Everyday Stewardship / Striving for Maturity

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Therefore, let us leave behind the basic teaching about Christ and advance to maturity, without laying the foundation all over again: repentance from dead works and faith in God, instruction about baptisms* and laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And we shall do this, if only God permits.

Hebrews 6:1-3

The US Bishop’s pastoral letter on stewardship was published in 1992 as a challenge to embrace a way of life with the “power to change how we understand and live out our lives.” It calls us to a mature discipleship that requires a decision to follow Jesus Christ no matter the cost. However, this notion brings to mind the words of Maya Angelou, “Most people don’t grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is aging!”

Maturity is also a notion that we sometimes have failed to understand in the Church.  The years of talking about teenagers becoming adults in the Church at Confirmation certainly didn’t help.  Being older certainly doesn’t mean one is necessarily mature.  Age and experience come our way whether we want it to or not.  What we learn from the passage of time is what brings about maturity.

Mature disciples come in all ages really.  To test maturity one simply needs to ask the question given to us in the challenge of the Bishop’s pastoral letter: “Will I follow Jesus Christ no matter the cost?”  One cannot grow in a sense of stewardship if he or she is always “counting the cost.”   Think of children’s reactions to requests of their time and effort: “That’s not fair!” “I don’t feel like it!” “How come I have to do it?”

If we seriously follow Jesus and become good observers of our lives, we realize that every day there are costs: some days less than others, and some days much more.  A mature Everyday Steward will hit those challenges head on with trust in the Lord.  It does become easier though as maturity grows because, as the US Bishops point out, to lead this way of life transforms a person.  The great promise in this is that transformed people begin to transform the world around them.  Who doesn’t want that?  (“Immature people, of course,” said the still small voice.)

This article does not coincide with this Sunday’s readings. For that reflection, click here.

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

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In this blog, I am charged with keeping the main thing, the main thing, as are my guest bloggers. We reflect quite frequently on the process of conversation, everyday spirituality, and a stewardship way of life. There are many books and articles out there about parish engagement, rebuilding community, and creating a dynamic faith environment. But we must never forget that there is a mission at the heart of all this discussion, and it is more important than doubling the size of your congregation or greatly increasing your weekly offering. That mission is to share the Good News of Jesus Christ and lead others toward an eternal life with Him.

Too often we hear talks about how to make our churches more vibrant places and we fail to discuss “why” that is important in the first place. It is a great feeling to belong to a community that is alive with many activities for all ages. We want churches to be places of hospitality and welcoming. Parishes with excellent communication plans are able to reach young adults and those who are being swallowed whole by a consumption-culture media machine. But sometimes, we work to achieve these things with the achievement being the end goal. Those characteristics of a church community are never the end goal. Jesus is always the end goal.

For too long we have allowed our faith to be a component of our lives, rather than the lens through which we see all aspects of our life. This has led to a presentation of Church as a place where we spend part of our Sunday and sometimes volunteer some time. In fact, we are Church, and that reality does not change for 6 days of the week. We are Church 24/7. And the proclamation of the Good News on a Sunday serves only to strengthen us to proclaim that Good News the other 6 days of the week.

As we seek to create exciting and vibrant communities of faith, let us all take a step back and reflect on our motivations for such an effort.  Alas, the opposite extreme of believing that creating these types of communities does not matter is also present in the Church. Some pastors and pastoral leaders have bought into a lie that offering Mass and a few programs is enough. They see growth as a problem that would have to be managed, and new programs as not being worth the effort. They have lost sight of the main thing as well. For if the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ is essential to being a faithful disciple, then we must never rest in finding new ways of evangelizing others. We truly are talking about a matter of life or death, eternal life that is!

So why do we do the things we do? What are our goals? If you truly want a vibrant and engaged church community, keep the proclamation of the Good News the main thing. That proclamation will last and it can be sustained. All your other efforts, if not done with this as the foundation, will fall away.