At one Sunday Mass many years ago, my mother was sitting with my family. When it was time for the offertory, I gave my older child sitting next to me the envelope to put into the basket. My mother was sitting next to our younger child and didn't want her to feel left out. She took three dollars out of her purse and handed it to the three-year-old to put into the basket. Our daughter was delighted, and when the basket reached her, she separated one dollar bill and put it in the basket. The other two she put into her pocket.
In our previous Step on our journey to becoming good stewards, we contemplated God's love for us, feeling its intensity through the blessings, both joyful and painful, that He gives us on a daily basis. So what do we do with the love God showers upon us?
We return it to Him.
Returning God's love may seem difficult, if not impossible. After all, God is God, Creator of the Universe, the Alpha and the Omega, Lord of Heaven and Earth, the great I Am. He loves us so much that He gave His only Son to die for our sins. And us? We are human, prone to sin, pressed for time, proud, unforgiving. So, no, we cannot love God the way He loves us - for He is perfect and we are not. But we can love God in the way He told us in His Word and in the way Jesus showed us in His ministry. This brings us to the obligation part of becoming a good steward.
In the Bible we learn the true meaning of loving God. It is more than having that intense feeling of elation and longing for Him. It's more than attending Mass on Sundays. It's more than reading His Word. In fact, it is much more action-packed.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15). While Jesus was speaking of all God's commandments, He also gave us a new commandment to keep, "This I command you, love one another." (John 15:17)
Jesus further shows us how important His new commandment is in a conversation He has with Simon Peter. "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" When Peter answers yes, Jesus tells him, "Feed my lambs."
Jesus asks Peter again, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter tells Him yes once more. "Tend my sheep," says Jesus.
Peter becomes distressed when Jesus asks a third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter assures the Lord he does. Jesus replies, "Feed my sheep." Not once, not twice, but three times Jesus tells Peter that to love him is to feed his sheep, his people. He wanted to make sure Peter got it before Jesus was to leave him; He wanted to make sure we get it today.
In order to become good stewards we must love God back, and in order to love God back, we must use the blessings God gives us to bless others. We are an extension of God's hands, His heart, His voice. We must extend the promise of Jesus to those we minister to, extend the hope of life eternal with its unimaginable beauty. And when Jesus tells us that whatever we do for others, we do for Him, we further discover the awesome opportunity to encounter Jesus, not only in the Eucharist, but in others as we share our blessings with them.
Mother Teresa described it most beautifully as she wrote of Jesus in the faces of the destitute she served. "Hungry for love, He looks at you. Thirsty for kindness, He begs of you. Naked for loyalty, He hopes in you. Homeless for shelter in your heart, He asks of you. Will you be that one to Him?"
So often we share what we have because we've been taught to, because we know it is good, because we know it pleases God. However, searching for Jesus in the faces of those we serve brings a whole new perspective to giving. It becomes more personal, more meaningful, more glorious. And do you know what is also glorious? The ones we serve will see Jesus in us.
Let us continue to recognize God's many blessings in our everyday lives and let us add the words "I love you, too" to every thank you we offer up. Let us reflect on returning God's love in a very active way and start to think about the spiritual gifts God has given us to share. "Will you be that one to Him?"
(c) 2011, Holy Angels Church.