Stewardship as Clowning for God

In Tomie de Paolo’s picture book The Clown of God, the little juggler Giovanni meets two Little Brothers, followers of St. Francis’ of Assisi, and shares his bread and cheese with them. Giovanni learns that the two Little Brothers travel “from town to town, begging for food and spreading the joy of God.”

Giovanni himself travels from town to town, juggling “to make people laugh and applaud.” At this point in his life, however, Giovanni fails to see the connection between his own life and the life of the two Little Brothers. The two Little Brothers tell Giovanni what the founder of their order taught: “everything sings of the glory of God…[,] even your juggling.” But Giovanni denies that his juggling sings of God’s glory and says, “I only juggle…. “

That’s what’s wrong with us. We hold such a narrow view of things and ourselves that we fail to see how our God-given time, talents and resources sing of God’s glory. We think and say, “What I have is so meager. What joy can I or anyone else take in it?”

We don’t see that what God has given–creation, this life of change, of being and becoming–is far from meager, but an unending blessing. It is an unfathomable, miraculous act of love, God sharing tremendous joy and sorrow with us.

In this wonderful, ongoing process of creation, I know that I am one of many and that I am loved and that I am called to do my part to bring about the goodness of creation. I do not bring about the goodness of creation by hoarding my time, talents and resources. God fills my everyday life of change–of rising and dying and rising again–with great joy and sorrow and calls me to share myself with others–to give myself away.

At the end of his life, poor as when he was an orphan child and about to die, the little juggler Giovanni finds himself in the monastery church of the Little Brothers. Long ago, he stopped juggling, though he continued to carry his costume and equipment with him. It happens to be Christmas, and a procession of brothers and sisters, priests and townspeople bring beautiful gifts and place them before the serious and stern statue of Mary and the Christ child.

After everyone leaves, Giovanni offers the only gift he can give, himself old and juggling before the statue of Mary and the Christ Child. Giovanni puts a smile on Mary’s and the Christ Child’s face before “his old heart stopped” and “he fell dead to the floor.”

What are your gifts and graces, and how are you managing them? Are you happy, whether young or old, and take joy your life? Are you good with figures? Can you write? Are you good at visiting the sick, or working with children and youth? Are you concerned about the poor? Do you have extra time, money or other resources?

It was Soren Kierkergaard who said we are actors in life and God is our audience. God wants to smile. God wants to laugh. By exercising our gifts, by sharing our time, talent and resources–by being true stewards of God’s varied grace–we too can sing of God’s glory and make God laugh and applaud.