Our faith shows itself in good stewardship
Thu, 02/15/2018 - 4:52pm admin
Archdiocese’s annual financial statement reveals what we can do together
In this week’s interview, communication manager David Hazen speaks with Archbishop George J. Lucas about Christ’s invitation to each of us to be a good steward of his gifts. Our collective response to his call over the past year is reflected in the archdiocese’s annual financial report, found on pages 11-14 of this issue of the Catholic Voice.
Q: In this issue of the Catholic Voice, we published the annual financial report for the archdiocese. What part of it do you think is most noteworthy for the average layperson?
It is a beautiful report in the sense that it shows us clearly that we in this archdiocese are blessed with the material resources to carry out the works of the church. This is an indication of the faith of our people and the confidence that they place in those who are responsible for the various archdiocesan ministries.
This report covers the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2017, and I am happy to offer it as part of my responsibility to let all of our people know how we use the resources that are given to us for the sake of the Gospel.
Q: In the report and elsewhere in the life of the church, we often hear the word “stewardship.” What do we mean by stewardship, and why is it important?
The term “stewardship” has its roots in the Scriptures. We are reminded in both the Old Testament and the New Testament that God is the source of every good gift, and that everything in heaven and on earth belongs to God, but God has created us lovingly in his image and set mankind as stewards over all of creation. We are entrusted with the care for and the use of goods that are really not our own, properly speaking. These things all belong to God. God is counting on us to use what we find in the world around us and what we are able to make or to earn, in a way that will give honor and glory to him and further the work of the church.
We recognize in our annual archdiocesan financial report, for example, that many people in our archdiocese look at their resources – money, energy, time, particular skills – and they give thanks for what they have received by giving a portion of that back for the work that is carried on in his name through the church.
Q: It is not uncommon to hear people express discomfort when the church talks about money. How should we reconcile the demands of the material and the spiritual?
The church established by our Lord is both a spiritual and a physical organism. We live out the Gospel and we proclaim and promote the kingdom of God in this world. We do not do it in our imagination, and we do not do it in some totally spiritual world; we do it here. When other pastors or I invite our people to support a project or a new work of the church, it is really an invitation in faith to look at what our Lord is inviting us to do together. A practical way to do that is to offer the material support needed to carry it out.
I have found over many years as a priest and as a bishop that I have had the opportunity to invite people to support various good works in the church, and I have valued those conversations. It is very easy in that context to talk about our faith and to talk about what is important to us as followers of Jesus Christ. When I see a particular need, or when there is a particular priority that we have begun to focus on in the archdiocese, I never mind talking to people about how I believe the Lord is inviting us to work together. It is really not difficult to invite people who see the importance of something to offer their support for it. I find I always get a very cordial reception.
I do not always know people’s circumstances. No pastor does completely. However, I think most of our parishioners feel that when they are invited to support something, that invitation itself is a compliment. It is a recognition that they are faith-filled people and might see the value of what we are doing. They may or may not be able to give financial support to a particular project at the moment, but it is always a privilege to be able to share with our people what we are hoping to accomplish and to invite their participation.
Q: In your experience, how does the act of giving help the individual Catholic in his or her ongoing conversion? How is that a step or part of the process?
The gift of an individual Catholic is one way of saying thanks to God for what we have received. It also is an acknowledgement that we depend on God absolutely, every day, for the things that we need. This idea of sacrifice has its roots in the Old Testament: God’s people would take something valuable that they could have well used for their own purposes, and instead put it aside and made a sacrifice of it. They showed that they were offering it back to God and not just trusting in themselves for their own care and support.
Giving is a way for us to express our faith, because we throw our lot in with the work of the church in a tangible way. The works of mercy, the works of education, and all of the beautiful manifestations of faith that we see lived out in practical ways need practical support. When we make a contribution to our parishes, the archdiocese, a school, or some other particular good work like Catholic Charities, it is our faith showing itself in good works.
Being good stewards also means that we steward every part of our life for which the Lord has made us responsible. Those who have families need to care for their families and should not give all their resources away to somebody else. People have a variety of responsibilities that they may take on as disciples of Jesus Christ. It has never been expected that most people in the church would take a vow of poverty, for example.
At the same time, we say we trust in God. However, if God is not God of the practical everyday things – that is, if God is not God of our possessions and our money, our ability to earn a living and support ourselves and our family – then God is not much of a God. When we make a sacrificial commitment to give regularly to our parish or to some other good work, it is a practical act of faith. We put ourselves on the line a little bit, trusting that God loves us and cares for us. If we are acting in good faith, God won’t be outdone in generosity.
Q: It seems that Lent is the perfect opportunity to foster the habits of good stewardship. Would you offer us a prayer that we could take up during this season in order to grow in generosity?
During the season of Lent we are encouraged to get out of ourselves a little bit, but moreover to conform ourselves more closely to Christ, who placed all his trust in his Father’s care and in his Father’s plan. Let us pray:
Heavenly Father, we give thanks for the signs of your love that surround us day by day. We give thanks during this holy season that we have been called to come into a deeper, life-giving relationship with your Son, Jesus, our Savior. Help us to look at everything that is part of life day by day: our joys, our sorrows, our blessings, our material gifts. Help us to recognize that every good thing comes from you, and to give thanks to you and express our faith in you by being good stewards of all that we have received. Give us generous hearts. Give us sacrificial hearts so that all of our works and actions during these Lenten days may bear good fruit for us and give honor and glory to you. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.