By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, September 19, 2016

Getting the Keys to the Car

That was a big moment, oh so long ago now. Exciting for me, definitely; nerve-wracking, I’m sure, for my father. The day he made the decision to trust me enough to take the car - HIS car - and drive it on my own not long after I had received my driver’s license. He gave me the keys, yes, but of course I knew that it was not my car, that I was expected to use it well, to drive according to the rules, and to return it to him in good shape. Of his car I was but a steward, expected to be trustworthy in the use I made of something that belonged to another. Handing me the keys was not a transfer of ownership, but an expression of trust in my ability to be responsible.

Stewardship is at the heart of the Gospel passage we heard at mass on Sunday (Luke 16:1-13). Even though it addresses itself to the issue of monetary wealth, in fact it challenges us to examine our trustworthiness as stewards in a host of contexts. In many ways, God “hands us the keys”. The foundational question is: do I understand that all is God’s gift, given for responsible care and use in accordance with God’s purposes? Keeping this truth in mind shapes the use I make of what has been entrusted to me.

The issue is urgent. Squandering God’s gifts by using them not for his glory or our neighbour’s good but for our own selfish pursuits leads to great damage. Consider the gift of life. Clearly, this is God’s gift, yet legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia, unlimited access to abortion, artificial reproduction and so on reveals the societal presumption that we are masters, not stewards, of this wondrous gift, which we end up destroying. We wreck the car. Think, too, of the gift of the senses. We best use eyesight to contemplate the beauty of creation, yet can abuse it by leering at pornography; speech is best put to use by praising God and saying only those things which will build others up (cf. Ephesians 4:29), yet both speech and hearing are often degraded by placing them at the service of gossip. The car is returned badly damaged. Generally speaking, when we forget that we are stewards, dependent upon God’s love and goodness and entrusted with using his gifts responsibly, and act as if we were owners, able to dispose of things and people as we determine, the wheels fall off altogether and life grinds to a meaningless and painful halt.

When my father handed the keys over, I drove off on my own, and he was left wondering (stewing??) how it would turn out. When the Lord “hands over the keys” to us, he gets in the car with us. This is not a diminishment of our responsibility, but an assurance that Jesus is always with us, as he promised. A faithful steward both accepts responsibility and relies upon grace for the fulfillment of duty. Let’s accept the keys he gives us, and pray always for the gift of fidelity.