The readings in the Easter Season continue to talk about dying, even though it is the season of resurrection, because death and resurrection are one moment, one occurrence, two sides of the same coin.
At the Sea of Tiberius, the Risen Lord asks Peter if he “loves” him. The Greek word here is “agape,” which means willingness to die for another. Peter eventually gave his life for the Lord, but long before that he found joy and freedom in giving his life to witnessing to the resurrection. Just as Jesus’ death on the cross was the sacrament of an eternity of giving as the eternal Son, so Peter’s crucifixion was just the liturgy of a life already handed over for many years.
The time to die to ourselves and give ourselves over to Christ is now. Physical death will not be scary if we have already experienced the joy of losing ourselves. This happens in many ways, but the Church had identified stewardship as one description of the journey. We lose ourselves by loving (agape) God’s creation, by being good stewards of the created world, even at personal cost. It costs us time and money to recycle. Limiting our consumption is sacrificial.
Stewardship also includes generosity in giving of our time, talent, and treasure. “Time” refers not to volunteer work, but to the time spent with God in prayer. This includes our morning and evening prayers, time spent in the adoration chapel or in other private prayer, as well as Sunday Mass and other liturgical prayers. “Talent” includes our volunteer work in the parish or in the community, as well as time spent in caring for others. “Treasure” refers to money donated. To check our generosity, a good measure is 10% of our gross income: 5% to the parish, 1% to the diocese, and 4% to other charities. When we first begin this level of giving, it is a bit of a shock. But, after awhile, it becomes a way of life that actually frees us, makes us more Christ-like. It becomes part of that present experience of the life to come.
Becoming givers instead of takers is a holy enterprise. It is a way of laying down our lives. But this dying is also rising; they are one motion. We can only discover the joy and freedom that dying brings by first becoming generous people. It is a leap of faith, but we eventually discover that what we give comes back to us a hundred fold, in one form or another.
~ Fr. Frank Coady