or 10-20 minutes on a Thursday afternoon as your coming home from work. If we analyze our lives, especially when I analyze mine, I find that there are many moments in which I'm sitting watching television or looking at Facebook on the computer. I agree there is a time for relaxation, we all need to wind down after a long day of work, or a stressful day of raising the children, or even just recover from an illness or deal with some sort of cross that we are bearing. If we earnestly look at our lives though, we find there is a great deal of time in our life that we could be doing something for each other.
Here at Saint Catherine's we are blessed with a great deal of councils, committees, and groups that help out. One thing you find though is if you begin to look through the list of names on those committees you begin to find that many of them are the same names over and over. We need each and every one of your talents. There are things only you can do, that I cannot. Each of you has a singular unique individuality that you bring to the table that no one else can bring. God wants you to use that in your life, to help build his Kingdom here, to help keep it present and to help others come to know it.
I'd like to talk just briefly about a few of the ministries that I've been involved with. First and foremost, one of the most important ministries to me is the RCIA. It is through the RCIA that we as Catholics reach out to those who are not, and we offer them the beauty of the faith, the beauty of the Eucharist that we come to receive every chance we can. The source and summit of our faith, when Jesus Christ himself becomes present and allows you to receive him into your body, into your soul, and allow him to change you and bring you to eternal life. There are so many out there who are calling out for that chance to receive Jesus Christ, a chance to fill that emptiness with the only thing that can truly fill it up. So many out there are trying to fill it with something else, with television, with games, with entertainment, chemicals and substances. We need people to step forward and help find candidates. To reach out to those they know that are interested, or even to simply mention to those you think need it. We also need people to step forward and say, you know.. I'd be interested in helping out with this. This is dear to my heart and I want to help.
I have also had the wonderful opportunity to be on our evangelization team, which offers those wonderful programs like Awakening Faith, Living the Eucharist, and soon to come Seeking Christ. It is through these that we help each other grow, to learn more about our faith, and to learn more about one another. We are a community of believers, not just a personal relationship. We are a family and through this we can continue to grow as one. These programs need leaders who are interested in helping small groups get through the program. We also need members who are willing to come to the sessions.
During the summers I tend to come to daily mass a lot. This is an important part of our lives. Being able to receive Jesus daily is such a powerful reminder of how free the grace of God is, and how important it is for us to make an effort to come forward and make a commitment to him. During this time I've been allowed to be one of the daily lector's. I cannot tell you in words how powerful it is to come forward and be a part of that service. To stand up here and read to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ from the very word of God. How powerful a moment it is for the Lector when he says the 'Word of the Lord', and everyone responds thanks be to God. For us to realize that God has just spoken to us through the scriptures, and through the mouth of one of our own.
Last year I began to help out teaching our 8th graders in the per-confirmation class. Here is an opportunity for someone to make a difference in the life of our children, and at the same time to help develop their own faith. While teaching you help share that faith with our youth and often I find myself learning things that I myself did not know, and getting fresh perspectives on our faith from children who see things in such an amazing way that we adults often miss. It doesn't take a great deal of skills or talents to help out, it just takes someone willing to try. We need teachers and we need aides. As the popular song says, “I believe the children are the future, teach them well and let them lead the way.” We need our children to understand our faith, to grow in it, to help continue the life of the church.
I've also had the privilege of being a part of the respect life committee and I must say it's been one of the most rewarding ones to me personally. Being able to help out with our youth, knowing that the work we are doing is making a difference, and seeing the fruit of those labors in action is something that truly touches the soul. The various events that I've been able to attend and places I've been able to visit have reminded me just how much work we have to do. A few months ago Linda Dolder and I had the chance to visit our state capital and spend the day as lobbyist. It gave us a valuable look at our political process and how we can make a difference. We also visited the We Care pregnancy center, delivering some much needed supplies that will be given out to parents who are in need of them. This ministry allows us to spread the message that all life is sacred, and that is a message that our society is very much in need of hearing.
His servant and yours;