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Making Holiness Possible and the SJCMA Appeal

Entrance Antiphon: Ps 31(30):3-4 — “Be my protector, O God, a mighty stronghold to save me. For You are my rock, my stronghold! Lead me, guide me, for the sake of Your name.”

First Reading: Sir 15:15-20 — “No one does he command to act unjustly.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34 — “Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord.”

Second Reading: 1 Cor 2:6-10 — “God predestined wisdom before the ages for our glory.”

Alleluia: Mt 11:25 — “Alleluia, alleluia. Blessed are You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; You revealed to the little ones the mysteries of the kingdom. Alleluia, alleluia.”

Gospel: Mt 5:17-37 — “So it was said to your ancestors, but I say this to you now.”

Communion Antiphon: Ps 78(77)29-30: — “They ate and had their fill, and what they craved the Lord gave them; they were not disappointed in what they craved.”

Our Gospel readings these last couple of Sundays have been from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. He extols and honors the law that the people were given by Moses, but he also draws them into a deeper appreciation of what the commandments mean, and why they exist. The Law of Moses made the people of Israel different from the nations around them. The law was the way in which the people honored God and honored each other in relationship, and made them righteous in their faith. Jesus is extending the meaning of the law to include an interior disposition, and not just exterior actions.

It is against the law to kill, but Jesus commands that we also repent of anger and verbal attacks. The law forbids adultery, but Jesus calls his disciples to repent of the sin of lust. Even when Jesus says that the whole law can be summed up with the great commandments of loving God and loving our neighbor, he calls us to deeper commitments and sacrifices. Jesus is not giving us a pass on the commandments of Moses, but rather calling us to the virtues that make holiness possible.

At this point you are probably expecting to see the video introducing the South Jersey Catholic Ministries Appeal ... formerly known as the House of Charity – Bishop’s Annual Appeal. And once again, this year, I won’t be showing it but invite you to view it on our website.

While the name may have changed, the goal of this appeal is the same: to solicit funds for a variety of essential Diocesan ministries and programs throughout southern New Jersey.

For example, the Appeal supports Ministry with the Deaf and Persons with Disabilities. Sign Interpreters are provided at major liturgical functions in the Diocese or in the Parishes ... such as Confirmation. The South Jersey Catholic Ministries Appeal or SJCMA provides assistance to the various groups that provide social services to people in need … food pantries, clothing, furniture, and housing assistance.

The SJCMA supports seminarians … helping them to discern the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. Over the last few years at Christmas, we as a Parish family have supported those discerning Priesthood. The SJCMA does so year round. I mentioned this last year, but when I discerned that God was calling me to the Priesthood and they found out the Appeal assisted me and the other seminarians of the Diocese, my Mom & Dad made an effort to increase their gift despite the fact that they were both retired and were on a fixed income.

The Appeal assists the Hospital Chaplains across the Diocese. In fact, that is where their salaries come from. So consider that when a hospital chaplain visits a loved one and gives them the Sacraments. In addition, the Appeal supports Vitality Catholic Healthcare Services to help the elderly and their families to enhance and promote the quality and dignity of life.

The Appeal supports Saint Michael the Archangel Regional School and all Catholic Schools in the Diocese. Bishop Sullivan is committed to keeping our Catholic Schools strong and vibrant. By your contribution to the South Jersey Catholic Ministries Appeal and to Catholic Strong, the Diocese can do that.

Having said all that, you will be receiving a letter from Bishop Sullivan and the Diocese concerning this Appeal. Today, I personally ask you to prayerfully make a commitment in support of the vital programs that carry out the work of the Church in southern New Jersey.

These ministries benefit our less fortunate brothers and sisters in our local and surrounding communities. The gifts that come from our parish join those from throughout the diocese, enabling our workers to bring hope to those in need. While a single gift may not seem like much on its own in the face of such great need, when the Church combines its gifts together we are able to care for multitudes.

We are the Church and this is our calling. Since the first apostles, we have been charged with providing care to those who need it, inspired by the sacrificial love our savior taught us. This weekend has been designated as theAppeal Weekend. It is our hope that you will answer that call, as you faithfully do each year, and join together in doing something wonderful.

And so, at this time, I ask a representative from each family to take one of the special cards and pencil. If your family has more than one donor who would like to give, please fill out separate cards. If you would like to take a card home or you would rather wait until you received the mailing from the Diocese, by all means, please do so. What we are beginning this weekend is vital to meeting needs that go beyond our parish’s ability to serve locally. There are lives that are improved and suffering that is lessened by the commitments we make today. At this time, before we continue, I ask each of you to close your eyes and bow your heads:

O Merciful God You are the provider of all that we are and all that we have. You open wide your hand to provide for the needs of every living creature.

Make us always grateful for your loving Mercy

and grant that We may be faithful stewards of your gifts;

Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who with You

and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns God forever and ever. Amen.

We are asking each family to consider giving an outright gift or making a pledge. As I said earlier, if you would like to take a card home or wait until you receive your letter in the mail, that’s fine. Whether you decide to make an outright gift or offer a pledge by installments, all gifts are joyfully received and are effective in this good work.

If you wish, please complete the card with your name, address, phone number, email and parish. It will be helpful to our parish staff, and the Appeal staff at the Diocese, to keep the following in mind as you fill out the card:

First, in the case of families, use your formal name in a way that clearly identifies the married couple. After you write out your name, we will be matching it up with a label that has your ID#.

Second, please write our Parish name and city. This ensures we receive credit toward our individual Parish goal. If you have already made your gift in response to a mailing or online but you have not yet received an acknowledgement, please complete a card now so we are aware you have done so by checking the “I have already made my sacrificial gift” box. This saves our team’s time in follow-up outreach.

If you’ve already given your gift to me or one of the staff, or if you donate through your workplace giving program, I thank you for your pro-active concern in making a difference, and ask that you check the “I have already made my sacrificial gift” box.

Finally, please sign and date the card on the line provided. And so, let me say thank you, thank you, thank you for all that you do for the Parish and for the Diocese through the South Jersey Catholic Ministries Appeal.

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