Stewardship and the Universal Church

St. Francis AssisiAt most Sunday Masses, we stand after the homily and recite the Nicene Creed. This creed is our proclamation that we believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as three persons in one God. We also proclaim our belief that our Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. To proclaim the Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic is to acknowledge that our Church, the Catholic Church, was founded by Jesus Christ, is for all people everywhere, and that the Church’s mission is the same as the Apostles’, to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19).

If we believe the Church is universal and for everyone no matter who they are or where they live, why is it so hard for many of us to share our gifts with the greater Church or world? Many of us give our time, talent, and treasure regularly to our local parish but grumble about or outright refuse to share our gifts with causes or needs outside of our local parish. Perhaps part of this disjointed generosity is due to the confusion many of us have over what is expected of us by God.

Many parishes and individual Catholics throughout the United States and here in the Austin Diocese have adopted stewardship as a way of life. This means they have dedicated themselves to living the Gospel message to sharing their time, talent, and treasure with others and back to God in gratitude for all God has given them. Along with committing to spending time with God in prayer and using their skills and talents for the benefit of others, they also strive to share their financial gifts with others and return a fitting portion back to God. Many use the Old Testament guide of a tithe, or ten percent, of their income as a way to determine their financial gifts. As followers of Jesus and the Gospels, a tithe should be seen as a minimum, not the maximum, way to share our gifts of treasure. No matter what percentage or amount we give back to God, the underlying principle is that we must share our financial gifts with others and back to God with love and gratitude. Tithing is only possible when we allow God to be first in our lives and when we use the remaining portion of our income according to God’s will.

The Austin Diocese’s Catholic Services Appeal and special collections for national and international causes, such as the Propagation of the Faith, Retired Religious, and Catholic Campaign for Human Development, should be seen as additional opportunities to share our gifts with others beyond our regular tithe or offerings. As members of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, we are called not only to use our financial gifts for the benefit of our local parish, but also for our diocese, the greater Church, and world. While the weekly offertory at Mass typically receives most of our tithe back to God, diocesan and national collections are opportunities to go beyond our normal comfort level of giving and sacrificially help our neighbors here in Austin and throughout the world. As we take that step in faith and put God first in our lives, we must always remember Jesus’ promise, “Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what God requires of you, and God will provide you with all these other things” (Mt. 6:33).