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All that I have belongs to God

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The earthquake in Haiti was a cry for help to our hearts. And the solidarity towards a suffering humanity has been notable and admirable.

There will always be humanitarian emergencies knocking on the door of our hearts. But there is another type of aid which is essentially as important as an emergency, the type that emanates not from the outside but from the inside: from a faithful and generous heart. This aid is motivated by co-responsibility in the Church, because we are all members of the body of Christ, and we call it simply: stewardship.

Ironically, stewardship is founded on the premise that God does not need anything from us. It is we who, by virtue of our dignity as children of God, need to give generously. A preface says it so well, telling God: “You have no need of our praise, yet our desire to thank you is itself your gift.” This is the secret of our generosity, the conviction that we have been abundantly blessed by the Lord in multiple ways, in an endless number of events in our personal history. Jesus said this to his apostles in the form of a proverb: “without cost you have received, without cost you are to give.” (Matt. 10:8) And the bishop-theologian St. Irenaeus adds: “He needs no sacrifice from us, but the offerer is himself glorified through his offering, if his gift is accepted.” (Irenaeus of Lyon, Against Heresies, Book 4, 18).

Stewardship is a ritual we practice weekly, “on the first day of the week,” the day of the Lord. My family gives its offering during the cult of adoration. Love is paid, literally, with love. My offering is a response to the one who loved us to the point of giving his own life for us. That is why Scripture speaks about the proportion of the offering: “No one shall appear before the Lord empty-handed, but each of you with as much as he can give, in proportion to the blessings which the Lord, your God, has bestowed on you.” (Deut. 16:17) And here is the cause of the great difficulties of the Church: the laity do not give in proportion to their blessings!

The vocations of total consecration are the best examples of stewardship because they reveal the total giving to God of a human being’s freedom – the joy of the total gift.

Jesus highlighted the gesture of a poor widow who gave her only coin as an offering to the temple because it was an expression of her total self-giving: “For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” (Mk. 12:44) Ireneaus also comments: “That is, whereas the men of old consecrated a tenth part of their goods, those who have freedom put their entire property at the Lord’s disposal. Joyfully and freely they give their lesser goods because of their hope of greater ones to come – like the poor widow who threw her whole livelihood into the treasury of God.”

That is why I believe that no multimillion dollar offering surpasses the value of the offering made by the Church’s Curé of Ars!

The Cursillo movement has helped the lay faithful understand the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, captured in the slogan “I am the Church.” The saying has many practical consequences that call forth my talents, my time and my treasure. In reality, everything, everything I have, belongs to God. My only duty is to know how to administer it well and with a generosity that matches the gift of Christ. This is the challenge, since this measure pays no heed to selfishness. As a Carmelite saint said so well: “If anyone were to ask me the secret of happiness, I would say it is no longer to think of self...”


Most Reverend Felipe J. Estévez
Auxiliary Bishop of Miami

Comments from readers

CHARLES - 02/25/2010 12:00 AM
Your Excellency, I appreciate you bringing up the topic above of 'stewardship'. I admit I may don't 'stewardship' completely. But it doesn't mean that I I forget my experiences in dealing with one part of that stewardship, helping the needy. Have I nelgected, yes but other times not. It's challenging and I ask of responses on this matter. Lets read again the following paragraph of giving.

"Stewardship is a ritual we practice weekly, “on the first day of the week,” the day of the Lord. My family gives its offering during the cult of adoration. Love is paid, literally, with love. My offering is a response to the one who loved us to the point of giving his own life for us. That is why Scripture speaks about the proportion of the offering: “No one shall appear before the Lord empty-handed, but each of you with as much as he can give, in proportion to the blessings which the Lord, your God, has bestowed on you.” (Deut. 16:17) And here is the cause of the great difficulties of the Church: the laity do not give in proportion to their blessings!"

Perhaps my comments below may inspire others to offer suggestions and share ideas of how to deal with this issue. It seems that its 'competitive' of who we are to give our money to. Which one precedes the other? I feel terrible having to to go through this. Let me explain. For instance, we have the victims of the earthquake in Haiti, the homeless I see at partiicular exits off I-95 and the Turnpke in Broward, my parish's own St. Vincent de Paul collection, an orthodox seminary up north and really good worldwide Catholic pro-life agencies asking for money to fight the healtcare bill in Congress. What have I done? At times, if I have spare money, I'll give a couple of dollars to the homeless man/woman and sometimes I've not. I have in rare cases given a $10 or $20 or single dollar bills at those highway exits. I've donated for relief efforts in Haiti and yet feel more I must give. But then comes the challenge here. At times I've dropped money in the collection box for the poor. Then I have two particular Catholic-run shelters, one in Ft. Lauderdale and Miami constantly asking for money which I've donated before. I've heard of the phrase, "give 'til it hurts". It just seems bombarding and I'm sure many others can share the same thoughts I have and would welcome responses. Thank you again, your Excellency.

Charles
CARLOTA E. MORALES, ED. D. - 02/25/2010 12:00 AM
Dear Bishop,
As always, your points are thoughts to ponder and meditate. I learned from you to give to the extreme. In these difficult times, when giving has become so difficult, we often forget that it goes beyond money. What about our time and our talent or a word well said at a needed time? Someone who should be admired by all, said to me this morning when I had called this person naive that he/she was not naive , but fearful of hurting an innocent person. What a complete trust in the mercy of God!!! It wa then added "One prayer of thanksgiving when things go badly is worth thousands when things go well"
Apparently it is time to remember that it is our responsibility as "the Church" to act and love tenderly and faily and to always walk with Him.
Respectfully suibmitted,
Carlota E. Morales, Ed. D
Principal
Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School
PATRICIA CONNELLY - 01/25/2010 12:00 AM
Most Holy, Reverend Estevez, I always enjoy whatever it is, whatever the subject, or simply a hello with you in conversation.. Today I began my morning, celebrating my birthday by reading scripture. I am reading Romas right now and so enjoying the readings, and so in love with our holy Father. So, now as I end my day, I am so thankful to have opened this email of your blog. I sleep peacefully and silently in prayer and thanksgiving with prayers for you and our brothers and sisters throughout the world..
God Bless You Always
Patricia

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