The Office of Stewardship
“Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.“
We enter the new liturgical year and celebrate the first week of Advent with this interesting Gospel from the 24th chapter of Matthew. As one commentary points out, one of the lessons in these verses is to note that judgment comes in the course of daily life. These men and women are merely going about their day, working in the field and grinding at the mill. As I reflected on this through the lens of stewardship, I think it points to several lessons.
First, St Paul exhorts us to “work out our salvation” (Phil 2:12), and we are reminded that much of this work happens in the context of our daily life. St. Escriva reminds us:
“God is calling you to serve Him in and from the ordinary, material and secular activities of human life. He waits for us every day, in the laboratory, in the operating theatre, in the army barracks, in the university chair, in the factory, in the workshop, in the fields, in the home and in all the immense panorama of work. Understand this well: there is something holy, something divine, hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it. . . .The daily life we live, apparently so ordinary, can be a path to sanctity: it is not necessary to abandon one’s place in the world in order to search for God…because all the paths of the earth can be the occasion for an encounter with Christ.”
Secondly, the goal of our life is holiness. Sainthood is not reserved for other people. “To be saints is not a privilege for the few, but a vocation for everyone.” (Pope Francis) But it is not necessarily recognizable from the outside. To the casual observer, both of those who were working in the field or at the mill look the same. God, though, who reads our hearts and knows us better than we know ourselves, sees something very different in the two. As we grow closer to Jesus, we come to know ourselves as He knows us and this self-knowledge helps us to choose wisely, live rightly and leads to an interior change. We very well might continue many of the same activities of life, but how we do them and why we do them changes profoundly. And in that is our path to sanctity.
Lastly, one of the great lessons of Advent is that the Lord calls; the Church calls: Stay awake! Be vigilant! “For at a time you do not expect, the Lord will come.” (Matt. 24:42). Committing to a life of stewardship helps us answer this Advent call. It can show us practical ways to bring God into our everyday lives. The attitudes of a Christian steward can help us maintain the sense of attentiveness the season calls us to. One of these ways is the cultivation of a sense of gratitude. As the US Bishops in their statement on stewardship point out, “Christian stewards receive God’s gifts gratefully.” Just the realization that everything we have and every minute of our day–every person we encounter, even every challenge we face–can be received gratefully as a gift is life-changing. We come to our everyday activities differently. They become the place where we encounter God and His love for us. They become an opportunity to share His love with others. They become a way to work for His greater glory. The everyday activities of our lives become a place for the Word to become Incarnate and it can all begin with gratitude and humility; an openness to receiving all that the Lord wishes to bestow on us.
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