“People today put more trust in witnesses than in teachers, in experience than in teaching, and in life and action than in theories” (Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Redemptoris missio: n. 42).
It is safe to say that many of us have been moved to action by a personal story shared by someone on TV, newspaper, email message, or a casual conversation. These humorous and sometimes tragic stories compel us to act or behave in ways that perhaps we would not have considered before. I have written often the need to give of ourselves in an effort to answer God’s call for our lives. Two stories of this giving of self, this living a stewardship life come to mind right away. My wife and I have two separate couple friends that have taught us huge lessons. The first couple had the devastation of losing a child early in pregnancy from a variety of complications. Answering the vocation of parenthood they became pregnant again with a variety of challenges during that pregnancy too. I ask them how they got through the day with every difficulty before them. The response was “we have done everything medically possible to see this baby to term, we gave this baby up to God. His will be done.” This couple is now a family. The second couple are foster parents working to adopt a child in their care. I am sure anyone who has tried this knows well the effort it takes to work through agencies and court systems. At the time my wife and I visited with them, Chris and I were amazed how emotionally strong they are. But profoundly the response was the same as the first couple. They said “We have done everything we can do to have this person live permanently in our home, it is in God’s hands now.” This couple continues to be strong. My wife and I are inspired at the level of trust in God these two couples have and the maturity it takes to place in the hands of Jesus a precious gift accepting his will in any event. These two couples represent the truest life of a steward.
Never underestimate the value of your story. Again, Pope John Paul said “People today put more trust in witnesses than in teachers, in experience than in teaching, and in life and action than in theories”. Your Christian story is a powerful and personal way to spread the message Jesus brings us. It is we as individuals who make up the church. It is we individuals gathering as one family at Sunday mass that create the life of the church. If you read this and say “I don’t have any special story”, you are wrong. Dig a little deeper, ask some questions, start basic. Why do I go to mass? Why do I deliver meals on wheels? Why do I teach PSR, have an adoration hour, trust God during cancer treatment, feel comfort when my spouse died, trust God when my business was hanging by a thread? Pope John Paul goes on the explain why your story is necessary to build God’s church.
“When they meet you, your peers must be able to sense that there is something in you they cannot explain, something you know well, something the Psalm expresses very clearly: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”.”
When stewardship is embraced, when we have given ourselves over to God we are changed. People we meet may not know what it is but we are different. They will ask, and your story is what they want to hear.