Christian stewards may very well interpret the greeting “Happy New Year” to mean: “I hope and pray for you a joyous year ahead in proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ!” If we are to interpret this cheery salutation in that way, should we not consider similar greetings throughout the year?
“Happy New Day!” In the lyrics of the popular gospel song “Oh, Happy Day!” we are reminded that Jesus taught us “… how to live rejoicing every day.” Be grateful for each of God’s amazing days.
“Happy New Week!” The motto of many is to Live for the Weekend. Why not live for the entire week? Let’s resolve to make a difference in our lives and the lives of others in our homes, offices and schools each week of the year.
“Happy New Month!” As we examine our monthly planners and budgets, we should ask ourselves: Have I left room for Jesus Christ this month? How can I be a good steward of God’s gifts in the coming month? What am I willing to do this month for the sake of the Gospel? As we turn over 2019 to the history books, let’s approach 2020 with renewed vigor.
Let us see the days, weeks and months for the God-given gifts they truly are: “Happy New Year!”
John of Kanty, also known as John Cantius, was born to a wealthy family in Kanti, near Auschwitz, Poland, in 1390. He was educated at the University of Krakow and was ordained a priest soon after completing his studies. John was appointed a lecturer at the university and was known to be an effective teacher and preacher. He was assigned to a parish for a time, but after a few years was recalled to university life to hold a chair in theology. John was held in such high esteem that his academic gown was used to invest each new candidate at the conferring of doctoral degrees.
He was known to be a good steward of the students entrusted to him and saw to their religious instruction. He taught them to oppose false statements and opinions with courtesy and persuasiveness. He was renowned not only for his teaching but also for his good humor, humility, simple way of life and generosity to the poor. He subsisted only on what was strictly necessary to sustain his life, giving food and clothing regularly to the poor. When he was urged to take better care of his health he replied by pointing out that the early desert fathers were notably long-lived.
His fame was not all confined to academic circles. He was a welcome guest at the homes of the nobility, although once his simple cassock caused the servants to refuse him admission. He made a number of pilgrimages, all by walking; four to Rome and one to Turkish-held Jerusalem where he desired to suffer martyrdom at the hands of the Turks.
John of Kanty died on Christmas Eve, 1473, at the age of 83. He was canonized in 1767. His feast day is December 23. He is the patron saint of Poland and Lithuania. His remains were interred in the Church of St. Anne in Kraków, where his tomb became and remains a popular pilgrimage site.
by Leisa Anslinger, Associate Department Director for Pastoral Life, Archdiocese of Cincinnati
We commit ourselves to live as disciples who steward our many gifts and blessings involves every facet of our lives. We will experience God’s call differently in distinct moments of our lives. At times, we may recognize the call to give our time sacrificially; at other times, our treasure. In some moments, we may discern a call to active service among the poor, ill, or imprisoned; in other moments, our stewardship may be of prayer or the sharing of faith. In all of these times and circumstances, we follow Jesus Christ, and learn to embrace his way of self-giving love.
The young creature in the stall of Bethlehem was a human being with human brain and heart and soul. And it was God. Its life was to manifest the will of the Father; to proclaim the sacred tidings, to stir mankind with the power of God, to establish the Covenant, and shoulder the sin of the world, expiating it with love and leading mankind through the destruction of sacrifice and the victory of the Resurrection into the new existence of grace. In this accomplishment alone lay Jesus’ self-perfection: fulfillment of mission and personal fulfillment were one (Romano Guardini, quoted in Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, p. 23).
We are all called to discern and live out our vocation, the life vocation that each of us has, and the many calls we experience as followers of Jesus. Another way of saying this is to recognize that living out our vocational call is our mission. We fulfill our mission by being good stewards of our lives, gifts, and blessings. This ongoing discernment and fulfillment of our mission is one of the many things that makes stewardship leadership such a dynamic and sometimes challenging endeavor. Helping people recognize their mission to witness to and make Christ’s love known through their stewardship is a sacred responsibility. As we celebrate Christmas this year, let us pray that we may fulfill this mission well and with grace. Merry Christmas!
“Bah! Humbug!” was the attitude of Ebenezer Scrooge toward the two gentlemen who came looking for a Christmas donation to help the poor and homeless in the streets of London. “All I want to do is eat, drink and be merry!” was the attitude of the rich fool in Jesus’ parable. Neither the wealthy but miserly Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol, nor Jesus’ miserly fool in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 12:16-21), would find good company with Christian stewards who know those attitudes draw us away from God, not closer.
As we await the coming of Jesus at Christmas, the Advent season is the perfect time to reflect on our own attitudes toward the things we possess and our need to share with others who are less fortunate.
There is, of course, no season quite so full of wild abundance as the Christmas season. We are entering a joyful, exuberant time, full of music, family, parties, good food and friends. But every Christian steward knows that there is a shadow side to abundance, particularly material abundance, which brings its own challenges. Poverty, in North America and indeed worldwide, is growing, not diminishing. In the United States alone, one in six Americans now lives below the poverty line. The poor among us become invisible and the poverty that overtakes them becomes a scourge that brings a whole host of societal problems such as hunger, homelessness, crime and domestic violence. Moreover, a culture that is focused on consuming more and more and built on satisfying the self and ignoring the needs of other people is a culture that impoverishes the soul. A preoccupation with our own wants and possessions fosters a spiritual poverty that has no room for the Lord at its center. That kind of spiritual poverty neglects the true meaning of Christmas in its joy and abundance. Despite the great spiritual significance of this feast, the season becomes a time of material excess.
The beautiful season of Advent is upon us, and with it a desire for the simplicity which fosters spiritual depth. This desire often runs into headwinds during December. A season which is often marked by excess and over-consumption coincides with the poverty and simplicity of the manger. It’s a conundrum for the Christian steward. We are increasingly aware of Pope Francis’s call to be stewards of the environment. But let’s face it, how many of us have felt a twinge of guilt on Christmas morning as garbage bags full of unrecyclable wrapping paper and protective plastic toy containers are carried to the trash. Do our children really need so much? Do we?
There’s been a movement afoot in the last few years to cut back on Christmas buying, especially as it pertains to our kids, whom we sometimes overindulge on that special day. The easy-to-remember plan is called “Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.” Following those four pointers, our children can receive four well-thought-out gifts that fulfill both practical and fun desires. Think quality. Refrain from lots of “stuff,” which we excuse as “stocking stuffers” and often are broken or discarded by New Year’s Day. The plan can work for a spouse or another special person as well.
Another important consideration for the Christian steward is to remember that the Christmas need to give extends far beyond family. Schools, churches and faith formation programs often promote “giving trees” where we select a person or family in need who may not receive a gift without our help. This is a great program for kids who can become totally involved in the selection, and perhaps with their allowances, even the purchase of a gift for a stranger. Shelters collect socks, nursing homes need carolers, the clerk at the busy grocery store needs an extra smile, your pastor and your teacher might appreciate a special thank you note.
There are scores of ways to give during the Advent and Christmas seasons. If we commit to keeping it a little simpler under the tree on Christmas morning, we’ll have more time and energy for other forms of giving. We’ll do the environment a favor, and we will give our kids a lesson in giving rather than getting. And that, of course, is an authentic Christmas message.