Bishop’s Reflection: Letting Go of “Mine” for the Glory of God’s Work

by Bishop Michael G. Duca

Maybe the first surprise to new parents is that children are born wild – not tame. I don’t mean this in a bad sense, but our first instincts as a child are for survival. We must be taught and formed to enter into civilized society. There are three attitudes that come from our wild side, from within us, that must be shaped and formed by parents. These attitudes are expressed by three common phrases: “Mine!” “Not fair,” and “My turn.” Each of these attitudes in their wild state are self-centered, seeing the world only from the child’s point of view even though they express some truth about life. Each of these could be a column in themselves, but today I want to concentrate on the blatantly self-centered one: “MINE!” (it seems to need the exclamation point).

The exclamation “MINE!” is of course an expression of ownership. We learned this very early in life when we received a gift or a new toy and understand that it is given to me, it is MINE! Ownership is not a bad thing, in fact in the encyclical Rerum Novarum on social justice, the Church teaches that ownership of land is a fundamental right for every person because it helps to ensure a person’s freedom and brings stability to the family. Ownership also brings order to our society. But if what is ours – our time, talent and treasure – is only understood from the childish expression, “MINE!,” then we become selfish, self-serving  and can be tempted to use our wealth, time and talent to influence and manipulate others for our purposes. We can become trapped in vanity and greed. We can surround ourselves with so much that we stop hearing the cry of the poor and become isolated from those who need our help. We live in the illusion of self-sufficiency and superficial pursuits.

The great balancer of “MINE!” when we are growing up is the exhortation of our parents to SHARE. This is not easily understood by a child who is just learning what MINE! means, but it is the lesson we need to learn. The deeper and more spiritually mature equivalent of SHARE for us as disciples of Jesus is the spirituality of stewardship. A spirituality of stewardship is founded on the understanding that a steward is not the owner, but the caretaker of something.  A good steward cares for, protects, invests, improves and respects all that is placed under his care. As men and women of faith in Christ, this means that we should develop a deep spirituality of stewardship that is rooted in the core belief that everything we own and are is a GIFT.  We are not meant to be owners of things, rather to see ourselves as stewards of what is placed under our care.

There is a big difference between saying, “This is MINE!, I earned this and I will use it as I want,” and saying, “I have earned this, worked hard for it and I thank God for all that makes this possible and I will try to be a good steward of the blessings I have received.”  Once we see our lives more as a gift, then gratitude becomes a part of our daily attitude and the idea of stewardship is a regular part of our daily decisions about time, talent and treasure.  Our decisions on how to use our gifts begin to include the awareness of the needs of others and we become more generous and hospitable. We also become more willing to contribute, even sacrificially, from the God-given gifts of our time, treasure and talents to help build up the kingdom of God and give witness to God from whom all good things come.

Hopefully we have matured beyond the self-centered attitude of MINE! to the generosity of SHARE, and finally to the spiritual truth that we are only stewards of the gifts of our lives.

In the next few weeks you will be reminded that this is the time of year for our Diocesan Stewardship Appeal. I know there may be a lot of practical reasons that brings a person to give or not, but I hope that the decision is being made as a spiritual decision and not just a monetary one.  I hope you approach our Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal from a spirituality of stewardship and understand that giving to the Appeal is not like paying bills or dues, but rather our SHARE in the support of the mission of the Church. I hope you will see that you are a part of our Diocesan Family and will support the programs that serve the diocese in all the churches in our 16 civil parish region.

Please, prayerfully consider a gift to the Appeal this year out of a desire to be a good steward.  Be assured that I receive them as a blessed gift and I will handle them as a good steward of your generosity for the glory of God.

Editors Note: Read more about the ministries the Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal supports on page 14 of this issue. A pledge card is available for your use on page 30.  •