There is a story back in the 1600s about when a group of early settlers had the first meeting with the Native Americans, there was an exchange of gifts made. The settlers gave their goods to the Native Americans and the Native Americans gave a peace pipe to the settlers. The two groups agreed to meet again some time later and both went their separate ways. Some months later, the two groups met again. To show their gratitude, the settlers made sure that they brought along the peace pipe. The Native Americans, noticing the peace pipe, were dismayed and requested that the peace pipe be returned. Certainly confused, the settlers returned the peace pipe, the two groups departed and never met again. What the settlers did not know, was that in the Native American culture, they lived by an understanding that gifts were only given to with the understanding that they would continue to be given. In their words, a gift must be kept in motion. The gift was not to pass “to” you, but rather, all gifts should pass “through” you. And this is very much in union with the Catholic understanding of stewardship.
As we continue our stewardship campaign, we are called to look at our very lives in a different way. We are reminded to look at all that exists with a different vision, the vision of faith. For when God looks at all that he created, he did not give it to us to so that we could simply hold on to the gifts. Rather, he gave us the gift of all creation so that it could be handed on. Look in Genesis: “God also said: See, I give you every seed-bearing plant on all the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food...” (Gen 1:29). Notice that God gave to the humans the “seed-bearing” plants. While certainly, God gave all creation, the seed-bearing plants are emphasized. By highlighting the seeds, God is pointing out the importance of those seeds being planted, those seed being “handed on” to the future generations, those seed being given to the ground so that so much more can grow! Those seeds are not meant to be held onto, but meant to keep on being given. If Adam and Eve hold on to those seeds, there will be no more growth, no future plants, no future sustenance...and what happens? The end.
When we look at stewardship of all that we have, including our treasure, we must see it with the eyes of God. When we contemplate our treasure, our financial means, we must work to view it as God does. God sees them as a part of the great gift of creation. A gift that was not meant to end with us, but a gift that was meant to pass through us for the good of us as well as others.
May God bless all of you!
Fr. Nels Gjengdahl