As I mentioned last issue, some 65 “intentional disciples” from the Springfield diocese traveled to the Spiritual Life Center in Wichita, Kan., for a three-day conference/mini retreat on “Discipleship as a Way of Life.”
In this issue, I asked another guest columnist, Carlos Tejeda, director of the diocesan Office for Marriage and Family Life in the Department for Vocational Services, to share his experiences of attending this great conference.
— Father Chuck Edwards
I had never been to Wichita, Kan., in my life, but on Sunday, Sept. 10, after going to Mass with my family, I began a road trip pilgrimage with my good friend, Bob Zeller. We met up with about 60 other laity and priests from our diocese. We were blessed with the ability to listen to, and interact with, priests, a principal and school president, the superintendent of Catholic schools, a parish director of religious education/choir director, married couples/parents and diocesan staff from all over the diocese of Wichita (not to mention Bishop Carl Kemme). The enthusiasm, authenticity, generosity and lived Gospel witness of all the people was truly remarkable.
Prior to our time in Wichita I certainly was supportive of our fourth diocesan synod and the efforts to hold nothing back as we strive to implement discipleship and stewardship as a way of life. But, I must confess that I did not really know what that would look like in my life, parish and ministry. Weeks later, I still have lots to learn, but I do have some concrete goals and courses of action that I’m resolved to pursue.
The Lord is the author of everything; all that I have is a gift from him. I am not the origin of anything I possess (1 Cor 4:7)! Stewardship then is simply my necessary response of generosity back to the Lord (often times through my neighbor) because I am his missionary disciple equipped and sent via baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, reconciliation and my marriage. Being a steward of God’s gifts encompasses all facets of my life, nothing is omitted or falls under the category of, “Carlos gets to keep that to himself.” Freely I have been given; freely I am to give (Mt 10:5-8). Some examples of resolutions that struck me during my time in Wichita are the following:
Arise at 5:55 a.m. every day so that my wife and I can pray together before the kids wake up. Sleep and life itself are gifts from God, so we will not ultimately “lose out” if we persevere in fidelity to this resolution to give the Lord the first fruits of our time each day. (Mt 6)
Share more readily my experience with Natural Family Planning as the means of returning the gift of my human sexuality and marital intimacy back to the Lord. (Eph 5:21-33) This is certainly the most rewarding stewardship experience I believe I’ve navigated thus far, but it is also without question the most difficult and maturing, too.
Revisit our amount of tithing. Are we really giving of our financial resources in a way that isn’t just superficial? (Lk 21:1-4)
Be fully present to my children when I am home. Learn from their abandonment to the present moment and their desire for communion with me. If I do not “waste time” with my children it will be impossible for them to learn God’s fatherhood through me. (Eph 3:14)
The synod is more real to me now. I see the fruit of stewardship as the natural outgrowth of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. It all has much more precise clarity for me. It is lofty and challenging! This excites me and corresponds to what I know is true; before I can follow the Lord I must deny myself and take up my cross daily (Mt 16:24).
May the light of the risen Lord shine on my life so that I can see the unconverted corners of my heart regarding my body/marriage, calendar/time, bank account and expectations. May we all go on a spiritual pilgrimage together in 2018 and discover how we can make a return to the Lord of our lives, holding nothing back. When we do that, we’ll be participating in the Gospel! What else is our life for?