In Matthew 5:42-44, we reflect upon the verse “love your enemies and bless those who curse you.” When we think of Stewardship within daily life, how we act, or react, it is an area that deserves focus. From a business perspective, I personally find this difficult and challenging! St. Theophan the Recluse provides insight – “Real love is proved by our relationship with our enemies. Not only should slight and incidental annoyances not extinguish our love for others – neither should attacks, persecutions, misfortunes and deprivations, intentionally and maliciously inflicted. We must not only bless people but also do good to them and pray for them!” Something to think about and consider in our daily work.
I remember when I was a child, getting up early in the morning and going somewhere before the sun rose was a special moment. This was the same for my son, Christopher, when he was 11 years old. We woke up at 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning – a quick breakfast and then drove to Church. The day’s project focused on planting all new bushes, trees and flowers around the property. Not only was it fun to be up that early, but he thought it was great to be included. The volunteers were many – all Stewards – and the work was hard – planning, digging, removing, planting, fertilizing, mulching but what a great time we had.
The next day, as we walked past the gardens on the way to the Liturgy, Christopher stopped, looked at a section we worked on together and said “Dad, yesterday, I became a Steward and every day that I and others walk by the work we did, this will be my reminder” I tried to hide my tears – not sure how successful I was but I thanked God that at the age of 11, he now understood that Stewardship comes in many shapes and sizes and not just from a financial perspective.
St. John Chrysostom’s reflection on Ephesians… What then? Are we to give thanks for everything that befalls us? Yes; be it even disease, be it even penury. For if a certain wise man gave this advice in the Old Testament, and said, “Whatsoever is brought upon thee take cheerfully, and be patient when thou art changed to a low estate” – much more ought this to be the case in the New. Yes, even though thou know not the word, give thanks. For this is thanksgiving. But if thou give thanks when thou art in comfort and in affluence, in success and in prosperity, there is nothing great, nothing wonderful in that. What is required is, for a man to give thanks when he is in afflictions, in anguish, in discouragements. Utter no word in preference to this, “Lord, I thank thee.” And why do I speak of the afflictions of this world? It is our duty to give God thanks, even for hell itself, for the torments and punishments of the next world. For surely it is a thing beneficial to those who attend to it, when the dread of hell is laid like a bridle on our hearts. Let us therefore give thanks not only for blessings which we see, but also for those which we see not, and for those which we receive against our will.
Adversity is something we all face. How we respond is critical. We become angry, upset, discouraged and resentful. From St. John’s perspective, we must thank God for everything, including adversity, for either we have something to learn or God just needs to get our attention!
As we consider Stewardship throughout the Bible, reflect upon the urgency and obedience that we are called to when following Christ. The same urgency and obedience that is necessary as Stewards of our parish. We must become Stewards immediately, not next month, not when Church school starts, not at Christmas but as soon as possible as our Church depends on us. We must also be obedient with our Stewardship of Time, Talents and Treasures – not when we have a surplus of money, not during a vacation day, not when we receive our bonus and not until we can find the extra time but as soon as possible as the Church needs support for all of the ministries it provides. Throughout the summer months, find new ways to help your parish.
Last Sunday’s Gospel poses an interesting situation. The non-believers asked many questions of the blind man, to the point where he became frustrated. How many times do we question what God asks of us? To read Scripture on a daily basis – to pray – to follow the Commandments – to attend the Divine Liturgy – to partake of the Eucharist – to confess our sins – to do good works. We question Stewardship instead of taking action and doing those things that are necessary for our Salvation! Maybe one day, we also will say “One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see!”
We pray that you have a blessed summer and please remember that supporting the Church’s ministries is a year long commitment.
The final bell rings marking the end of the school year-and the mad rush for the exits ensues. Many of us can remember that highly anticipated and energetic time of our youth. It is a time of hope for a new day, a time of planning on summer camps, a time of family vacations. And so often, we also think of it as a time to take vacation from Church…
Interestingly, the Church offers a Fast at the beginning of this time of year-the Apostles’ Fast. It is a time that is so often neglected in our family life here in the United States and Canada. And yet, it is a time that can be the greatest blessing to recharge our spiritual batteries and prepare for the family vacation season.
When we fast, we set aside the time to care for our relationship with God. When we fast, we take the time to deny the self, and thus strengthen our ability to say “YES” to God-uniting our will to His Will. When we fast, we remind ourselves that there is something more important than immediate gratification.
The question remains: How do we fast and still have a family vacation? Family time-including taking a vacation together-is vital to the health of our relationship with our loved ones. There is nothing more important than keeping the Gift of the Family healthy and whole and dedicated to God. That does not mean that to be a healthy family, an extravagant trip is needed. How healthy is it to take a “vacation” from the one thing that nourishes us as a family: Christ? How healthy can it be to remove ourselves from the one place where Jesus Christ is revealed in His Fullness: the Divine Liturgy? This week, as the summer planning sessions are beginning in earnest, let us take some time to prioritize our family life so that our summer vacations can reflect our values in Christ. When we set our family time priorities, it is important to list them in the same manner as our personal ones, keeping in mind the one thing needful: Our Relationship with Christ! Each family should take some time to determine what is truly important to them.
Father Christopher Rocknage, Harrisburg, PA
Great is the profit of divine Scriptures, and all sufficient is the aid which comes from them… for the divine oracles are a treasury of all manner of medicines.Whether it be needful to quench pride, to lull passion to sleep, to tread under foot the love of money, to despise pain, to inspire confidence, to gain patience – in the Scriptures, we may find an abundant resource.
Throughout life, we are presented with many examples where the reading of Scripture has provided comfort, resolution, support and answers.