Every year at this time the Archdiocese kicks off
its annual Catholic Ministries Appeal.
The Archbishop sends out a recorded message,
and invites pastors to play it at Mass.
While I’m happy to help the Archbishop,
playing a recording can be a little awkward,
and sometimes, hard to hear.
So what I’ve done in the past is to incorporate
as much of the Archbishop’s homily into my own.
The readings we heard today emphasize light and darkness –
and the invitation for us is
“both to follow the light and to be the light.”
“The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light.”
This sentence from the Book of Isaiah in today’s first reading
refers to a light much more profound than any torch or lamp.
As the Archbishop explains, this passage,
“Written more than eight centuries before Christ…
comes from a section of Isaiah
known as the Immanuel Prophecies.
In these twelve chapters the prophet of Israel looks ahead
to a savior who will free His people
from the yoke of oppression and bring great joy.
The Church, beginning in the New Testament itself,
has always seen the Immanuel Prophecies as applying to Jesus.”
St. Matthew obviously makes that connection by quoting Isaiah.
We might recall what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount –
speaking to all who follow him:
“You are the light of the world . . .
your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
So the light is not Jesus alone,
but Jesus with his mystical Body – all of us.
Christ is light in us, and each of us bears that light to the world.
Think about that: there are a lot of implications in that.
If I am bearing the light of Christ, what makes it burn brighter?
What will nourish that flame – and what dims it?
And, to quote the Archbishop again:
“Who can doubt that our increasingly secular world today
desperately needs that light?
In the face of poverty, crime, addiction, ignorance, despair, violence,
discrimination, and injustices of all kinds,
we are all called to be disciples making disciples.
“Tens of thousands of you throughout the Archdiocese
do that every day by giving generously of your time and talent
as volunteers in schools, parishes, athletic programs,
hospitals, prisons, and other areas of need.
This is both discipleship in action – letting your light shine –
and good stewardship of God’s gracious gifts.”
Going beyond what the Archbishop said, there are two particular ways
that task of being Christ’s light might stand out to us at this moment.
Today is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade,
the 1973 Supreme Court decision that imposed abortion on demand
on our country.
On Friday, hundreds of thousands of Americans
of all ages and backgrounds will go to Washington
to bear witness to the urgency to protect all human life;
including many from our area.
Many more will take part in prayer vigils and gatherings
around the country.
There is a prayer vigil in Sidney on Sunday evening at 7 pm,
at the courthouse, for example.
As important as this is, this task of light-bearing
is needed every day, everywhere we go.
One very powerful way you and I can be light and hope
is to support and help to women who are facing difficult situations,
to avoid making a terrible choice.
Moreover, nothing is more Christ-like than when you and I
wrap our arms lovingly around those who make this decision,
and help them find God’s mercy and healing.
If you know anyone bearing this burden, please tell them:
God’s mercy is without measure!
Of course the sacrament of confession
gives us this mercy from the source.
But also tell hurting people about Project Rachel,
Which exists to bring healing to wounded women and families.
There’s another way our role as being light stands out today,
and it’s in the context of a new president and a new chapter
for our country.
It’s our duty to give voice to values of human dignity, for all people.
Important decisions will be made in the months ahead.
Don’t be a spectator; it’s your task and mine
to bring the word of God and the ways of God into those decisions.
By ourselves, each of us is limited,
and perhaps you think you haven’t much to offer;
you don’t have the time.
This is where the Catholic Ministries Appeal is so powerful.
It is the combined impact of hundreds of thousands of Catholics
in 19 counties of the Archdiocese – that’s a mighty force!
Let’s recall what the Catholic Ministry Appeal enables us to do:
• feed the poor
• take care of retired priests
• ensure a Catholic presence on local campuses, prisons, and hospitals
• provide for evangelization efforts
• help students at St. Rita School for the Deaf
• support vocations of priests, deacons, lay ministers
Let me conclude by quoting the Archbishop once more:
“Those who carry out these ministries and programs
are grateful on a daily basis
for your participation in their work through your generous donations.
As Archbishop, I share that gratitude.
Thank you for being a light in the darkness.”