When you realize it's not all 'mine, mine, mine'
Stewardship means that we have to share all our toys with all our brothers, sisters
By Patricia Kasten
Compass Associate Editor
I learned about sharing when I was three. Suddenly, I had a baby
brother and, soon, my toys (and playroom) weren't just my own
anymore. I had to "share with Jimmy." A few years later, I had to
share my bedroom with my little sister.
We all learn about sharing in a similar fashion. We start out
saying, "Mine, mine, mine," (even though it really belongs to our
parents). Later, as we grow up, we realize that very few things
belong exclusively to us. We have to share - whether in our family,
through taxes, or by giving or receiving charity.
As Stewardship Sunday (Nov. 9) approaches, our diocese focuses
on the Stewardship of Sharing. As Bp. Banks wrote on stewardship:
"It is so easy to forget that Jesus discussed many times with his
disciples the need for all to share. ... He knew the community of
believers would share what little bread they had for the good of
While the Eucharist is the prime example of Christ's sharing of
himself with us, the stories of the multiplication of the loaves
and fish (prefiguring the Eucharist) also reveal the lesson of
sharing. Not just by the fact that so many were fed, but that so
much was gathered up after the meal. First, they had 12
baskets gathered up from five loaves and two fish, after 5,000 men
(and countless women and children) had eaten (Mt 14:13-21); and
then seven baskets left over from seven loaves and a few fish (Mt.
Think about it: thousands of people follow Jesus for days into a
deserted place, and run out of food. Then, miraculously, they get
as much fish and bread as they can eat. But, wait, they have to
walk back again.
If you'd been there, wouldn't you have shoved some extra bread
into your sack for the journey home? Maybe taken an extra fish or
two for later in the day? But, no, everybody there gives up what's
left over and puts it into the basket that's passed around.
"Don't worry," they must have said. "There'll be more. Look at
what he's already given us."
That's the kind of trust we're asked to have in practicing the
stewardship of sharing. A trust that knows God will give us enough
for today - "give us this day, our daily bread."
Our instinct runs against this. It tells us to set something
aside: keep a little extra bread for the next meal. Build that
retirement account. Put savings in the bank. Plan a bigger house.
Get a new car.
"After all, it's my money, isn't it?"
That's what the rich man in Luke (12:16-21) thought. He earned a
lot extra that year, so he made plans to retire and enjoy himself.
He planned to build bigger barns and to have parties. Instead, he
died that night. And what good did his surplus wealth do him? Or
"The problem with this rich man isn't that he's rich," wrote Bp.
Ken Untener in the stewardship booklet many of our parishes are
using this fall. "Or that he wants to create more wealth. The
problem is that he wants to use it for himself."
Bp. Untener added that this drive "to make myself the primary
recipient of my gifts - is in all of us. It's part of the primitive
instinct for self-preservation."
But that drive, however natural, can pose a threat. It can lead
us to cut ourselves off from others - and, ultimately, from God. By
putting ourselves, and our wants and desires, first, we forget that
God comes first.
And God wants us to share. There's nothing wrong with having
private property - because our abundance can give pleasure to a lot
of people, including ourselves.
In his social justice encyclical, (Sollicitudo Rei
Socialis), Pope John Paul II said, "It is necessary to state
once more the characteristic principle of Christian social
doctrine: the goods of this world are originally meant for all. ...
Private property, in fact, is under a 'social mortgage,' which
means that it has an intrinsically social function, based upon and
justified precisely by the principle of the universal destination
of goods" (no 42).
The pope echoes all the social teachers of the modern age, going
back to the landmark encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, Rerum
Novarum, in 1891. In it, Leo wrote, that everyone who receives
"a large share of blessings," is to use them both for their own
personal benefit, and also "employ them, as the minister of
God's Providence, for the benefit of others" (no. 19).
All this follows the teaching of Jesus, who said that, when we
have a banquet, we should invite not just our friends, but "the
poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind" (Lk 15: 13). In that way,
we act as God acts - giving blessings freely from the Divine's
abundance. Just as God shares everything - including God's very
self in the Eucharist - with us, so we are called to share our
selves and our possessions. Just as God has given us "every good
thing," we are called to let the abundance of those good things
flow through our hands to others.
That way, everyone gets to play with the toys.
(Sources: Catholic Social Thought; The Little Burgundy Book; and the Vatican web site at www.vatican.va)