Stewardship is about more than surplus

By | November 7, 2012

Bishop Ricken has designated the second Sunday of November as Stewardship Sunday in our Diocese. The two women in this week’s Scriptures typify that sense of generous stewardship, sharing all they had in both the present and for their future.

For the widow of Zarephath, life was as dire as it could be. She was preparing a final meal, expecting that she and her son would then starve to death. And yet, at Elijah’s request, she shared the remaining flour and oil and God provided for her. The widow in the Gospel put a few small coins in the collection and Jesus noted that she had given more than others because she gave from her livelihood rather than from a surplus.

Each week after we hear the Scriptures and pray for the needs of the church and the world, we are seated as the gifts are prepared. An important aspect of that preparation is our own interior sense of gratitude and the offering we make as an expression of that attitude. The monetary contribution symbolizes the work of our hands and is a response to what we have received.

I remember our family lined up in the pew at Mass. Mom was on one end, Dad on the other and six of us in between. Just before the collection was gathered, I would feel a tap on my shoulder and Dad would send down money for each of us to put in the collection basket. Since we didn’t get an allowance, Dad provided something for us to “put in the basket” so we would get used to the idea that you gave something back to God. We knew Dad did other charity work and Mom sewed for the missions and contributed to the Propagation of the Faith, but they also made a point of giving directly to the parish.

Today I see the same kind of training in parishes that have a special way for children to make their contributions — either in children’s “envelopes” or, during the collection, bringing up their money or food and paper products for the food pantry. This might seem like a small symbolic action, but when children learn that “returning thanks to God” happens in word and action, it shapes their attitude.

And while it seems counter-intuitive, it is also true that often the poorest people seem to have the most generous hearts. When it would seem natural to hoard, instead, they share. When I visited our mission in the Dominican Republic several years ago, I was struck by the generosity of people who were financially poor but so rich in spirit.

This weekend, before we leave for Mass, perhaps we could reflect on the blessings of the past week. What return can we make to the Lord our God for all that God has given and done for us?

Sr. Rehrauer is the diocesan director of Evangelization, Living Justice and Worship.

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