The Christian steward knows that gratitude is at the heart of stewardship. Indeed, gratitude lies at the heart of our spirituality; it’s a primary door through which we enter into a relationship with our Creator. Having the freedom to deepen our relationship with the Lord offers us much with which to be grateful.
And yet like so many things sublime and sacred, gratitude can be reduced to easy bromides or pious platitudes. Sometimes those of us in the U.S. reduce Independence Day, July 4, and the freedoms it represents, to just a good barbecue and fireworks show. Instead, Americans and all of us in the Western world should feel a renewed gratitude for the blessings of living in countries where our faith may be freely practiced, where we can freely assemble, and where we can stand up for justice without risking our very lives.
A few years ago, Pope Francis cited the mounting waves of anti-Christian violence sweeping the world. He was thinking in particular of at least 85 people who died during an attack on an Anglican church in Pakistan when he asked us, “Am I indifferent to that, or does it affect me like it’s a member of the family?” The instability and upheaval in countries like Syria and Iraq threaten the faithful. The Middle East, which was 20 percent Christian in the early 20th century, is now four percent Christian with that population steadily declining. Refugees fleeing persecution are at levels not seen since post-World These are troubled times in our 21st century world. Religious intolerance and persecution are at a zenith, and much of it is directed against Catholics and other Christians. And throughout the world – China, North Korea, Sub-Sahara Africa, even India – Christians are a persecuted minority.
Meanwhile, some of us are tempted during the warm summer months to take a “vacation” from Sunday Mass. Some travel and feel no necessity to find a local Catholic church. Some sit through Sunday’s liturgy with golf or the swimming pool on their minds. Some elevate kids’ sports over Sunday worship.
The Christian steward, however, realizes that somewhere around the world, others are being persecuted for the religious freedom so many take for granted. The Christian steward goes to Mass, and with much gratitude, prays in unity and solidarity with their brothers and sisters throughout the world who suffer for our shared faith in Jesus Christ.