Pascha II (Bishop’s Appeal)
2019 – Cycle ABC
Acts 10: 34a, 37-43; Psalm 118; 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8; Luke 24:1-12
During the past two weeks numerous Op – Ed writers saw in the burning of the Cathedral of Notre Dame a metaphor for the present state of decline of Christianity and the Catholic Church, in particular. But they are wrong. Yes, there was a deep sadness in seeing the destruction of beauty and religious faith in the collapse of the central spire. But Notre Dame Cathedral or any of the great masterpieces of human endeavour we Christians have built for the glory of God down to our small, rustic country churches have little to do with the Church as the people of God. And we must be wary of confusing contemporary ideas of success, that is, big dividends, large numbers, growing assets, and admiration and prestige with the work of God. All of this and more was ours as a Catholic Church a brief sixty years ago and many a grandparent and senior realizes this and laments how quickly we have lost it. And yes, part of this loss has been at a great cost because of the criminality and sinfulness of some individuals within the Catholic community.
Yet despite that, we are still here. We are a living church. We are the followers of Jesus Christ in this time and this place, united to Christian believers around the world. And we as a Catholic Church continue to make a difference for good in this world.
Saint Teresa of Kolkata wisely reminds us that God has not called us to be successful but to be faithful. Today I want to call all of us to that faithfulness to God and our Baptismal Call; promises that we renewed on Easter Sunday. Our faithfulness is revealed to the world in a number of ways.
Prayer; public, communal and personal. We of all people should never underestimate that prayer changes people’s hearts and therefore changes situations. Remember Saint Monica who prayed for 30 years for her son, Augustine, to change his life and become a Christian. Prayer changes people.
Our faithfulness is revealed to the world through our outreach to those in need. Jesus taught, “Whatever you do to the least of my sisters and brothers you do for me”. Consider in our parish…
- the volunteers at our food pantry and Saturday’s Bread at Chestnut Methodist Church who feed the hungry;
- our members who quietly and anonymously leave off food stuffs in the back of the church;
- volunteers who assist families in building homes through Habitat for Humanity;
- our assistance of education scholarships for children in Guatemala and the support of our sister parish, Saint Vincent Mission in Kentucky;
- the Holy Sews women who create layettes that are sent to hospitals across our state so that mourning parents can bury their infants in dignity and care.
Christians change people’s lives.
Shamed, and now in a most clumsy and inept manner, struggling to reflect on and correct the sins of the past in regard to the abuse of children, our incomplete and inadequate forms of repentance reveal to the world our trust and faithfulness in a God who redeems and heals. We are changing.
I would like to call us to build on these examples by joining with our brothers and sisters across our diocese in making pledges and donations to the 2019 Bishop’s Appeal. Your donations, like the work of our volunteers, change lives across the 14 counties of our diocese. What began 65 years ago under Bishop William Scully, a mere $500,000 campaign for religion and education is now an $8 million campaign furthering the greater mission of the church.
I understand many Catholics throughout our country and diocese are angry and frustrated with the institutional part of our church. And rightly so. You, the women and men in the pews did not perpetrate the abuse or cover – up. Many are hesitant or holding back donations in protest. I respect that. A lot of people are in the middle of healing their relationship with the Church. Some see us as hopeless. The church for many people was a place of joy, now it is filled with anger and hurt.
But in the midst of the confusion, like that of an Easter morning, I will also ask all of us to reflect and pray on this matter. The church today is no more clumsy and inept then the first apostles and disciples. Consider the denying Peter and today, the doubting of Thomas. And the disciples, the women and men who first followed Jesus went out I expect with only a tentative hope in their hearts. By God’s grace and Spirit look what has happened.
Our parish responsibility to the diocese is $103,000.00. Next week I will ask you to make a pledge or an outright donation to the work of our broken and hurting yet holy Catholic Church in the Diocese of Albany. For information as to what your donation supports, brochures are at the entrances of the church or you can check the diocesan website. We, the Catholic Church, do make a difference in the lives of people. Considering being a part of that goodness.