Monthly Clergy Recollection
November 8, 2010
One day God allowed His follower to enter the Promised Land. The man exclaimed, “how good is the Lord that he gave this land.” On the very next day, walking around the land and admiring its vastness he said, “how good is the land which the Lord has given.” On the succeeding days inspecting the land and seeing its bounty he said, “how good is the land.”
As we remember the goods we must not forget the giver. As we receive much so we must also share more. As we have excess so we must be willing to give. We are given tasks and obligations. We are assigned to do and to expect to do more. We will be entrusted with positions to fill up and to people to care. There are responsibilities to fulfill and works to finish. We will draw up plans to execute and formulate visions to accomplish. There are goals to achieve and even gifts to receive.
Yes, as priests and religious,our hands will be full of works and fruits from our labors. With what we have and hold, we must live up to the words of Jesus as He said, “well, good and fruitful servant, since you have been fruitful in little things, I will entrust you with much more. Come and share the joy of your master” (Matthew 25,23). Thus we must show responsible care of the goods and gifts given to us. As recipients, we are accountable to the giver, much more to God who is the author and source of everything.
We are Church’s servants. We are God’s workers. We are called and chosen to His vineyard. And so we are just His stewards. What is then stewardship? Stewardship is responsible use and care of gifts and goods given and entrusted to our care. Presbyterorum Ordinis No. 17 tells us, "Priests are to use money acquired by them on the occasion of the exercise of their ecclesiastical office primarily for their own decent support and the fulfillment of the duties of their own state. They should be willing to devote whatever is left over for the good of the Church, or the works of charity."
Stewardship as practiced and defined is a ministry of a particular person to serve and to share his benefits as to help and assist one another. It is a visible and tangible way whereby the followers of Jesus commit themselves to His call and mission in building up His Church. Stewardship is a sacrificial giving. Saint Paul writes, “you, Philippians, remember that in the beginning , when we first preached the Gospel after I left Macedonia you alone opened for me a debt and credit account, when I was in Thessalonica, twice you sent me what I need” (Phil 4, 15-16).
Stewardship is to share and to sustain one another. Saint Paul urges us, “so then, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast and do not be moved. Improve constantly in the work of the Lord, knowing that with him your labor is not without fruit” ( 1 Corinthians 15,58). Stewardship is to serve and to provide worthy and faithful services. And as stewards I have two questions to ponder. First, is what we must do? Our stewardship is to render through the so called 3 T’s, that is, providing time, sharing talents and giving treasures.
1. In order to serve, time is needed. To sustain and to work in God’s vineyard, it is demanded from us to give quality time. As stewards of God’s gifts and goods we are not to dominate as to control but to devote time and effort to them to be more useful and fruitful. Providing time is to make ourselves available and be present to a given task. It means dedicating oneself to work and to work with full energy and undiminished enthusiasm. Saint John of the Cross said. “let us especially regret the smallest amount of time that we waste or fail to use in serving and loving God.”
2. In order to share, talent must be given. To accomplish the work of God, offering of one’s talents or abilities must be shared. To build up the Body of Christ, our God given talents and skills must be extended to all. Saint Paul in his letter to the Corinthians attest to it saying. “I, as good architech, according to the capacity given to me, I laid the foundation, and another is to build upon it. Each one must be careful to build upon it” (1 Corinthians 3,10). Sharing one’s talent is to give what is best in us, offering the most we can do, and maximizing all our efforts. It calls for creativity, to be more imaginative and to be more constructive and thus to produce excellent results. Let us remember then that God has gifted us with so many talents. He makes us special and with so much skills. These - gifts and goodness - are given to us, not for our personal interest neither for our own use but for His greater glory, for His own purpose. Thus, we must share our talents and skills for the glory and spread of His name and to bring His flock to His loving fold. Saint Vincent Ferrer advises us “whatever you do, think not of yourself, but of God.”
3. In order to sustain, treasure must be graciously offered. To continue God’s work, one must be ready to use and utilize his own treasures. To complete the plan of God, one must be ready to sacrifice and spend even his own treasures. Saint Paul says, “each of you should give as you decided personally, and not reluctantly as if obliged. God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to fill you with every good thing, so that you have enough of everything at all times, and may give abundantly for any good work.” (2 Corinthians 9, 7). Let us remember then that God will always give and grant all our needs. Giving our treasures is to be generous. It is a call to be gracious, to answer the crying needs of our brothers and sisters. With God we will never be wanting. We will never be lacking. God will always fill us. And so we must also be ready to give what we receive from God. We must always be open to share what God gives and does to us. God is always giving us something so that we can share, not to keep for ourselves or to possess. Saint Catherine of Siena reminds us, “every evil, harm and suffering in this life comes from the love of riches.”
Now we come to the second question, that is, as stewards what is demanded from us? Jesus tells His disciples, “who, then, is the faithful and problem steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute (the) food allowance at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so. Truly, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property. But if that servant says to himself, my master is delayed in coming, and begins to beat the menservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, then, the servant’s master will come on unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful” (Luke 12, 42-46). So As God’s stewards there are two things being asked from us. First is to be faithful. It is faithfulness to our duties and responsibilities. It is our fidelity to the will and word of our Master who is no other than Jesus Himself. As God’s faithful stewards, there is nothing being neglected. Nothing is being left undone. To be faithful is to be completely diligent and loyal to our obligations. We don’t take things lightly or take them easy. We don’t abuse our people or our position. Opportunities are not wasted. Our works are not left hanging. Our authority is not misused or abused. We don’t waste chances. We do things. We perform. We produce. Saint Benedict of Norcia says, “while there is still time, while we are in this body and have time to accomplish things by the light of life – we must run and do now what will profit us forever” (Regula, 43)
Second is to be responsible. It is to fulfill what is expected from us. We do what is demanded from us. No one is being neglected. No one is being ignored. We take good care of those entrusted to our care. We will be given authority and power. Theres will be people under us. But stewardship is not to lord over them. As God’s faithful and responsible stewards we must be prudent and patient with them. We must discharge our tasks with honesty and truthfully. We treat our people fairly and with compassion. We take things responsibly and seriously. The weak are not exploited. Things are not taken for granted. Works are not missed or set aside for tomorrow. And on the contrary, we exert extra effort. We work harder. We do more. We deal with our people and with our tasks with respect, with care and with total service. Saint Paul in his letter to Titus writes, “since the overseer is the steward of God’s house, he must be beyond reproach: not proud, hotheaded, over fond of wine, quarrelsome or greedy for gain. On the contrary he must be hospitable, a lover of what is good, wise, upright, devoted and self-controlled. He must hold to the message of faith just as it was taught, so that, in his turn, he may teach sound doctrine and refute those who opposed” (1,7-9).
Let me tell you this historical anecdote in the life of Constantine the great. This Roman emperor after his conversion to Christianity entrusted to his court officials the tasks of constructing churches in the whole empire. After three months he gathered all his court officials and asked them for progress report. He told them, “tell me not what you have completed but tell me what you have accomplished.”
As to conclude our reflection on stewardship I ask you to recite with me the prayer of Saint Ignatius of Loyola:
Take O Lord and receive all my liberty,
and my whole mind.
Thou hast given me all that I am and all that I posses.
I surrender it all to Thee,
that Thou may dispose of it according to your will.
Give me only thy love and thy grace,
with these I will be rich enough
and will have no more to desire
Most Rev. Ruperto C. Santos, DD
Bishop of Balanga
this 8th of November 2010