Theology of Stewardship
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time | 2014
As you already are aware, this is the weekend we launch our Capital Campaign, together with some reflections on the “theology” (God’s understanding) of stewardship. Our Gospel for today was not selected as a special stewardship Gospel, but it fits perfectly for understanding the meaning and theology of stewardship. It answers the question, “What does it mean for us to be stewards?” The chief priests and elders were supposed to shepherd the People of Israel and prepare them for the coming of the Messiah, but instead, they saw Jesus as a threat, and will eventually kill Him. Jesus says they will be removed and He will raise up stewards who will tend and shepherd His vineyard. They failed to be good stewards. This strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a steward; it’s the heart of what it means to be a baptized disciple of the Lord Jesus, to be Catholic.
What is a steward? A steward is someone who has been given by the Heavenly Father a gift-set to be used for the sake of others. This gift set is an entrustment. In other words, the gifts are not ours, but His, to be used as the Giver would have us use them. Jesus uses the image of stewardship all the time; He loves it. He used it in today’s Gospel! Those who were given the gift of leadership did not actively cooperate with that gift, but He also points out those who are good stewards, like the guy who takes his 5 talents and makes 10 out of it. Jesus says to him, “Well done good and faithful servant!” To understand stewardship, something that is absolutely crucial must come first. Stewardship is the result of something else, something that must come before all else. We are stewards of all kinds of things: God’s Kingdom, our individual lives, our skills, talents, gifts of the Holy Spirit, St. Mary parish, and all other gifts. So, what must come first? We need to understand who we are.
Our Heavenly Father owns the whole Universe. He owns Everything. When He created the first photons at the beginning of the Universe, the stars, the galaxies, the planets, earth, and everything on it, He gave it to Adam and Eve as a wedding gift. And you thought your wedding registry was awesome! These guys got the Universe. The great of gifts, the deepest identity that you and I have, is that above everything else before we act as stewards before we can do anything, we have to understand and experience that we are created marvelously as His precious sons and daughters. We belong to a good Father. We are created in His image and likeness, but even more than this, when we fell into darkness through sin and broke our relationship with the Father, He sent His Son to adopt us, to make us His sons and daughters purchased at a high price. This gift of adoption by our Papa is the gift we receive in Baptism. By baptism, we go from the kingdom of Satan and darkness to the Kingdom of the Father’s Beloved Son and light. Not only do we need to be born, but we need to be adopted through Jesus Christ. This is the greatest gift we have ever and ever will be given: to share, to participate, in the Father’s love for His Son and the Holy Spirit, and we get this amazing, eternal, satisfying love as His sons and daughters. This is a gift we have to cooperate with, it is not automatic. We cooperate with this gift every time we come here and say “Yes” to the Beloved Son as we receive Him in the amazing Gift of the Eucharist.
Here is the danger: to see ourselves as stewards before we see ourselves as His sons and daughters because we risk reducing our relationship with God to merely performing the functions of Christianity. Let us never forget, it’s about Him, His grace and mercy, and everything we “do” is a response to His movement, His action, His amazing love, His Divine Mercy. Everything is His gift to us, and so what have we got to brag about? Nothing, except we have an awesome Father. First, we are His sons and daughters, and then from there, Jesus invites us to assist Him in building His Kingdom. To do that, he equips us with His gifts. He even calls us to use gifts we don’t want to use, or use us in ways that make us feel uncomfortable (like Jonah and Nineveh!). Jonah wanted to see Nineveh burn because they rejected God, but God called Jonah to preach a word of mercy, repentance, and forgiveness. Jonah missed the point that the Father wants His children’s hearts, not see them burn! So do not be afraid when He calls you to a heroic act of stewardship, understand the Father is merciful and as His sons and daughters He will equip you for the task.
Finally, before we can even think about being a steward of His gifts to build His kingdom, we must understand and experience who we are to Him. If we open our hearts to who we are, then we will understand how He invites us to share in the building of His Kingdom. And so, as the Father calls you to build with Him, remember we cannot give what we do not have, and the first gift we have is our sonship and daughterhood before the Father. This, above all, is what we need to give away. Let us open our hearts to this great gift we have been given, that we would have fun and joy being His sons and daughters, and then out of gratitude for this marvelous gift, to then express our gratitude to Him by using and sharing with Him our gifts, our talents, our time, our treasures.