Monday, September 05, 2016

Stewardship of the Mysteries of God

The epistle from Mass this past Friday was taken from the fourth chapter of 1 Corinthians. It reads:

"This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God." (1 Cor. 4:1-5, Douay)

St. Paul is referring to those in active ministry within the Church. What is the relationship between those who minister in the Church and the divine things entrusted to them by Christ?

It is Catholic teaching that Christ left the Church with all of the means necessary for carrying out her divine mission. She possesses, by the grace of God, all the gifts necessary for her to teach, govern, and sanctify the faithful. Because she possesses the fullness of St. Paul addresses the question of how those who wield these powers should view their position. He says that ministers of God's mysteries are to be regarded as stewards.

Stewardship is a common theme when the subject matter is finances - or more likely these days, care of the environment. In contemporary usage, it is often used to denote our management of some tangible or worldly good, such as mammon or natural resources. But it is interesting to note that in the New Testament, the concept is primarily used with relation to God's supernatural gifts. In the Gospels, the concept of stewardship appears in the various parables of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30, for example), the talent left with the steward represents the supernatural graces God gives people for the building up of His kingdom.

In the passage from St. Paul, the minister of the Church is described as a steward of God's mysteries, which of course refers to the sacraments. We know that stewardship, of course, means that one is given authority over something, but in a relative way - it is not absolute, but relative to the parameters set by the one who has entrusted it to the steward. In the parable of the talents, the servants have stewardship over the money their master entrusts them to the degree that they use it in a manner conformable to His will. This is why the servant who merely buries his talent his cast out; he has been unfaithful to his stewardship of his master's money by using it in a way inconsistent with the master's wishes.

It is amazing to me how this concept - which is at the core of stewardship - is so easily understood and so fervently preached when it comes to our use of mammon or natural resources, but so seldom understood or preached on when it comes to the sacraments, which is astonishing because that is actually the context in which St, Paul uses the term - stewards of the mysteries of God.

How common has it become to think of the sacraments as something pastors have absolute discretion over! This is facilitated in part by the modern view of the Church's rites as a laboratory for constant experimentation, in part by the plenitude of "options" that gives the impression of a ritual subject only to the whims of the celebrant. So much is discretionary, we can forget that the sacraments are something we are called to exercise stewardship over, not absolute dominion.

"Stewardship of the mysteries of God", says St. Paul. And what if we act out of the best intentions? If we believe our rites and traditions must be continually upgraded to fit the mentality of the modern times - if we act like what God has entrusted to us may be used anyway we choose and at any whim - we are not exercising legitimate stewardship but unjust self-aggrandizement over the gift of God.

St. Paul says, "With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me." The servant in the parable of the steward thought he was justified in burying the talent out of fear, but the Master did not share his assessment. That servant was cast out, for he had been reckless with what the Master entrusted to him.

Stewardship is not simply about money. It is about how we handle anything God has entrusted to us - especially the supernatural means Christ has given to the Church for the building up of the Mystical Body.


Clear Waters said...

Yes, and I feel the stewardship aspect has faded immensely all over the Christian world, to the point where priests no longer feel responsibility to society in the way they once did. This needs to be fixed. Priest is not a profession it is a function.

Anonymous said...

It seems that much of what was understood through 1900 years of existence of the Catholic Church was either thrown in the dustbin as pertinent to previous ages but not pertinent or impossible for modern times and modern sensibilities to believe when the Church leaders threw open its doors to the modern world.

If one reviews everything that has occurred since Vatican II, one can clearly see the mission of the institutional Church has been oriented away from God (the Novus Ordo in particular) and towards man. It is man the Church worships and serves. This reorientation of stewardship towards the natural world is merely one example of the truth of this. The mysteries of God, the Sacraments, have also all been transformed to center upon man and the natural world. No longer are there stewards of the mysteries of God but destroyers. No longer are those called to be stewards of these mysteries trustworthy.

Anonymous said... has a 38 (so far) part series on who and why the stewardship of the liturgy was abandoned. It is very informative and I suggest you read it if you haven't as it puts into perspective the entire Modernist movement (takeover) of the Church which has created a crisis within the Church unlike any other in history.

Logon to their website. Click on Hot Tops. Click on Traditionalist Issues.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion the great decline started in 1951 when Pius XII made the first of many many many changes to sacred tradition.By 1958,the year he died,so many changes had been made Roman Catholics were psychologically ready for even more radical changes.
Don't let anyone deceive into thinking John XXIII started this departure from sacred tradition.While he certainly kept the progressive ball rolling,Pius XII was the first modern Pope.

Boniface said...

^No way...the seeds of the decline go WAY further back, into the 1800s...some say even into the late Middle Ages.