I love everything about the season of Advent. The daily Scripture readings, the music, the anticipation of the celebration of the birth of Christ and the time when he will come again all touch my heart and life. Perhaps like you, I enjoy using the new resources that are provided each Advent to help reflect on my personal journey.
Bishop David Ricken, in a special visit he made to each diocesan department, gifted each of us with a copy of “Daily Reflections for Advent and Christmas: Waiting in Joyful Hope 2016-2017,” by Bishop Emeritus Robert Morneau. I am grateful for that.
Through this resource, the Diocesan Curia is being challenged to explore our lives in the areas of amazement, joy, following God, negativity, greed, generosity and prayer, just to name a few. If we invest the time in this Advent renewal, Christmas morning will look different for us.
When I consider how the power of the Incarnation — God becoming human — has affected my life’s path, it is overwhelming. Though unlike St. Paul, whose conversion came through being blinded and being tossed off his horse, mine has come quietly, one Advent, one Lent and one Easter at a time.
The life of Jesus and the sacred pathway he forged for us began in Bethlehem. Two thousand years later, many understand that pathway to be one of the Christian steward. If we were to take inventory of the many attitudes and activities in our lives, both religious and secular, how do we understand our rationale for them?
I think about the many parish stewardship committee members I have had the honor of working with in my years as the Stewardship director for the diocese. Many of them came to their committee understanding Christian stewardship at its foundational level and were walking in their daily lives the sacred pathway that Jesus walked. They were disciples, learners and followers of Jesus and he was the motivation for the life they were leading. It seemed they always wanted to know more and travel further down the path.
The committee members understood the importance of gratitude, time for prayer, offering their gifts in service and generously sharing of their treasure, but also honored the earth and lived in amazement and joy. It is all those things the diocesan staff are reflecting upon using our Advent resource.
Great stewardship committee members are able to talk to one another (and others) about how Jesus has influenced their own gratitude and generosity. They are able to share their personal stewardship story, including their pitfalls and triumphs. They could relate when Jesus was at the heart of their decisions and when he wasn’t and when they may have taken a self — inflicted detour from their sacred pathway.
For me, the beauty of watching members of a stewardship committee talk about their relationship with Jesus and their efforts to live as authentic disciples and Christian stewards is that their experiences are similar to their parish brothers and sisters. I believe that the Holy Spirit works through the lived experiences of a committee and creatively finds ways to bring that to you and me. Every successful stewardship committee has its own method of promoting the stewardship message in its parish.
I’m especially impressed by the joy members have from personally avoiding the off-ramps of negativity, fear and anxiety and have allowed others to want to know what they know and have what they have. At its very core, the disciple walking the sacred pathway of Christian stewardship which began in Bethlehem is a witness and evangelizer. Perhaps you can identify that person in your parish — or maybe it is you.
It is important to remember, like with any committee, the parish stewardship committee has agendas with goals and anticipated outcomes. For most, it is to discover ways to encourage you and me to find this joyful, sacred pathway or to offer those who are on the stewardship path new and creative ways of moving forward. You and I need to take seriously what is being offered by our stewardship committees. The Holy Spirit speaks to each of us in different ways and at different times.
This Advent, as I ponder the wonder and miracle of the Incarnation and our sacred pathway beginning in Bethlehem, I want to thank all the great Christian stewards I have met along the way who have inspired me and helped me to remember: it’s always been about Jesus. Blessings and Peace.
Otto is Stewardship and Special Projects director for the diocesan Stewardship and Pastoral Services Department.