God will know us through stewardship
April 18, 2019
The 85-year-old archbishop emeritus of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas offered the keynote address at a symposium on stewardship in Kansas City last April.
Archbishop James P. Keleher was a member of the committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that wrote a pastoral letter on stewardship that has become the guiding light for knowing and understanding this inspired Christian lifestyle.
Titled "Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response," the document was written 25 years ago. The symposium was a celebration of its legacy and offered a time for attendees to renew themselves as stewards.
Archbishop Keleher’s remarks were story-filled as he reflected on his faith and his long and effective life as a leader in the church. But his comment that caught my attention was, "When I die, I don’t want to meet God, and have him say, ‘I don’t know you.’"
Here was this much-admired man, whose biography I prepared for the symposium program (which had to be edited numerous times to fit the page), whose generous spirit and quick Irish-tinged wit were well known, whose life as teacher and shepherd was highly valued. Here was a man committed to living a life whereby God would recognize him, but he clearly didn’t take it for granted that God would. And, for him, this was where stewardship came in.
Who is a Christian steward? The definition in the pastoral letter reads: "one who receives God’s gifts gratefully, cherishes and tends to them in a responsible and accountable manner, shares them in justice and love with others, and returns them with increase to the Lord."
What a beautiful directive! It reads like a profound personal mission statement. And there are lots of people in our world who strive to live this out, and in doing so, they know God and God surely knows them. Since the pastoral letter was published, many people and parishes have been highly intentional in living out this commitment, and it has been transformational for individuals, families and communities.
The term "stewardship" for some, however, has become synonymous with the request for money. But if we reread the definition, it is not about money, but about a vocation. It is not about writing a check, or checking off a box to volunteer; it is a lifestyle. It is about committing ourselves to gratefully knowing that all we have is a gift from God and to sharing these gifts to affect and inspire those around us, especially those in need. In doing so, we are returning these gifts "with increase to the Lord." In doing so, we are living as disciples.
There was a wonderful group from the Archdiocese of Omaha who attended the April symposium and had the opportunity to reflect on their own response to stewardship. May all of us take the time during this season of abundance to reflect on our gifts and consider how our response as disciples will ensure we know God, so that God will surely know us.
Shannan Brommer is director of the archdiocesan Office of Stewardship and Development. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.