When you are watching the evening news, does your internal voice ever ask, “What does this have to do with me?” This question goes deeper than personal judgment or political views on an event. It also goes deeper than the fear from local or global threats. If we are listening, this voice stirs within us and reminds each of us who we belong to and how we might respond as Christian stewards.
As I follow what is going on in the Middle East, especially with IS, my heart is full and I often feel helpless. The persecution of Christians as well as many others is heartbreaking. Hearing the archbishop of Syria call out for help reminds me of how global our church truly is. When some of us are hurting, we are all supposed to take notice. In the time of high technology and lightning fast news delivery, none of us can bury our heads in the sand.
Yet to understand how we strategically and humanely address these issues as a church or as a citizen of a country considered a world leader is also overwhelming. It is so very complicated and oftentimes cannot be discussed due to dangerous nature of the situation. So what do we do?
In The Compass on March 6, I appreciated Bishop David Ricken speaking on this subject. It was helpful to know that Catholic Relief Services is trying to address the numerous humane issues and that there might be another movement developing in the U.S. as well. In response, you and I can be assertive and share generously of our financial resources with these organizations. However, that seems like the easy part. Perhaps like me, you think there is more.
Recently, I was reading from the Book of Ezekiel. I took notice when I came across: “Then the nations shall know that I am the Lord, Lord God, when in their sight I will prove my holiness through you.” (Ez 36:23) God has promised to bring his people together, cleanse them and radiate strength and love through them. When I read this, I somehow feel empowered.
God uses you and me to radiate God’s holiness to the world. When evil seems to permeate the world, we need to have lives that shine brighter than ever before. We need to be that beacon of love to bring hope for those suffering. We need to say clearly and loudly that you are not alone. God is here. We also need to send a message to the evil forces at work. You are not alone, God is here!
As Catholics we use Lent as a time of cleansing and conversion. As a diocese we have been called into a deeper relationship with Jesus in Bishop Ricken’s pastoral reflection, “Teach My People to Pray.” Our relationship with the Holy Trinity in prayer not only enriches and guides our own lives but allows us to do some serious praying — both personally and communally — for those worldwide who are experiencing tremendous evil. Would it not be amazing if all members of the Catholic Church, as well as all other denominations, consistently got on our knees together and prayed for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East?
As stewards of service, I don’t know how or who will be asked to serve the victims of IS. Though not all of us will be called to direct service, we must prepare ourselves to hear God’s voice when the time comes. For many of us, stepping up and serving those locally and nationally can inspire and evangelize those around us. The truth of God’s holiness shines brightly whenever we serve with the love and compassion of Christ. If you are not currently serving, please consider doing so.
When I reflect upon being a generous steward of my financial resources in light of world events, I once again am overwhelmed — not at the giving but the choices. There are so many needs and so many organizations doing incredible work. I believe it takes a generous heart and some time in prayer to sort it out. I believe that if everyone gave generously somewhere, poverty, pain and suffering could end. I believe that the evil one would cower to the holiness and joy radiated through God’s people.
In the end, stewardship is a powerful way of life that brings God’s love into the world. It works when we are addressing the good, the bad and the evil. In the end, it is about building God’s kingdom.
Otto is Stewardship and Special Projects director for the diocesan Stewardship and Pastoral Services Department.