The Joy of Sharing the Experience: Stewards of God’s Gifts
When I was four years old, my uncle had a convertible Jaguar. It was certainly a cool car – even though at four years old I couldn’t appreciate that. One day, I was visiting my grandparents’ home and Uncle Tom took me out in the car, sat me on his lap, and “let me drive.” (This was before certain safety regulations – but still a bad idea) We “drove” down the alley and around the block, and as a tiny child, I was thrilled to be able to do such a grown-up thing. Now, Uncle Tom was pushing the pedals and discretely steering with his fingers. But it was still a joy to me to share that experience.
Today’s Gospel is similarly about sharing in such an enterprise. The steward who is reported to the rich man was allowed to share in the goods of the master. He was responsible for the other man’s wealth; and because he was wasting it, he was about to lose everything. In the end, as he faces his inevitable termination, he begins to get to work more seriously, and he ends up recovering at least a good portion of what was owed to the master. In this short amount of time, the steward makes good use of the time and resources that he has and he wins the esteem of his peers – as well as the master.
Jesus is not commending dishonesty in the parable. Rather, He is painting a picture of what our time here on earth looks like. We are the stewards; God is the rich man, with whose goods we are entrusted. This is the heart of what we mean by stewardship. We don’t “own” anything – we are merely caretakers for God. The time between this report and the steward’s termination is, in fact, our lives – the time we have to make use of the goods with which we have been entrusted.
As stewards, we are actually blessed – blessed to share a ministry of care along with God. Just as I felt special for sharing in the act of “driving” Uncle Tom’s car, so we are special for having been called to share in the work of the Lord. God has given each of us our many blessings so that we use them to do good for others – not squander them until they are gone. In the end, we will have to account for these blessings too. What are we doing with them?
Regardless of whether we see ourselves as richly blessed or modestly, we do have something to offer to the world; and this is precisely because those gifts – big and small – have been given by God. Even better: they belong to God, and we are merely caretakers. If we can show ourselves faithful in small matters, we know we can be so in greater ones; if we can be trusted to do good with worldly wealth, then we will surely be blessed with true wealth. If we can be faithful with what belongs to God, then we will certainly be given what is truly ours – the glory of Christ’s life in heaven.
The prophet Amos condemns those who make religious observance only to return to dishonest and evil practices. For those wicked people, recognizing and celebrating their faith is an interruption in their otherwise dishonest life. This cannot be our life. We who gather to celebrate our faith here and to be nourished by the Eucharist cannot leave this place and live as if we never met Jesus. Here, we are entrusted with real wealth: the riches of our faith. This is not a gift to be hidden or hoarded. Rather, it is meant to affect everything we do – what we wear, how we spend our money, how we speak to others. If it does not have an effect in our lives, we are no better than the steward who squanders the master’s property. And our Master is God!
Let us pray together that we show ourselves worthy of this great trust that God has in us. As He blesses us, let us bless one another. For those of us who are called to be catechists in our parish, we are called to take this great treasure of faith and to share it generously with our young people and with each other. This is why we are gathered together as a parish – to be a blessing to young ones eager to learn about and know Christ; to be a blessing to the poor and needy in our own neighborhoods; to share the Lord’s goodness through the Sacraments with all who join us in worship.
Jesus offers us a choice: either we serve God or we don’t. There is no middle. We are gifted to share this wonderful work that God began when He created the world, the work that Jesus accomplishes through His suffering, death, and resurrection, the work that the Church is called to do every day. What a joy to share that experience!