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of Faith

 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinNovember 7, 2003 Issue 

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 each other."

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. 15:32-39).

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 anyone else?

"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

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