Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
"It's about mission"
by Bishop Blase J. Cupich
(From the Feb. 3, 2011 edition of the Inland Register)
Shortly after my appointment as the Bishop of Spokane was announced, I was asked what I planned to do about the serious financial challenges facing our local Church. My reply was simply that my work as a pastor “is not about money; it’s about mission. When we get the mission right, everything else will follow.”
I genuinely believe that, especially after seeing time and again over 35 years of priesthood how the power of a mission-driven approach to ministry invariably meets with success.
By emphasizing our mission together as disciples, we begin to see our efforts to provide for the mission as good stewardship. From the earliest days of the Catholic Church, stewardship has been another way of talking about discipleship.
The best New Testament story about the important role of good stewards for calling others to faith is found in the second chapter of the Gospel of John, the famous wedding feast at Cana. While it recounts Jesus’ first miracle, it is also a story about becoming a believing disciple. We are told that “...his disciples began to believe in him...” after he performed the miracle at the wedding feast. Notice how the wine stewards played a key role in the story in two parallel ways. Just as they assisted Jesus in the miracle of the changing of the water into wine, they likewise assisted him in making believers out of the disciples.
Let us look at the narrative of the Miracle of Cana more closely. When Mary discovers that the wine has run short at the wedding feast, she expresses her concern to her son, saying, “They have no more wine.” At first, Jesus is reluctant to save the bride and groom from embarrassment. He replies, “Woman, how does your concern affect me?” Without explaining why, Mary persists and instructs the wine stewards, “Do whatever he tells you.”
The lesson is clear. The disciples who are with Jesus must learn to be like the wine stewards, who were attentive, ready to obey, and open to the word and will of Jesus. Notice also that Jesus does not ask the impossible of the stewards. They were to use what they had at their disposal, even if it was only empty jars and simple water. Jesus teaches the disciples, who were looking on, that they need not worry about their personal want or their lack of the necessities of life, as long as they are obedient to his will and willing to use whatever they have at their disposal to serve others.
The stewards take up their task by working together. Filling the jars with water would have been an impossible task for one person, given the size of the jars. Yet, the stewards succeeded by working together. So it is, too, with discipleship. We come to a full understanding of who we are when we join together, using our individual resources and strengths to complete a task or achieve a common goal.
Not only did the water become wine at the wedding feast, it was good wine and there was more than enough of it. When disciples are attentive to Christ and unite together to use what they have, the result is an abundance of life. The wine that is produced is not just a drink for a wedding feast, it is a symbol of the joy that disciples experience when they come to a deeper faith as good stewards.
Stewardship, in its fullest sense, is the way a disciple lives his or her life. It is a constant reminder that, to be a disciple, one must always seek first the will of Christ when it comes to the use of one’s time, talents, and treasures. Being a good steward means valuing everything we have, even the simplest aspects of our lives, as gifts to be placed at the disposal of Christ. Finally, a disciple who practices stewardship appreciates the importance of working together, not only to complete the task at hand, but also to accomplish the broader goal of bringing others to faith by the witness of their common effort.
It is interesting to note that, after the wedding scene, we hear nothing more about the wine stewards. Perhaps that is because their example had a lasting impact on the disciples such that stewardship and discipleship were no longer distinguishable from each other. Disciples became stewards and stewards, disciples.
My genuine hope is that as we launch the 2011 Annual Catholic Appeal, we will see it as an opportunity to grow as disciples, who are more attentive to Christ’s will, who value our time, talent and treasures for His use and who find joy in working together to call others to discipleship.
In a word, the ACA is not about money. It’s about mission. Please join me in making our mission a great success.
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