By SUZANNE HAUGH, Special To The Bulletin | Published October 18, 2007
“So what?” was the blunt, somewhat uncouth, question asked by one of my more unorthodox college professors of long ago after his discourses on organizational psychology. It forced us, as students, to cut across the lofty vocabulary or peel away at a complicated theory to get to and answer, as best we could, ‘why does it matter?’
At this time in the cycle of the year we are approached to consider personally again how best to demonstrate our commitment to Christian discipleship through stewardship and participation in the 2008 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal.
A disciple is “both a learner and a companion of Jesus Christ, as well as one open to the movement of the Holy Spirit towards a gracious generosity of heart,” as noted in the U.S. bishops’ pastoral letter “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response.”
Stewardship, it goes on to say, is “all encompassing,” from simply providing a meal to neighbors going through difficult times to working for social justice as a lawyer.
As Catholics, this way of life has at its center, the Eucharist. “The Eucharist is the great sign and agent of this expansive communion of charity. … We bring to the Eucharist all we are and all we have shared as stewards.”
At this point, and you could probably see this coming, I must ask the question I now carry with me: so what?
So what about discipleship? Why does it matter that I am called to be, not just a steward, but a good steward?
This past summer I worked with a small group of middle-schoolers from my parish in a program comprised of three nights of service projects. “Leave Your Comfort Zone,” was the constant challenge put before the timid kids. At the beginning of each night I sensed their reluctance and tinges of fear of the unknown. But at the end of each night—whether it was sorting clothes at the women and children’s center, karaoke-ing with nursing home residents or taking school and cleaning supplies to a refugee family—there were giggles and smiles, energy and grace. They felt good.
Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor tells us that “God is to be experienced in Charity.”
As a mother of three and wife to one, I tell people jokingly that heaven is where dishes and clothes wash themselves. There is much that remains a mystery to me. What I do know and have experienced here on earth, however, is that sense of God’s presence while serving Him and seeing the fruits of my labor, like this past Sunday when during the homily the priest challenged the congregation to “leave your comfort zone.” My 11-year-old daughter shot me a smile. She got it. It was a God moment.
Both as a writer and as one who fiercely embraced her Catholicism in the Deep South, my fondness for Flannery O’Connor continues to grow. Her words challenge us today.
“If you want your faith, you have to work for it. It is a gift, but for very few is it a gift given without any demand for equal time devoted to its cultivation.” (from “Habit of Being”)
The bishops remind us that discipleship “requires the surrender of ourselves through grace and choice to Jesus Christ.” It is an active process.
May this be a time we ask ourselves the following questions…
In what ways can I seek to give God quality time, not just my leftover time?
Where can my abilities, skills and passions be used within the archdiocese to make a difference in the lives of others?
Do I responsibly and proportionately share my abundance with those who have less? If not, what is my financial plan to give God of my substance, not just of my excess?
The parishes are now making available the 2008 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal materials describing parish and archdiocesan ministries and other resources to help you plan your stewardship commitment. Don’t be timid. Leave your comfort zone. Claim your faith and make it matter.
And through the process, allow God’s grace and presence to touch your life.