Monday, February 18, 2013

Reflection: Stewardship

This reflection is based on the readings for Wednesday in the 29th week in Ordinary Time, cycle 2: Ephesians 3:2–12; Luke 12:39–48. Because I gave this in the context of vespers, I kept it shorter than I would for a mass or communion service.

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I’m a father of one and stepfather of four. As a parent, I have come to know my children’s strengths well. I can tell when my daughter is not making the most of her gifts. I can see when she doesn’t give 100% or even 20%. Of course, I have to encourage her as I am able and help her to learn the value of using her gifts to the best of her abilities.

Of course, as a person
—as a father and husband
a business professional
an amateur musician

I often get a glimpse of when I don’t make the most of my abilities and opportunities. I fall down as a father and husband all the time. So when my daughter fails to do the most with her talents, I can understand because I’ve been there: sometimes too lazy to give my best, but often, I’m just tired.

In the “Letter to the Ephesians,” Paul acknowledges the people’s recognition of his “stewardship of God’s grace” that has been given to him through God’s revelation. Remember that Paul didn’t experience Jesus in the same way as the other Apostles. Christ revealed Himself and the Gospel to Paul directly and in dramatic fashion while Paul was still Saul, a persecutor of Christians. But Paul does not boast in it. “Woe to me if I do not preach it!” he says in 1 Corinthians. He recognized that this stewardship of revelation was given to him for the benefit of those to whom he preached. A steward is not an owner or possessor. He has been given something to tend on behalf of and for the sake of others. Grace likewise can’t be owned by us, but is given to us by God—a pure gift, and something that must be passed on to others.

In the gospel reading, Jesus warns his apostles to be prepared for His return, and he tells them the story of the unworthy steward: one who squanders his position and abuses the privilege he has been given. Instead of distributing the food to the household, he gets drunk and beats the other servants. Notice here that a servant who is given power is abusing it and beating his fellow servants. When the master shows up again, he’ll be treated in accordance with his actions. A good steward will earn reward; a bad steward, a beating.

Of course, Jesus is speaking to the Apostles, those to whom He entrusted His Church, and the Church has had good and bad stewards throughout the centuries. Both Divine and human, the Church has suffered its share of drunken stewards, but also its worthy shepherds and servants, most of whom serve in anonymity.

God has given each one of us talents. Some talents are dramatic and noticeable: a talent at art, academics, or sport. Others we may not recognize as talents: hospitality, administration, or humble service. We must remember that these talents are gifts. We did not earn them, and ultimately, they don’t belong to us, nor are they meant solely for our personal enrichment. We are all stewards of the talents given to us by God. We must use them to lift up each other and to do the work of God and the Church.
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