A Time to Speak — A view from the pew

Gary Montgomery
Gary Montgomery

By Gary Montgomery

It hit me while I was working on a presentation for St. James Parish Mission in Elizabethtown, Ky. Father. Martin Linebach invited me to present a mini-mission during their stewardship renewal process. 

For me, stewardship has moved beyond the big three:  time, talent and treasure.  Yes, we do share those gifts, but I now think more about “Why?” I learned this lesson by practicing stewardship, although I didn’t step into it with the right intention. I was just giving my time, talent and treasure; I didn’t know WHY.

The stewardship “time and talent” I was practicing was teaching eighth-graders in Sunday school; we call it GIFT (Growing In Faith Together) at St. Bernadette Church.

After being asked numerous times to be a catechist, the Holy Spirit took hold of me and I finally said “Yes!” For the next 25 years I spent my Sunday mornings with eighth-graders … and I learned a lot about me, my faith and my relationship with Jesus Christ. 

At first I tried to teach the eighth-graders about God the way Sister Mary Fulgence taught me at Holy Cross School.  Eventually I learned that I had to share my faith and my relationship with Jesus from my perspective. Of course, the people who taught me had a great influence on me, but I needed to tell my story. Plus, I also needed to dig deeper into Scripture and my Catholic faith and traditions. 

Here’s the truth: Once you get them started, eighth-graders ask a lot of questions.  So indirectly, my “yes” to teaching eighth-graders was also a “yes” to God:

“Yes, God, I’ll get to work on my faith and relationship with your son.” 

I needed his help to share the good news each Sunday.

Eighth-graders are like you and me: They forget.  They might not be able to remember the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit or recall exactly what happened on Pentecost. So I needed to narrow the focus. I went to John’s Gospel and tuned in to the one thing Jesus gave us as his new commandment:  Love, just love.  Here’s what He said:

“I give you a new commandment: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Love is the answer to the stewardship question “why?” 

Why help others? Why serve? Why give time, talent and treasure?” Because Jesus laid out the blueprint and then explained it: “Just love, that’s how all will know that you are my disciples.”

The eighth-graders could grasp that one word, and so could I. However we had to explore what that one word would look like when we shared it. How would it look at home with Mom, Dad, brothers and sisters? How would it look in the hallways of school, on the basketball court, at band practice, at the movie theater? We had plenty to talk about, but the focus was easier, simpler … just love!

I thought I had come up with a pretty good idea about stewardship and its application when I stood in front of the eighth-grade class.  Just say yes to God and then share the love he gives to us with others.  Do so by lending a hand to guide, to help up and to encourage. Stewardship is saying yes and sharing love.

Then the epiphany occurred while working with Father Linebach and the wonderful people at St. James.

In addition to saying yes and sharing love, we need to be intentional and tell others why we are reaching out to them. We need to show and share Christ’s love, so they will know we are his disciples while helping to build a house or serving meals to the homeless. 

How will you engage them? What will you say?  How will you go beyond giving your time and talents and share the most blessed thing you and I can share — the love of Jesus Christ? 

How will you leave Jesus with them and build the kingdom through your stewardship? Will you name him, make him come alive? Will you be intentional?

Here’s my adjusted thinking about stewardship: It’s no longer the big three — time, talent and treasure.  The new trio is, “yes, love and leave Jesus” (with those you encounter) beyond your service.

Gary Montgomery is a member of St. Bernadette Church.  He speaks to Catholic audiences and his latest book “It’s Fun to be Catholic!” is available on his website –  www.icanplay.com.  Contact Gary at coachgary@icanplay.com.

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