by Lesle Knop
A friend is selling a home where he’s lived for decades, “forced out” by the march of new development.
I asked if it was difficult to leave his parish. My friend harrumphed, “Can’t wait. These people hug during the sign of peace and then won’t let you out of your parking space after Mass.”
Parishioners who look the other way in the parking lot or barely acknowledge each other outside of church must have missed hearing the message about stewardship.
We are invigorated at parishes in which visitors are greeted warmly, friends laugh and linger after Mass, and bulletins bulge with parish news.
An energetic and hospitable parish satisfies our hunger for connection with others. When we make room at the table, we nurture each other — not only spiritually, but psychologically, and even physically.
The same is true of our relationship to our global family.
Last month, my hus- band and I were privileged to travel to New York City to attend Mass with thousands of people with the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, at Yankee Stadium. We were humbled to witness the outpouring of love for God on an international scale.
The gifts of energy and leadership required to organize the papal visit to the United States were nothing short of awe-inspiring. The magnitude of the gathering with other followers of Christ brought me to tears. Everywhere we turned, people were helpful, gracious and polite.
Who could ever forget the hospitality that Americans showed our intelligent, gentle Holy Father and the people of the world? What was a lesson learned from this experience?
If we don’t give of ourselves, how will we build a community that empowers others to attain their full potential? How can we lead others to Christ? That is one of the principles of church teaching. It is a principle of stewardship.
When we understand that because of baptism we are disciples of Jesus Christ, our practice of stewardship becomes a way of life. We begin to understand that nothing we “own” is “ours.” Rather, these are gifts to be used for the glory of God.
We grow in appreciation for the unique talents that others, including those who don’t speak our language, bring to our lives and to our church community. Let’s rejoice for the noise of a full crying room, the chance to scoot over to accommodate others in a crowded pew, and the opportunity to be patient in the parking lot.
Stewardship begins with genuine love and gracious hospitality for others.