homily – March 25

ShareLife Sunday

This Sunday is ShareLife Sunday. The ShareLife Appeal has been part of our lives as members of this Archdiocese. From the very beginning St. Gabriel’s Parish has been front and center in supporting this appeal which maintains the 34 Catholic agencies that serve the needs of thousands of men, women and children throughout the Archdiocese.

If you are registered with the parish then you have already received a letter from our new Archbishop, Thomas Collins asking you to support this year’s ShareLife Appeal.

I like the three stage approach he offers for you to consider as you decide how generously you will support ShareLife – Recognize, Reflect, and Respond.

Our second reading in today’s Mass gives us a great example of what a transformation can take place in our lives when we take the time to recognize, reflect and respond.

St. Paul is telling the Philippians about his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul was heading to that city to arrest any man or woman who followed the teaching of Jesus and dared to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. For Paul this was blasphemy. Without warning a blazing light blinds Paul. He hears the question, ‘Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ Naturally Paul asks, ‘who are you Lord? And Jesus gives the answer that will make all the difference in Paul’s life, ‘I am Jesus who you are persecuting.’

From that moment on Paul considered all things as loss, as nothing, compared to his knowing Jesus as his Lord. Paul could have had a very successful career as a Rabbi, a teacher. He was studying under a genius named Gamaliel; he was well connected with the Pharisees and the priests of the Temple. It was at their bidding he was persecuting those who followed Christ. He could have had a great future. And then he had that short encounter with Christ.

Paul came to recognize who Jesus is – the Christ, the Messiah. He spent years reflecting on this truth and how it touched his life. He would suffer the loss of all things, see them for the rubbish they were if order to gain Christ – to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. Paul knew he would come to that power only if he was willing to share in the suffering of Christ – which Paul did as he lived through the joys and sufferings, the hopes and the disappointments through all those years he preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Paul responded to the gift he was offered on the road to Damascus by giving his life completely to Christ, so much so that Paul would say of himself – ‘I live now, not I, but Christ lives in me and the life I live, I live trusting in the Son of God who loved me and gave His life for me.’

In reflecting on the words of Jesus on that road to Damascus – I am Jesus whom you are persecuting – Paul came to know that Jesus was in every person he met, man or woman, friend or foe – in that person Paul met and served and loved Jesus, his Lord.

ShareLife offers us the opportunity to meet, serve and love Jesus in all the men, women and children who are helped by your generosity to ShareLife. We are asked to recognize the poverty, and often the desperation that is part and parcel of others’ lives. We’re asked to recognize the great work done by the men and women who work for the 34 agencies of ShareLife – here and in the developing countries of the world. We’re asked to recognize these good people as our brothers and sisters in Christ, our brothers and sisters in need. We’re asked to recognize the truth – whatever you do to one of these the least of mine you do to me.

ShareLife asks us to reflect – reflect on how desperate, distressed and despairing are the lives of so many people – who are our brothers and sisters. ShareLife asks us to reflect on how blessed are our own lives.

And Share Life asks us to respond – to act upon our recognition and our reflection – as Paul did to his. If we take the time to recognize and reflect – take the time to read the ShareLife material we’ve received – take the time to realize how blessed we are – then we must respond, we must reach out and help all those less fortunate that ourselves.

Each year ShareLife sends me a summary of how St. Gabriel’s responded to the appeal. I’m always stunned when I see how so few people support ShareLife and all its good works. Last year the parish gave $163,160 to Share Life, down from the $176,612 donated in 2005. Both these amounts are impressive but – only 27% of the parish participated in Share Life. Good people, this is not good.

If you have already donated to ShareLife – thank you very much. If you have yet to donated, especially if you have never donated to ShareLife, then I suggest you donate no less than $50.00. You know your own needs, your own circumstances but read the ShareLife material and see the good works being done by ShareLife.

May we as a parish family – a blessed parish family – take the time to recognize, reflect and respond to this year’s ShareLife Appeal knowing that whatever we do to one of these the least of our brothers and sisters, we do to the Christ, Who loved us and gave His life for us.