Fr. Wilson Andrade is the pastor St. Ann’s Parish and the administrator of the Native Peoples’ Mission, both are in Toronto.
In the book, Values for Life, the author presents a story of Diogenes, the Greek philosopher, who was one day standing at a street corner laughing like a man who was out of his mind.
“What are you laughing about?” asked a passerby.
“Do you see that stone in the middle of the street?” Diogenes replied. “Since I got here this morning, 10 people have stumbled on it and cursed it but not one of them took the trouble to remove it so that others wouldn’t stumble. Everyone thinks that it is somebody else’s responsibility and not theirs.”
I think there is a similar theme in this weekend’s readings. Based on this weekend’s readings, I would like to reflect on the theme of stewardship, as it invites us into service of others so we can find salvation.
We live in a society where my rights have become more important than my responsibilities. But this weekend’s readings tell us that we should see the world differently.
In the first reading, the Book of Proverbs praises the woman who cares for her family with joy and who serves the poor and the needy. She is exemplified as a good steward: Trustworthy, hardworking, responsible, kind, loving and a faithful follower of God. As a good steward, without counting the cost, she uses her time, her abilities and her efforts “to be fruitful” in her family and community.
In the Gospel reading we hear the parable where the master entrusts his money to his servants, “to each according to his ability.” The master trusts in his servants’ abilities and gives them his property to trade or invest. But when the master returns, those servants have different responses. Two have taken the master’s money doubled it. But one of the servants did not trust in his own ability to invest the money given to him and he “hid his master’s money.” This was not a good use of what was given to him.
Stewardship is recognizing that we have been given many gifts from God and creatively exploring ways to use them for the greater good of the community. Stewardship begins with knowing ourselves: The potentialities of our personalities, our commitment within the call of God and our service within our humanity.
Stewardship leads to service. A good steward spends his or her time, talent and treasure in the service of others. Good stewards are not self-centered nor selfish. They are not self-served nor do they further their profits at the expense of others.
When we make use of our time and talents, we can be valuable or venerable, we could receive congratulations or criticisms, but authentic stewards remain faithful to their call to serve and remain devotedly committed to their ministry. Good stewards serve with love and humility.
“Humility is the mother of all virtues,” Mother Teresa said. “It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and ardent. If you are humble, nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you are what you are. If you are blamed, you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint, you will not put yourself on a pedestal.”
Service is stewardship in action, as it challenges, clarifies and contributes to our personal growth and community welfare. Without service, our stewardship loses its purpose and meaning. Just like the money that is hidden in the ground will get no results, let us “not fall asleep” or “hide” but “let us keep awake and be sober” and most importantly “abide in our Lord” so we have strength and courage to serve the people of God as good stewards, building God’s kingdom of love, joy and peace.
Good stewards find fulfillment and salvation through their service. The good steward, like the woman presented in Proverbs, finds delight and fruitfulness in works for their family and society. When we serve, we find a fulfillment that is characterized by joy and peace.
Today we are called to follow the courageous and committed service of the woman: To find salvation in our life and not the cowardly example of the servant who hid his master’s money.
Through their service, good stewards become what St. Paul would call “children of light and children of the day.” They are always ready to receive their master – “Keeping always awake.” They are not afraid nor do they live in fear or hiding, because they know they have not abused or misused their master’s treasures which were given to them.
Today, as we celebrate the World Day of the Poor, we acknowledge, support and pray for every person who helps to reduce poverty in this world. Poverty is not just materialistic, as it is most often experienced by those who suffer from physical, emotional, mental and spiritual need. Luckily, we are blessed with many good stewards, men and women who serve by bringing healing and joy to families and communities.
Today we are grateful for all parents who love and care for their children and find joy in knowing that their children have become good human beings. We thank the teachers who witness their students graduate and become successful in their professions. We thank all health care workers, counsellors and social workers who rejoice when they bring healing to the people they serve. We thank artists, artisans and all those who work in the private and public sectors, who find, because of their service, the world has become a better place.
We also remember pray for all who are in a spiritual field, both clergy and lay ministers, who find fulfilment in their ministry in the Church and community.
In the end, may all of us listen to those beautiful words of our master: “Well done, you are good and trustworthy, enter into the joy of your master."
This reflection was based on the readings from the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time: Proverbs 31.10-13, 16-18, 20, 26, 28-31; 1 Thessalonians 5.1-6; and Matthew 25.14-30).