In the middle of today’s Gospel, St Peter raises his hand to ask our Lord, “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?” Jesus answers him with another parable to illustrate what a faithful steward is and concludes with these words to underscore his point (in response to St Peter):
“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”
Our post-modern, consumer culture does not allow us to reflect much on stewardship. When we hear the word “steward” we might think of Stew Leonard’s or this man:
Or else we might think of Catholic environmentalism — which is a good thing. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
“Man’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.” (CCC 2415)
As important as respect and care for God’s gift of creation is, Christian stewardship means much more than environmental concern. It means responsible use of God’s gifts to all of us in the form of time, treasure, and talent.
We are called to be wise stewards of our time.
Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “When God made time, he made a lot of it.” The question we must ask, since time is one of those things we all have an equal share of — the 24 hours in a day are the same for everyone — how responsible am I with all the time I’ve been given?
How much of that time do I give to serving God and my neighbor?
Being responsible stewards with our time can mean spending quality time with our family, setting aside time for prayer, and being faithful to the Third Commandment to keep the Lord’s Day holy. This of course includes the Sunday obligation to attend Mass, but it also means resting from unnecessary work, getting healthy exercise, and enjoying God’s gift of creation in nature.
Our talents are also gifts from God, and therefore we are called to use them responsibly.
A good litmus test for responsible stewardship is how we use our talents to serve God and neighbor. This does not necessarily mean how much time you spend helping at the parish. It can mean how much care and love for others you show in your work.
Finally, we must consider how we manage the material resources that God put at our disposal, our treasure. Every Catholic should contribute financially to the works of the Church, each one in accordance with their means. Many Catholics meet this obligation by tithing when the the basket is passed around during the offertory at Sunday Mass and some people are very generous in their support of charitable organizations. If not, one should ask oneself, Why Not?
One of the most unlikeable characters in JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings was Denethor, the Steward of Gondor. He lost sight of the fact that the gifts he was given came with the responsibility to serve others and instead invested all his time, treasure, and talent to enrich himself and retain his absolute control over Gondor. Thus he lived and died as a miserable man.
In contrast, we have the example of so many saints who lived fulfilled, happy lives, because they gave everything they had and devoted their lives to serving others. We too are called to the same happiness and holiness and we can attain it. It all depends on God’s grace and the right use of his gifts.