In many parishes, today’s readings of the Widow’s mite and the visit of Elijah and the gift of lasting flour and oil lend themselves to this being designated as Stewardship Sunday. When we hear the words Stewardship Sunday, we may say to ourselves, “Oh no, we’re going to be asked for money again.” But Stewardship is not about money. Stewardship is mostly about gratitude and our acknowledging that it is God who gives us everything we are, and everything we have.
This is a pretty difficult concept in our western world where the best sign of success is to be a self-made man or woman. My dad was such a man. He was the youngest of 9 children, born on a farm and moved to the city in the height of the depression. He was on his own by the time he was 13 and his survival depended on his making his own way. He worked hard and in many ways achieved the American dream. He used to tell my brothers and me, “There is no such word as can’t; you can do anything if you try.”
Dad converted to Catholicism when I was in second grade. And as the case with many converts, he became a devoted and faithful Catholic, but he could never bring himself to pray for the things he could do himself. He would get more than a little upset when he saw a sports player crossing himself or when he heard us praying to do well on a test. “You can’t expect God to do what you could do for yourself,” he’d tell us. During this time, he gave back although he didn’t think of it in those terms. He donated time to the local parish; helped people he knew who needed a boost; visited the sick and quietly supported several charities.
But then his mother died and a few years later, he developed cancer. Dad began to see that there were things in life he could not change. He learned to say “can’t.” And he began to ask God for help and soon was acknowledging that all that he had and all that he was was indeed gift – a gift from God. I remember dad saying to me when he was first diagnosed and was facing some painful testing, , “pray for me.”
Before dad died, we had some good conversations. He shared about converting to Catholicism and how it had come to mean so much to him. And he shared how grateful he was for the many gifts he had received over the years.
My dad was a good man and I will always miss his presence. And I will always offer prayers of gratitude to God for the gift of my dad and what he taught me about stewardship.
Mary Lou Butler is a long-time friend and partner in ministry to the Passionists in California.