Everything is Held in Stewardship

As I’ve said before, every day my prayer includes St. Ignatius’ Suscipe: “Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, All I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.”

This morning as I prayed it, I heard more deeply than ever the truth that EVERYTHING – all I have, all I am, everything – is gift from God. Not mine to do with as I will, but mine only in trust to use for the benefit of all.

We use the term “stewardship” a lot. For many people stewardship is just about how we use the goods of the earth (sustainable farming, etc.). But while that is certainly an important part of it, my stewardship of my self, of what I have, of the gifts I have been given, is at least as (if not more) important.

Earlier this week I sent to those who had participated in our UST vocation retreat this past weekend an excerpt from Thomas Merton’s No Man is an Island. Given my reflections on the Suscipe, it is a fitting quote to share here:

We do not exist for ourselves alone, and it is only when we are fully convinced of this fact that we begin to love ourselves properly and thus also love others. What do I mean by loving ourselves properly? I mean, first of all, desiring to live, accepting life as a very great gift and a great good, not because of what it gives us, but because of what it enables us to give to others?

Total stewardship over all is easier to understand when we realize our deep interrelationship and interdependence. My use of my gifts can be no “for me” separate from “for others” or “for others” separate from “for me.” It is all “for us.”


I Shall Not Want

Almost spontaneously, I always end my morning prayer breathing the line, “The Lord is my shephard, I shall not want.” I sat for a while with it this morning, more conscious than I usually am of the fact that the line expresses the same sentiment that ends St. Ignatius’ Suscipe, which is also part of my daily prayer, and which ends with our affirming to God that “your love and grace is enough for me.”

Very simple line, yet a realization that makes all the difference in the world. With the Lord as my shepherd, with God’s love and grace, I already have everything I need.

Obviously that is not a statement about our material situation; it says nothing about how much money we have, what our skills are, or anything else about what we have. It doesn’t say we won’t face hardship. But it reminds us that all of those things are secondary. That they are part of how we live out our physical existence, but do not address our central being.

I have God’s love and grace and guidance. And I can relax into that reality. The reality that I shall not want…I do not want..I never will want for anything that I really need. Because I already have it all.

Of course, we don’t always (or even usually) live out of that reality. We think we really “need” so many things. And that perceived need – whether it be for some outside approval, some honor, some material item, or something else – makes us anxious, unhappy (and sometimes pretty unpleasant to be around).

Our priority needs to be coming to a deeper apprehension of the truth of that simple line: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.