Humble Service and Stewardship
By Father Pete Iorio
We talk a lot about greatness in our country… of being number one. In sports – did your team win yesterday? in politics, in the entertainment industry. We consider greatness as being better than another team, another political party or opponent, another country, another performer, etc. For the most part, we really don’t care about the loser if we are on top.
In the Gospel the disciples were arguing among themselves as to who was the greatest… using similar criteria as we do today. And what does Jesus say? “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” And then he took a child and he placed it in their midst.
He uses a play on an Aramaic word that can mean either servant or child. Talya or child in Aramaic can also mean servant. Presenting a child before them, Jesus explains that one who wishes to be the first among them must be a servant to all. True greatness consists in serving one’s fellow men and is never self-centered. It lies in the ability to see and respond to the needs of others, and it presupposes compassion and sympathy. The two conditions of true greatness are humility and service. This vocation to service belongs to the Church as a whole and to every member of the Church. In other words, the Christian vocation is an apostolate of bearing witness to Christ through loving, humble service. Christian history teaches us that whenever the members of Christ’s Church have forgotten or ignored this call to service, the Church has suffered.
During these weeks at St. Mary’s, we are focusing on stewardship. In a particular way, we focus on Jesus as gift and how we ourselves can give of ourselves as gift as He Himself did and still does. Last weekend, we had a ministry fair, and invited all of you to give of your time and talent to promote the mission of Christ in some way… to humble yourselves and to humbly give of your time and talents. What measure of yourself did you give away?
Jesus still gives Himself humbly and completely to ys. On the altar at every Mass, we celebrate a re-presentation of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who humbly served others and who gave away his own life. The priest offers up the sacrifice of the Son. We return to God what He has given to us. We offer this sacrifice back to Him. The effect of Jesus’ self-giving is amazing abundance…the bread of life that nourishes and grows our souls. The life of Jesus Christ grows in all of us and should have the same effect in our lives, in our ability to give ourselves in loving service.
Bishop Robert Barron teaches a principal is on display from the beginning to the end of the Bible. He calls it The Law of The Gift. Your being increases in the measure that you give it away. Your being decreases in the measure that you cling to it. This is the greatness that Jesus constantly preached and put into practice.
In the Gospel of Mark, up until now, Jesus caught people’s attention and I might say that He was showing God’s greatness by performing miracles of healing people, preaching with authority, calming storms, multiplying bread, contending with opponents. Today, he makes a distinction when He predicts His death on the Cross. What greatness is there in dying a horrible shameful death? Jesus chose to give his entire life away in love. Did his life diminish? Maybe for three days. And then… it increased amazingly when He rose to new life. This is the Law of the Gift in its most wonderful display. The greatest life ever lived is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We my brothers and sisters participate in that very life of greatness.
Stewardship is a word that embodies the fullness of Jesus’ teaching on humble service. A good steward is one who offers time, talent and treasure for the good of others. Last weekend, we focused on doing good works through the practice of our faith.
Today, I focus on treasure. Money can be used to make people great in our world. We even use economic indicators to measure our greatness… if we as individuals or as a country have a lot of money, we are considered healthy and great in the way that human beings think. Our Lord Jesus constantly preached on wealth and money. His teaching is countercultural to this way of thinking. He told us constantly not to accumulate wealth for ourselves.
The Law of the Gift in regard to treasure is related to Jesus’ teaching of greatness. The measure in you give it away, your life will increase. The measure in which you cling to money, your life will decrease. It is truly a spiritual act of faith, that requires trust in God to provide.
Jesus even used a poor widow to show greatness. She put her last coin in the temple treasury. She had such faith that God would provide. When she gave this total gift of self, her being increased exponentially. In our stewardship focus, I ask us, no matter how much we have or do not have, how willing and how much are you willing to give away?
It is a whole different way of thinking, not as human beings do, but as God does, that my very being depends on giving myself and my talents and money and time away and not begrudgingly with a sourpuss attitude, but with joy because the life of Christ, God’s greatest gift is in you.
Even you young people if your receive an allowance or make money working, you too are not too young to give and have your faith and your being increase by giving.
I ask you to pray about your financial gift to St. Mary’s. How large is it? Is it a percentage of my income or an amount in dollars? Do I have faith enough to increase my gift not because St. Mary’s needs it, but because I believe, or I am going to take a courageous step in faith to put the Law of the Gift into practice? the more you give away what you love, the more your being is enhanced.