We had to go to the 7:00 am Sunday Mass in this small town in Kansas, for we had to make it all the way back to St. Louis for a Sunday evening performance that same night. I had hoped there would be few people and no music - there often isn't at the early Sunday Mass in most parishes. But the church was Standing Room Only and Haugen-Haas-Schutte was being played (badly) and sung (weakly) and ruining any chance at all for prayer or solemn worship. The priest, looking resplendent in his Ordinary Green, was ad-libbing just enough of the new translation of the Liturgy to make it annoying.
Then his homily began. He gave a one sentence nod to the Gospel, summarizing what it was about. Then he beamed, "Today we're going to celebrate STEWARDSHIP SUNDAY! There are financial reports at the end of each pew. You may share them and follow along as I read the entire thing to you and complain about how much more you need to give of your TIME, TALENT AND TREASURE!"
Now, I celebrate many things.
I celebrate Christmas, New Year's, Easter, Thanksgiving - but I do NOT celebrate "Stewardship Sunday."
But this brings me to a point, the main point of six weeks of spiritual struggle that have transpired inside my sinful little breast, culminating in a revelation of sorts that I now hope to share with you.
I have written on this blog at length about the Problem of Love. How are we to engage our love in the world in a meaningful way - our love which includes Eros, Agape, Philia, Storge: four different faces of One Single Love?
It is a problem that's particularly acute for actors, who, as the late Marvin Hamlisch described, can aptly sing, "What I Did for Love" - a song written about what actors and performers do "for love". We give our all to a business that is often brutal to us. We are taken advantage of by producers, directors and drama teachers. We often live in poverty and on the emotional edge, simply because we love what we do so much that we're never smart about it. We allow ourselves to be taken advantage of. As Othello says of himself, after killing Desdemona, we are ones that love "not wisely but too well".
|Othello with Iago, lamenting that he hasn't quite learned good stewardship of love.|
And are we even called to love "wisely"? Isn't the Christian Faith, indeed all of life, about giving it our all, loving with our whole selves and not counting the cost? Are we supposed to be careful with our caritas? Isn't love about just feeling or doing or expressing and not holding back?
Well, yes and no.
Yes, we are not to keep our hearts uncircumcised. We are to realize that love involves suffering; love will always hurt. Staying away from love for fear of pain is always a sin. We are to love God with all our hearts, minds and souls, and love our neighbors as ourselves; indeed we are to love one another as He loved us - by taking up our crosses and following Him.
But no, we must not think that love can be love if we love ineffectively, without maturity, without prudence, without stewardship.
In twelve years as a Catholic, I have never heard a homily about this. I have never heard anybody in the Church speak on the Stewardship of Love - and that's not exactly "How do I budget my time, talent and treasure?" It's about, "How do I love wisely SO THAT I may love well?"
Let me give some examples, all from either events in my life or in the lives of people I know.
- If you love an addict, you stop enabling his addiction. You don't look the other way when he or she boozes up, you intervene and refuse to pretend the elephant in the living room isn't there. This may cause rejection, anger, fighting, outbursts - but it's the proper stewardship of love.
- If you love your kids, you don't let them do whatever they want whenever they want to. You don't try to be their best friend. You correct them when they're wrong and punish them when the situation warrants. This may cause gigantic temper tantrums and some major effort on your part - but it's the proper stewardship of love.
- If you love the poor, you don't give a homeless guy cash when he begs, as it will almost certainly go towards drugs or booze. You give to the shelter, or someplace that can help him in a real way. This requires effort and makes it harder to put a sop in your social consciousness - but it's the proper stewardship of love.
- If you love your back-yard neighbor family, you don't let them come in and out of your house without knocking and spread the dysfunction of their household into yours (I speak from personal experience). This may require you to put your foot down, or to move - but it's the proper stewardship of love.
- If you love your children, you don't let a bad bishop enable a child pornographer to victimize them; nor do you let this child pornographer slide by without competent psychological help, despite what the bishop intends. This may make your fellow "conservative Catholics" hate you - but it's the proper stewardship of love.
- And if you love your fellow man enough to evangelize to him, and he rejects you - are you to keep trying, to let your heart bleed for him, to stick around and try different tactics, like pop music or jumbo-trons or gay friendly Masses in the hopes of snagging his attention? No, if you spread the Gospel and it is rejected, you are to wipe the dust off your feet as a witness against those who won't hear it and move on. Our Lord Himself told us to do this - for this is the proper stewardship of love.