Monday, January 7, 2008

Christology of Stewardship

Yesterday was the Feast of the Epiphany – the day that the three Magi visited the infant Jesus. The homily at Mass was of course about the giving of our gifts to God. The priest emphasized our repentance and good works, which I think is marvelous. Typically, however, the homily focuses on stewardship. Stewardship is a part of our Catholic life, but it is more often than not associated with the peace-and-justice, vote Democrat, folks. Stewardship, as well as peace-and-justice, goes well beyond party lines. Like everything else, it goes back to Christ.

You may have noticed the title: Christology of Stewardship. By this I not only refer to the christocentricity of stewardship but I also root stewardship in Christ the God-Man. Like Christ, stewardship must take on a material and spiritual dimension. So often we tend to say: “Stewardship is all about the giving of material goods to those who need them.” Yet when we talk about those who will “inherit the earth” – and all it’s material possessions – Jesus tells us that it is the meek. Who are the meek? The meek are those who realize that the best things to receive are spiritual things (like love, mercy, and kindness) and not the material things.

This is where I love education! If I gave ten students twenty dollars I would be out $200. But if I taught my students about some topic – say Vatican II – then we all would know about Vatican II and I have lost nothing. In fact, I’ve probably gained a better understanding of the council myself! Stewardship should be equally about giving the great spiritual gifts as it is about giving the material gifts.

But speaking of material gifts, I got to thinking about the three gifts of the Magi: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It just so happens that when we speak of stewardship we usually speak of three things: time, talent, and treasure. Of course, I began to draw connections. First of all, gold and treasure seem to stand out on both lists – so you can draw the obvious connection!

Talent and frankincense correlate to me in that the smell of frankincense was very symbolic of life and to me there is nothing more unique and life-giving about a person than their talents. There have been times that I didn’t have a lot of treasure to offer the Church, but I know God has given me many talents. These I have offered countless times and I often believe that there is more in the giving of talent than in the giving of cash – it’s easy to give money but hard to give that which is most unique about yourself.

If frankincense is symbolic of life, myrrh is symbolic of death. Myrrh was used to cover the smell of corpses and was also used in embalming procedures of ancient times. To me this perfectly connects with time. Our lives on earth are in time – and time is running out. When we die, God is going to ask us what we did with our time. How have we been stewards with our time? The myrrh, as well as time, should remind us of our duty as stewards and the role we play as the children of God.

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