Fr. Jonathan Hill, MM, is on mission in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
The dusty and hot streets of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, are filled daily with pedestrians and cars. People fill the edges of the roads with little stalls selling fruit and vegetables and daily household essentials. Whizzing by in and out of traffic are the motorcycle taxis, or pikipiki in Swahili. Another common sight is the daladala, the buses of various sizes that pick-up and drop-off passengers anywhere they desire, jamming the traffic flow.
These buses are a cheap transportation option for most Tanzanians. They are run by the driver, who is responsible to his boss, the owner of the bus. The driver has to deliver a certain amount of money each day to his boss. He hires a conductor, a man (always a man in this culture) who stands at the door of the bus and encourages people to enter this bus. He collects the money from the passengers and ensures that the flow of income and passengers continues efficiently. The driver is concerned with moving the bus along the designated route, and cannot do both jobs, so the conductor is an essential part of the daily work. If he does not do his job well, then the entire effort fails.
In today’s reading from Isaiah, we see the essential role of the conductor, or the steward of the household. Shebna is quietly growing rich in his work as steward of the house of David. He is unconcerned with the welfare of the house. God promises to remove him and to replace him with a faithful steward, who at that time was Eliakim. A steward of perfect faithfulness is yet to come, the Messiah himself, who would be the most faithful steward of the house of Israel (Rev. 3:7). This Messiah, Jesus, gives the role of stewardship to his apostles, chiefly St. Peter, when he leaves this earth to return to his Father. Until he returns, the role of chief steward of the kingdom of God on earth is passed on to other faithful disciples.
Faithfulness is key. For the daladala driver, the conductor has to be trustworthy, but it also helps if the people on the journey in the daladala do their part as well. As baptized faithful, we are all called to genuine stewardship. Jesus has firmly opened the door to all who need salvation and safety (Rev. 3:8). Our world is struggling mightily at this time. Refugees are fleeing in record numbers from war. Our world economies are struggling to recover from the COVID-19 virus, and people need a place to find peace, rest, and security in their lives. This is not the job of world leaders, governments, and the pope alone. It is our job. We need to help the steward and the conductor. We need to participate, be people of integrity and character, and to be the hands and feet of Jesus, the chief steward, and of Pope Francis, the chief conductor of our Church. The Church needs you. The world needs you. You are an important and essential part of the body of Christ, the Church. Are you ready and willing to do your part?
Photo courtesy of Fr. Jonathan Hill.