PILLARS OF STEWARDSHIP
Meditation for the First Sunday of Lent
March 13, 2011
The Lenten season invites us to return to the desert and there wrestle with our number one enemy—ourselves. Today the Lord shows us how he himself went into wilderness, wrestled with the devil and stood firm in the path of goodness. The desert reminds us of our defenselessness. The desert reminds us our vulnerabilities. The desert reminds us of the dark secrets we are afraid to confront. The desert confronts us with our naked sins. In the desert, we can hold on to nothing and boast of nothing. In the desert we choose to let go of everything if only to survive.
The desert is not a garden like Eden. In that garden of abundance, we forgot that we were only caretakers not owners. We must go to the desert of isolation and discover God again.The desert is barren. The desert is hard life. Stripped and distanced, we start to understand the things that matter most. The desert is our powerlessness.
When I am powerless, I am strong. When you recognize your powerlessness, you have made the first step to stewardship. You have begun to recognize that you have nothing. You see things within the perspective of a steward not an owner. All that you have is from God.
The desert experience teaches us the three pillars of the spirituality of stewardship.
The nothingness of the desert leads us to the spirit of contentment. You want to be happy? Keep your desires simple and your needs few. Another teacher about contentment, the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, said "Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness and have few desires."
If I am content with little, enough is as good as a feast. The grace of contentment is one of God’s best gifts (Isaac Bickerstaffe).
St Paul wrote Timothy "We brought nothing into the world and we will leave it with nothing. Let us then be content with having food and clothing. Those who strive to be rich fall into temptations and traps" (I Tim 6:7-9). We can do all things in Him who strengthens us (cfr. Phil 4:13).
If you can be happy with nothing, you have found real happiness.
Your happy disposition must lead you to the second pillar of stewardship which is generosity. The greatest measure of love is to love without measure. It is not enough to give. We must give fearlessly and cheerfully. The real measure of generosity is not how much we give but how much we keep for ourselves. The generous one is not the one who gives the most but the one who keeps the least. We believe that God cannot be outdone in generosity. We are generous because God has been unreasonably generous with us. God will always provide. His blessings will never run dry.
The third pillar of stewardship is humility. St Bernard said humility is the mother of salvation. We fell from the grace of God because of pride. We will be saved by cheerful giving, by humble sharing. Perhaps the best way to define humility is to echo the words of St. Thomas Aquinas: Humility means seeing ourselves the way God sees us. Humility is truth and pride is nothing but lying.
"The test of real greatness is humility. The humble man knows that the greatness is not in them but through them. They see something divine in others and are endlessly, foolishly and incredibly merciful", said John Ruskin.
The real steward is always happy. The real steward gives from his contentment. The real steward knows that He is not the savior; he is not the owner; he is not the almighty one—God is. I am only a steward.
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, March 13, 2011
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
The Roman Catholic
Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan
(Central Pangasinan, Philippines)