Insightful stewardship expressions can be found in any number of poems we read reflectively. In the poem Messenger for instance, the poet Mary Oliver writes: “My work is loving the world.”
What does the poet mean by her use of the word “work” in relationship to “loving.” How can Christian stewards make prayerful use of this reflection during the season of Lent?
The forty days of Lent provide stewards with a marvelous opportunity to evaluate the nature of our life’s “work.” Being reminded to take a meaningful and substantive spiritual “pause” in our lives for forty days is a gift in itself. Sometimes, we have good intentions to improve our spiritual lives. But we tend to put it off. The season of Lent begins by reminding us of the brevity of our lives, and then presents us with the immediacy of forty days to focus more intensely on our life in Christ. This is the first step toward embracing Christian stewardship as a way of life.
It’s a good number, forty days; good enough to provide structure to help us open our hearts to conversion as we examine just what our “work” in this world should genuinely be about. As we imagine that Jesus must have done in the desert for forty days, we have the opportunity to examine our lives and vocation, as well as our strengths, weaknesses and temptations.
Oliver probably realizes that if most of us are asked what our “work” is, we would reply with a description of how we earn our paycheck or take care of our family. In a sense, this is correct. We all have to support ourselves and provide for our families. Oliver would hardly reject that necessity. But her poem also suggests that, no matter how we spend our lives, there must be a deeper dimension to our life’s purpose; a way of engaging the world with our loving presence. Indeed, there is a Catholic worldview that encourages us to pray for and to act in ways that make a difference in a world that is hungry for Christ’s love.
For Christian stewards, bringing Christ’s loving presence into our work and our workplace is necessary in order to live in the world as disciples of the Lord. It is key to living the Christian life in our world today.
The very word “work” connotes a certain dedication and commitment, indeed a certain obligation. This rings true in Oliver’s simple line. As Christian stewards, we have a fundamental obligation to love and embrace the world as ambassadors of Christ. The season of Lent provides us with a singular opportunity to examine how well we’re doing and to make an even greater commitment to exercising good stewardship of all the Lord has entrusted to us.
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