One of the most important and difficult questions in the realm of religion has to do with how we understand the mystery of God. When our image of God is ill-formed, our spiritual lives become distorted and confused.
All of us, made to the image and likeness of God, are called to emulate our Triune God. We hear in today’s scripture the vocation of giving. Elisha says: “Give it to the people to eat.” Give the barley loaves to the hundred people to eat. And, lo and behold, there were leftovers. Again in the Gospel the identical situation of hunger is present. What to do? So Jesus takes the five barley loaves and two fish and after blessing them, has the disciples distribute the food to the 5,000 plus. And lo and behold, there were leftovers — 12 wicker baskets full.
God the Giver creates more than enough for everyone. But human history is a record of unequal distribution. The few have a surplus while the many are in want. Those who do God’s will become channels of God’s gifts, passing on and sharing with others what has been given to them. They live a life of stewardship.
St. Paul was one who understood God as Giver, Given, and Giving. He is clear in instructing us that God is one and Father of all who gives us life and grace. For Paul, Jesus is Lord, the Given one, who is the source of our faith through baptism. And the spirit of the Father and of the Son is the Spirit of Giving. And the gifts? A partial list presents such blessings as humility, gentleness patience, love, unity, peace, and hope. As good stewards we are to receive and nurture these gifts and then share them with everyone we meet.
We do well to heed this insight of William James: “The simple point is that our conception of God is tied to the mental climate that characterizes our culture. God supports our values and reinforces our ideals, and if he did not, he is altered or abandoned.”
In the opening prayer of today’s liturgy we ask God to truly make us his people, living out our theology: “Help us to cherish the gifts that surround us, to share your blessings with our brothers and sisters, and to experience the joy of life in your presence.”
Questions for reflection
1. Has your understanding of God grown over the past five years?
2. Do the terms Giver, Given and Giving make sense to you?
3. In what sense is stewardship an expression of discipleship?
Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.