As I prepare to write this week’s article, it is Holy Thursday. We have begun the sacred Triduum, the final days of our journey toward the Lord’s Resurrection. On Easter Sunday and the eight days that follow it we will hear the beautiful Gospel accounts of the risen Jesus’ encounters with His companions. We will hear how their fear, sadness, confusion, disbelief, and despair were transformed when they met Jesus. Whether in the garden, along the roadside, near the sea, or in the upper room, their hope and joy is restored. The Lord had risen. He was in their midst.
Easter is not just one day or one week. It is a season that stretches all the way to Pentecost Sunday. During this time, the Church keeps the message of the Lord’s Resurrection in our minds and hearts. She wants to awaken our memories to God’s power and presence in our lives. The Easter season is a time to think about our response to the good news of Jesus’ resurrection and our call to share this good news as “missionary disciples.”
In our diocese in the midst of spring, when we celebrate the new life won for us by Christ’s triumph over sin and death, we also think about the HOPE Appeal. As you know, this appeal is the annual giving campaign of the Diocese of Syracuse.
This year we celebrate the 41st HOPE Appeal. There are many services the diocese provides to our parishes, schools, and to all Catholics that would be difficult for even the most prosperous parishes to undertake on their own. This includes support for educating seminarians, Catholic Charities, campus ministry, parishes and schools, formational ministries, pastoral assistance, evangelizing, and communication. When the goal of the HOPE Appeal is achieved, we ensure that these programs will receive the funding that is needed.
Our annual giving campaign serves nearly 230,000 Catholics in 121 parishes across seven counties in Central New York. As you consider your contribution to the HOPE Appeal, keep in mind that our local Church extends beyond your parish. The annual HOPE Appeal gives you the opportunity to join with the faithful throughout our diocese to support diocesan-wide services and programs. Examples include hospital and nursing home chaplains for those who are sick and their families, emergency shelters, clinical services, and so much more through Catholic Charities, and Catholic TV that provides Mass to the homebound. In addition, many of our parishioners participate in special and ongoing activities organized and coordinated by diocesan staffs that are supported by the HOPE Appeal, such as the March for Life and Theology on Tap events.
The HOPE Appeal theme, “Your Gift Plants Seeds of Hope,” reminds me of the words of Pope Benedict XVI: “People who have hope live differently.” Yes, indeed people of hope know the good news — eternal life has been won for them by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Moreover, they recognize their responsibility to share their gifts with others by planting seeds of hope. The essence of Christian stewardship is giving thanks to our generous and merciful God for the many gifts He gives to each of us and sharing our God-given gifts with the parish community. May we all do our part to plant “seeds of hope.”
During the Easter Season, we will hear about the disciples and the formation of the early Church built up by the faith and hope of the first Christians. The Church today needs to be built up by us — the living stones who are committed disciples of Jesus.
A committed disciple is a follower of Jesus who aspires and strives with all his strength, with all his will to be what he admires. He desires to follow the pattern marked out by the master. St. Paul summed up discipleship when he said he wanted only one thing, to follow the pattern of Christ’s suffering so He could share in the joy of the resurrection (Cf. Phil 3:10).
The HOPE Appeal needs disciples — people truly committed to following Jesus. It needs people who actively engage in spreading good news by their personal witness and through their generous support of diocesan ministries.
In a few hours, I will celebrate the Holy Thursday liturgy. As you know, the Gospel reading recounts Jesus washing the feet of His disciples and His admonition that no servant is above the master. Disciples are called to “go forth” and to “reach out” to others as Jesus did. Supporting the HOPE Appeal is one of the ways we can reach out to others, providing for their needs, passing on our faith, and strengthening the Body of Christ. Pope Francis reminds us, “Goodness always tends to spread. Every authentic experience of truth and goodness seeks by its very nature, to grow within us, and any person who has experienced a profound liberation becomes more sensitive to the needs of others…. If we wish to lead a dignified and fulfilling life, we have to reach out to others and seek their good” (The Joy of the Gospel, 9).
When you think about your HOPE Appeal gift this year, please consider the blessings and gifts you have received and how these can be shared with others. The many ministries that carry on the work of evangelization in our diocese require funding. I consider it a responsibility but also a privilege to ask for your assistance on behalf of these vital ministries. I ask you to support the HOPE Appeal this year.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.