“As we pray, we become aware of a presence that is not only ‘out there,’ but is all around us and deep inside us and knows us more than we know ourselves. This is to be grounded in the very being of God.”
Father Francis Kline, O.C.S.O., Abbot of Mepkin
During this holy season of Lent, Bishop Robert J. Baker has written in his Lenten meditation, “Our Lord has called on each of us to deepen our relationship with him and one another through prayer and sacrifice.” Our bishop thus reminds each of us once again of the intimate relationship between prayer and stewardship. It was this relationship that we recently had the opportunity to discuss with Abbot Francis Kline of Mepkin Abbey in our continuing video series “Conversations in Stewardship.”
Father Francis began by reminding us that from the very earliest apostolic times the concepts of “prayer, fasting and alms-giving” have been intimately united. Combining stewardship with prayer and right-living has a heritage that goes back to the beginning of Christian times and even earlier. Father Francis stressed that the three concepts of right-living, prayer and stewardship “cannot be separated. They almost define the human person as a child of God.” With this in mind, during the Lenten season this year, many parishes in our diocese have taken the opportunity to emphasize this relationship between stewardship and prayer. These parishes are giving their parishioners the opportunity to make a special commitment to intensify their individual faith lives by pledging to a special stewardship of prayer. Many are using pledge cards that ask for a yearlong commitment to Sunday Mass, daily Mass, rosary, way of the cross, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, fasting, meditation or other prayerful activities. It is a call to be good stewards of our time through prayer. In this way, we begin the call for stewardship this new year with a commitment to prayer as the firm underpinning that makes all things possible in our lives.
Jesus calls us to many things, but surely one of the most important is the call to share our great gifts of time, talent and treasure with others. Father Francis reminds us that God shared everything with us: “His son, his word. He hasn’t kept back anything …. Doesn’t it follow that we should be sharing our good things, not just with God, but with one another?” Jesus tells us in Luke’s Gospel that in order to inherit eternal life we must follow the commandments of love of God and love of neighbor. In his encyclical “Veritas Splendor,” the Holy Father stressed that the “inseparable unity” (his emphasis) of these two commandments “is attested to by Christ in his words and his very life: his mission culminates in the cross of our redemption, the sign of his indivisible love for the Father and for humanity”(VS 14.1). Throughout this encyclical, Pope John Paul II returns to the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. He writes, “In this commandment we find a precise expression of the singular dignity of the human person, ‘the only creature that God has wanted for its own sake'” (VS 13.2). The Holy Father writes that “Both the Old and New Testaments explicitly affirm that without love of neighbor … genuine love of God is not possible” (VS 14.3).
Father Francis echoed this important theme in our conversation: “If we are going to act like children of God, we’ve got to remember that our lives can’t be governed only by rights and duties and privileges, but by the wonderful act of sharing what we have with others. That is to act like God. That is to be like God himself.” Thus, Bishop Baker calls on us in this Lenten season to deepen our relationship with God through prayer and to strive to reach new levels of sacrificial giving of the time, talents and treasure with which God has blessed us. Let us join in prayer that during this Lenten season God will open our hearts to a deeper promise to love God and our neighbor through a commitment to true Christian stewardship.
To request a copy of the “Conversations in Stewardship” video, call the Office of Stewardship and Mission Advancement at (843) 853-2130 Ext. 7.
Jim Myers, Ph.D., is director of stewardship for the Diocese of Charleston.