Each issue carries an imprimatur from
the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Reprinting prohibited
Love, Respect and Justice for All
I admire generous people. My
neighbor, a farm wife with
seven children, is always ready
to offer her time, a listening
ear or a hug. A friend’s mother
is inclined to give others something
they admire in her home.
These two women are givers,
not takers, in life. They stand
out as exceptions to the way so
many of us operate. They
inspire me to become more
Most sins are rooted not
in generosity but in selfishness—a concern about my
wants over another’s needs, a
focus on my will over God’s.
Emphasis on getting and having
is rampant in our culture.
“The one with the most toys
wins” is the way we’re often
encouraged to gauge our own
worth and that of others.
God is the most generous of lovers—the giver of life, blessings
and salvation. All of us have dignity and worth simply
because we are God’s loved creation. We must acknowledge
God’s gifts to us and recognize the value and rights of all others.
We are called to be Christian stewards, to “receive God’s
gifts gratefully, cultivate them responsibly, share them lovingly
in justice with others, and return them with increase to the
Lord” (United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, p. 450).
Under the umbrella of our
stewardship are life, possessions,
truth and justice.
The Fifth Commandment—“You shall not kill”—“calls us
to foster the physical, spiritual,
emotional, and social well-being
of self and others”
(USCCA, p. 389). We must
value and support all life.
How can we promote
respect for life? This starts with
respecting and valuing our own
lives as gifts from God. The
death of a friend in college
helped me consider my own
mortality and the gift and
responsibility of each day. The
wintry drive home from the
hospital with our newborn
brought into focus the need to
protect my “precious cargo.” I
now include more than the
baby in the backseat—myself
and other travelers.
Supporting life also means promoting peace and understanding
in time of war. When family life is far from peaceful
or I experience inner turmoil about a relationship, I think,
“No wonder nations don’t get along.” This leads me to resolve
to work first for peace in my own heart, home and community.
Peace will take root only when we recognize and commit
to supporting the dignity, value and rights of all.
God made us stewards of the earth for
the common good. To keep the
Seventh Commandment—“You shall
not steal”—we need “to acquire the
virtues of moderation in our possessions,
justice in our treatment of others,
respect for their human dignity,
and solidarity with all peoples”
(USCCA, p. 419, emphasis added). We
must respect people and their
invites us to consider “the
relationship between the
economy and social justice,
the importance of solidarity
among nations, and a preferential
love for the poor”
(USCCA, p. 421). It calls me
to think about where my
“great buy” was made, how
the workers were treated and
whether they were paid fairly.
I realize that my purchases
have global implications.
It becomes more difficult to
justify an expensive evening
at a nice restaurant when I
pass homeless people on the
way back to the car—unless I
also take action on behalf of
the poor. It’s been said that
“sacrifice is trading what can’t
be kept for what can’t be
lost.” Does what I give for
others come only from my
excess, or am I willing to feel
the pinch and dig deeper into my
pockets? Can I make conscious choices
to “live more simply so that others
may simply live”?
As our concern for others grows,
“[s]olidarity opens our hearts to identifying
with the whole human family”
(USCCA, p. 419). We begin to see that
even our enemies have hopes, dreams
and basic dignity as God’s creations.
Injustice and oppression trouble us.
We see the environmental impact of
our lifestyles and purchases. We simply
cannot be as selfish or self-centered as
we once were.
God is the source of all truth, and
Jesus spoke of himself as “the way and
the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). The
Eighth Commandment—“You shall
not bear false witness against your
neighbor”—calls us to the truth in
word and deed. “Integrity requires that
we allow our faith to shape every
aspect of life, public as well as private”
(USCCA, p. 432). I’m big on honesty
and searching for the truth. I don’t
enjoy confrontation and prefer to avoid
it, but sometimes a level of discomfort
and even conflict is required for the
truth to rise to the surface. When we
seek and uphold the truth we best
honor God and each other.
Life is not as black and white as it
once seemed. There are many shades
of grey. Every day, life confronts us
with new choices for which we must
discern right and wrong. Our culture
says there is no objective truth, that all
is relative (USCCA, p. 431).
God’s truth is for all time and
every situation. We need to trust God
and God’s presence in the Church as
we make important decisions. Trying
to discern between my will and God’s
will for me is often difficult.
That’s where the guidance of
the Church helps. I trust that
God wants what is best for
me, and when I put my faith
in God’s truth in the Church,
I experience peace in my
The 10th Commandment—“You shall not covet your
neighbor’s goods”—is an invitation
to practice “poverty of
spirit” and a “healthy detachment
from material goods.” It
gives us an opportunity to
look “at the interior attitudes
of greed and envy that lead us
to steal and act unjustly”
(USCCA, p. 449).
Many of us are slaves to
money and possessions, or the
desire for them. We become
so preoccupied with acquiring
that we fail to recognize and
live the giftedness of our lives.
Our consumer culture leads
us to believe that we truly
need the latest and “greatest”
product or technology. A recent TV
commercial for a homebuilder featured
a woman talking about the “exquisite
media room we just had to have.”
A quote that has been a measuring
stick concerning my attachment to
material possessions is: “Only what we
can give away do we truly possess.
That which we cannot give possesses us.” I think of this when I’m shopping
and see something I really want but
don’t absolutely need. While I experience
the “desire to acquire,” I feel
empowerment and an inner freedom
when I am able to walk away.
We can’t stop at simply curtailing
our desire for material possessions—and that’s not always so simple. We are
obligated as Christian disciples to see
that “all people have access to what
makes them fully human and fosters
their human dignity: faith, education,
health care, housing, employment, and
leisure” (USCCA, pp. 454-455). We are
called to live justly.
“Having more is never enough.
Being more is paramount” (USCCA,
p. 454). We can take our cue from our
generous God and develop generous
hearts. When our hearts are truly grateful
for God’s grace in our lives, it’s a natural
progression that we’ll become less
selfish and more generous with our talents
and resources. “Much will be
required of the person entrusted with
much” (Lk 12:48).
Thomas Merton wrote, “All sin
starts from the assumption that my false
self, the self that exists only in my egocentric
desires, is the fundamental reality
of life to which everything else in the
world is ordered.” Only when we
reorder our view of reality and place
God in the center will we be true stewards
of the gifts of life, possessions,
truth and justice.
The theme of this article is drawn from Ch. 29 (pp. 387-
402), 31 and 32 (pp. 417-438) and 34 (pp. 447-457) of
the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults.
Next: Responding to Gods Love in Prayer (final article in this series)
How do you live Christian stewardship
in your life? How has your
understanding of what this means
changed or broadened since reading
Which of the four commandments
covered here (#5, 7, 8, 10) is most
difficult for you to keep? Why do
you think this challenges you? What
can you do to be more faithful to
How generous are you? How well is
your generosity modeled on God’s
generosity to you? What will you do
this week/month to stretch yourself
in your practice of generosity?