Families come in all shapes and sizes. There’s the nuclear family, but also the extended family. There’s the family of the Church and there’s even the human family. Every family has its problems; every family has its challenges. Certainly the human family has its share of both.
Close to home and far away, there are millions who are blind, deaf, mute and lame – physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually. They can’t see, they can’t hear, they can’t sing, they can’t dance. Faced with this, we can feel powerless. But at the point where we feel powerless, the words of the prophet Isaiah rings out: “The eyes of the blind shall be opened; the ears of the deaf unsealed; the lame shall leap like a deer; the mute shall sing for joy”. This is what God does: where human beings are powerless, the power of God does what seems impossible. No wonder the crowd was filled with admiration when they saw Jesus making the deaf hear and the mute speak. They recognised the power of God in him doing what we can’t do ourselves – restore the human being to what the Creator always intended for us. Not blindness, deafness, lameness but the joy of those who can see, hear, sing and dance. In healing the man who was deaf and mute, Jesus draws him back fully into the human family – out of isolation into the embrace of brothers and sisters.
According to the Letter of James, there are no first- and second-class members of the family of God – those who can see, hear, sing and dance and those who can’t. Our faith tells us that all are equal at this point. “Don’t try to combine faith in Jesus Christ”, says James, “with the making of distinctions between people”. All are called to see, hear, sing and dance. Everyone has a right to share fully in the life for which the Creator made us.
That’s why the Annual Catholic Campaign matters. God wants to work with us to ensure that all share fully in the life of the human family. Saying yes to God is our way of sharing in the mission God entrusts to us.
This weekend across the Archdiocese, as the family of God comes together, you’ll hear about the Annual Catholic Campaign. The Campaign was established to do away with multiple appeals through the year. It was also a way of letting people know how much vital work is being done through Church agencies.
In the Annual Catholic Campaign we focus on four points where we work with God to make the world the kind of place God wants it to be:
The first of them is Centacare’s Pastoral Ministries which provide counselling, family care, hospital chaplaincy, psychiatric care, prison ministry – opening the eyes of the blind, helping the deaf to hear, the mute to sing and the lame to dance.
The second is the Mary MacKillop Brisbane Catholic School Access Fund which offers a Catholic education to children whose families are struggling, teaching the young to see, to hear, to sing and to dance.
The third is the Priests Foundation, which enables us to provide proper care to our retired priests who have borne the heat of the day and laid down the burden of responsibility but who remain a vital part of the ecology of the Archdiocese.
The fourth is Holy Spirit Seminary where we train the priests of the future, ensuring that they will be men who really can help the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the mute to sing and the lame to dance.
Each of these is in its own way crucial to the health of the Church. A Church that can’t tend the wounded, teach the young – especially the disadvantaged – a Church which can’t care for its elderly leaders or prepare those who will follow is not a Church which knows what it means to be family or what it means to work with God to make the world the kind of place God wants it to be. The Annual Catholic Campaign is one crucial way of showing ourselves a Church which does know what it means to be family and what it means to be the partners of God.
Your support of the Campaign in the past has done untold good, breaking down the barriers between the “haves” and “have-nots”, the first- and second-class members of the family. This year we want to build on the good work of past years and ensure that it grows still greater. Today I ask you to consider a regular monthly gift – an amount that means something to you. Regular giving is essential to the Campaign’s success.
The funds raised by the Campaign will be very carefully spent and will go exclusively to the four areas I’ve mentioned. Not a dollar will go elsewhere. But every dollar will make a real difference to real human lives. Any offering you make will echo to those most in need, those most gripped by fear, the words of the prophet Isaiah that we’ve heard today: “Courage! Don’t be afraid”.