The following reflection was delivered by Father Matheus Ro SVD last night during a prayer service on the eve of this year’s perpetual vows ceremony.
Welcome to family members, relatives and friends of Hien, Paul and Thien who are gathering with us these days.
Hien, Paul and Thien, it is a privilege for me to join you in celebrating this great event of your vocational journey as Divine Word Missionaries. It is also an honor for me to share with you a few points of reflection based on the Gospel and theme you have chosen for your Profession of Perpetual Vows: A gift you received, give it as a gift. (Mt 10:8)
The three of you have chosen a perfect theme for us to reflect on and pray with you on this solemn celebration.
This biblical theme that you have chosen invites us to go beyond what our society expects, and it advances to what Jesus expects. it means sacrifice that you and I are giving in return to the gifts God has given us.
It is in a sense a perpetual theme of our lives from now on as you are stepping out of your formation years into the missionary work in a few more months.
Now, before I continue reflecting with you on this particular passage of Mathew’s Gospel, I would like to ask you a couple of simple questions. But before rushing into your answers, take a moment to think about the consequences of saying YES to these questions.
Hien, Paul and Thien, to walk the talk of the theme you have chosen for your vows celebration, will you freely give away anything that you have in your possession right now?
Are you ready to give us your answer?
All three of you, like the rest of us members of the Society of the Divine Word, and like all gathered here this evening are stewards of God’s gifts of our lives. s, I would like to look at them through the reflective lens of being grateful, responsible, just, charitable and generous stewards of God’ gifts. These also are the four points mentioned in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 1992 pastoral letter on being a steward of God’s gifts.
Being a disciple of Christ, being a follower of Jesus, stewardship is a way of life for us. It should be natural for us as disciples of Christ to practice the call of being stewards of God’s gifts. It is not just about giving and receiving the gift. It is about a conversion moment. It is a transformative moment in our lives when we are able not only to say “gift you received, give it as a gift” but also when we are able to consider ourselves stewards of God’s gifts in our life.
Stewardship of God’s gifts is a way of the disciples of Christ that is based upon conversion of heart. It is broad in its range and demanding in its claim.
It embraces all of our lives and challenges us to be faithful in following Christ. The theme that you have chosen to share with us and upon which you invite us to pray embodies and expresses one mission of Christ: To do God’s will, proclaim the Kingdom of God, heal the afflicted, care for others, give life to the full as Jesus did.
Allow me briefly to share four important points of this Gospel theme that you have chosen for this celebration of your vows:
First, receiving God’s gift gratefully.
Gratitude is the cornerstone of being a steward, hence disciples of Christ. God gives us our very existence, talents, abilities, time and treasure, family and friends. From the moment of conception, you have been receiving God’s gifts of life and love through your family, relatives and friends.
I am sure along life’s journey, your hearts have been moved with gratitude of the gifts. Are you truly, gratefully receiving the gifts in your lives? Let’s take a moment in our day to step back and ask ourselves this question. Have I been a grateful steward of God’s gifts in my life? A steward of God’s gifts expresses his or her gratitude by a life of generosity.
Second, nurturing God’s gift responsibly.
I can safely say that all three of you at some points in your life have been naming and developing the gifts and talents given to you for the sake of God and others.
Knowing that God’s gifts to us are innumerable, how do you begin to evaluate where you might be on your path to fully living in imitation of Jesus as a Christian steward? Nurturing God-given gifts for the benefit of all takes work and time. It is certainly true for each one of you as I read it in the brief reflections that you gave to me a while back.
On average, each of you have spent 15 years learning to nurture, name, and develop your gifts. From Nhatran to St. Louis, from Quezon City to Alice Springs, from Saigon to Gassaway, and finally to the Hyde Park neighborhood in Chicago. People in these places have witnessed how you nurtured God’s gifts in you.
Some of the people from these places are present here and can attest to this truth. Aware of it or not, we have been incredibly blessed and empowered by God with the gifts given, but our ability to continue sharing them in a generous manner will depend upon how we care for and nurture what was given to us.
Third, sharing God’s gifts justly and charitably.
What has been given to us is not simply for our own use even though sometimes we would like to say or to think so. At some point, you have to experience that conversation when you as the recipient become the benefactor; a receiver turns into giver of the gifts.
So, we return to the Lord and our needy sisters and brothers a just and sacrificial portion of all that comes our way. Can I claim to be a good Christian if I fail in justly and charitably sharing all the gifts God has given to me?
Four and lastly, returning the gifts to God abundantly.
Hien, Paul and Thien, you have summarized so well this last point through the theme that you chose for our celebrations tonight and tomorrow. Gifts you received, give it as a gift. Being a steward of God-given gifts means being a Eucharistic person.
In the Eucharist, the bread and wine that we offer represents the whole of our lives. When they are transformed, the whole of our lives are transformed. So, too, the symbolic offering of a significant portion of our gifts is a sign of our giving of our whole lives to God, and our whole lives are transformed in the action.
Your offering of yourselves to be in total commitment as a Divine Word Missionary is an expression and a response of returning and sharing God’s gifts in your lives.
St. Paul said to the Corinthians that Christ calls us to accept the persons we are and to respond to God’s love by living humbly as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. (1 Cor 4:1-2)
This is not to say that we are not called to grow in all ways possible, but rather that we will be at our best when we do what we do best. And so, I would like to end this reflection by suggesting to you something that I strive to do every day with the gifts that God has given to me.
- Be grateful for God’s gifts
- Be responsible in nurturing those gifts
- Be just and charitable in sharing God’s gifts
- Return them abundantly