2015 – Cycle B
Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 118; 1 John 5:1-6; John 20 19-31
“The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of their possessions were their own, but they had everything in common. There was no needy person among them,… the apostles…distributed to each according to need.” [Acts of the Apostles 4:32, 35]
Isn’t this passage describing the communal life of the early church wonderful? Is this your experience of the church’s daily life? Scripture scholars and theologians would agree with you viewing this passage as filled with more wishful thinking than reality. But is that true?
Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, observes, “I must first say that the contribution of the Church in today’s world is enormous. The pain and the shame we feel at the sins of some members of the Church, and at our own, must never make us forget how many Christians are giving their lives in love. They help so many people to be healed or to die in peace in make shift hospitals. They are present to those enslaved by different addiction in the poorest places on earth. They devote themselves to the education of children and young people. They care for the elderly who have been forgotten by everyone else. They look for ways to communicate values in hostile environments. They are dedicated in many other ways, to showing an immense love for humanity inspired by the God who became a human being. I am grateful for the beautiful example given to me by so many, Christians who joyfully sacrifice their lives and their time. This witness comforts and sustains me in my own effort to overcome selfishness and to give more fully of myself.”
In my experience, we Catholics do not appreciate or are even aware of the positive force the Catholic Church is in our world. Whether it is, as Pope Francis alludes to, the shadow of the sexual abuse scandal; or a latent inferiority that lingers from our roots as an immigrant Church; to simply being conscience of our own inadequacies, many of us do not take great pride in the community we call, Catholic.
But consider this:
- Six of nine Supreme Court Justices are Catholic.
- It was the principles of Catholic Social Justice Teaching that formed President Barack Obama.
- The Catholic Church has Observer status at the United Nations to bring before the world the issues of migrants, the poor, women and our understandings of justice and peace.
- The diplomatic corps of the Vatican City State is the oldest and most respected in the world because of our network of dioceses, charitable agencies, clergy and religious at the grass roots level.
- In this country, Catholic Women’s and Men’s Religious Orders founded one of the largest health care and education systems in the world of which many of us have benefited.
- It is the moral principles of Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas and the developing Just War theory of the Catholic Church that still guides and informs our government and military.
- The justice and charitable agencies of Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services, Cross Catholic, Food for the Poor, Caritas International, and Pax Christi – have no rivals.
- And can we forget the centuries of sacred music, art and architecture and the novels of such Catholic authors, Flannery O’Connor, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Muriel Spark that continue to inspire believer and non-believer.
Francis is grateful and humbled by the beauty, sacrifice and selflessness of the Catholic Christian people and should we not be as well?
In this light, I want to invite to join with me and Catholics from around our diocese to support what Francis calls the enormous contribution we Catholics make in our world and to make a donation to this year’s Annual Bishop’s Appeal. The work of the Diocese is what puts flesh on Francis’ words. They are not just a wishful thinking but the reality of the hard working members of the Catholic Church at our local Albany level. The offices of the Chancery provide resources to us who not only minister in the parishes for our parishioners but also to anyone who approaches our doors.
To parishioners who have never participated in this endeavor, I would request that you prayerfully ask yourself, why haven’t you? Is your answer rooted in a hurtful experience, a sense of betrayal at some level, a perception or judgment that needs to be let go of to allow you to join us in moving forward together? Why not be part of this great work we call The Albany Roman Catholic Diocese, our corner of our universal church.
In two weeks at all the Masses, I will ask you to make a pledge or outright donation to the Bishop’s Appeal. I would encourage you until that time to prayerfully consider what God has given each of us and what you can seriously afford to support the broader work of our parish through the diocese of which we are apart.
“The community of believers was of one heart and mind, [and] there was no needy person among them,… each [received] according to need.”
Today, you are that community of believers!