What is the goal of stewardship formation? Many parishes want to increase Mass attendance, increase the number of ministry participants and definitely increase the amount of offertory received. These are all good “secondary” goals but the “primary” goal of stewardship is to transform the lives of individual parishioners and the parish community. The whole point is to strengthen our relationship with God, live a more Christ-centered life and use our gifts interdependently to build God’s kingdom on earth and ultimately, help each other get to heaven.
Our idea of stewardship needs to move from our head into our heart. Before any of our parish stewardship efforts will bear sustainable, long-term good fruit, we need to internalize this idea of living a grateful and generous life into our hearts. Stewardship is not just a list of activities, rather it is a transformative lifestyle where we grow in love with God and with each other — it’s all about building relationships.
When St. John Paul II canonized St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), he said, “Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth! One without the other becomes a destructive lie.” Archbishop Robert J. Carlson said, “Some think the truth is the truth, no matter how it’s stated. But some words breathe forth cynicism and sarcasm rather than love; we’ve seen too much of words that incite violence rather than promote peace. Those words are alien to Jesus, even when they’re true, because they don’t breathe forth love.”
Does your stewardship exhibit love and truth? Is your sharing mechanical because you do it out of obligation and it checks off a box to make you or your parish look good? Or, do you share out of love, in gratitude for everything God, Our Father, has given you?
Once we allow God to truly reside in our hearts we become overwhelmed by His love for us and feel the need to join our lives, with Him, in carrying out His work here on earth. Our generosity is a supernatural response in gratitude for all He has given us. Stewardship is our love response to God.
And, as in all loving relationships, there is need to hold each other accountable, to keep each other on the path to holiness. All of our actions have consequences, both individually and as a parish community. Remember, of all the gifts that God has given us, the gift He wants the most is our heart.
Let us pray for the strength and courage that all we do be for the glory of God’s name and to use our gifts out of love for God and one another.
Baranowski is the director of stewardship education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He and his wife are parishioners at Mary, Mother of the Church in south St. Louis County. He can be reached at (314) 792-7215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.