By JIM MYERS
Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold I have told you” (Matthew 28, 5-8).
Pope John Paul II chose to begin the first encyclical of his pontificate, Redemptor Hominis, with these words, “The Redeemer of man, Jesus Christ, is the center of the universe and of history.” In this beautiful, personal document, the Holy Father first developed many of the themes which have dominated his teachings over the intervening years. As we once again celebrate the resurrection of Our Lord we might seek the guidance of the Holy Father as we pursue our personal vocations as Christian stewards.
The Holy Father reminds us that it was Jesus, “He it was and he alone, who satisfied the Father’s eternal love … that love which man in a way rejected by breaking the first covenant,” and that it was through the Paschal Mystery that man’s redemption is achieved, “this tremendous mystery of love in which creation is renewed” (RH, 9.1). How, then, should we respond to God’s “eternal love” which gave us his Son to die on the cross for our sins?
Man is united with Christ through the institution of the church. The church, writes the pope, “must be always aware of the dignity of the divine adoption received by man in Christ through the grace of the Holy Spirit and of his destination to grace and glory.” And when we become aware that we all share in Christ’s triple mission as priest, prophet and king, “we likewise understand how each of us must share in this mission and service” (RH, 18.4).
It is thus through service to others that we may share in Christ’s earthly mission, particularly, the pope tells us, in his kingly mission, “that is to say, the fact of rediscovering in oneself and others the special dignity of our vocation which can be described as ‘kingship.'” This special dignity, the Holy Father tells us, “is expressed in readiness to serve, in keeping with the example of Christ,” who came not to be served but to serve (RH, 21.1). And we are reminded that “being a king” is only truly possible by “being a servant,” by serving others, not by serving ourselves, by an attitude of generosity and selflessness.
The vocation of each of us then as Christian stewards is to answer the call to conversion and discipleship, to serve the church through service to our fellow man, to take the risk of walking with Jesus. We are all called to be the caretakers and sharers of the many gifts, of the abundant love, with which a generous and loving God has blessed us. Bishop Robert J. Baker has reminded us that, “Stewardship lies at the heart of our faith and moral life. We must constantly remind ourselves that what we own is only on loan from the Lord, and that all is a gift from God, and that we are held accountable for the gifts God has given us for our use.”
At this Easter time, as we rejoice once again that our Lord is risen from the dead, may we also reflect on this ultimate expression of God’s love for us and on our need to respond to a loving God through our own vocations as Christian stewards. The Holy Father urges us to do this: “All of us who are Christ’s followers must therefore meet and unite around him …. Jesus Christ is the stable principle and fixed center of the mission that God himself has entrusted to man. We must all share in this mission and concentrate our forces on it, since it is more necessary than ever for modern mankind” (RH, 11.4, 11.5). Let us prayerfully answer the Holy Father’s call to service.
Jim Myers, Ph.D., is director of stewardship for the Diocese of Charleston.