A little over a week ago I celebrated Mass for the Seventh Grade at Guardian Angels Catholic School. The students’ Religion teacher mentioned to me that the students were doing a Buy One/Get One campaign for local food banks; she offered to share the proceeds with All Saints. I told her we would be happy to include those donations with our support of the FEAST Food Bank. A Buy One/Get One campaign is one in which families purchase a BOGO item at the grocery store, and donate the free item (the Get One), to the campaign.
Momentarily, I wondered how much of a sacrifice this really was. After all, there is no cost for the free, “Get One” item that would be donated. Then, I considered my congregation for Mass: Seventh Graders. They have over-sized heads and ears, mounted on stick-figure bodies. The girls have deep voices, and the boys have high, squeaky voices. The only thing more disproportionate than their appearance is their appetite; they are voracious feeders.
If you’ve ever watched Junior High School students eat, and have not lost a finger or hand in the process, you probably consider yourself fortunate. Any donation of food, even free food, from this demographic is a real sacrifice. After reconsidering Guardian Angels’ BOGO campaign I concluded that the FEAST Food Bank might never receive more dearly prized donations than these sacrificial offerings.
The second reading today, taken from Paul’s letter to the Phillippians, describes the value of real sacrifice. Paul wrote to his friends at Phillipi, “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others. (Phil 2:3-4) This is part of a detailed description by Paul of how one’s faith ought to influence one’s life.
Paul was writing from prison, and facing the possibility of martyrdom. He was writing to a church community whom he considered to be his close friends, and which was suffering persecution. He wrote about his understanding of the Cross of Jesus. According to Paul’s theology of the Cross one’s personal suffering, or the Church’s persecution by non-believers, are opportunities to have one’s life conformed to the life and death of Jesus. When one accepts suffering or persecution as a service to fellow believers, one joins one’s sufferings to Jesus’, and moves closer to sharing in Jesus’ resurrection.
The value of real sacrifice, in St. Paul’s opinion, is that it can encourage those experiencing persecution, and it can offer a good example in suffering. This is what St. Paul meant when he wrote about looking out for the interests of fellow believers. (Phil 2:3-4) Paul was offering the Phillippians an example of suffering during his imprisonment, and he was encouraged by their faithfulness in the face of persecution. Their mutual sacrifices worked for the benefit of one another, and conformed all to the image of the Crucified Christ.
It is my task this Sunday to talk about something similar to what Paul wrote about. I’m sure that at this point in time some of you are tired of hearing about the Forward in Faith Diocesan Capital Campaign; rest assured that I am just as tired of talking about it. The good news is that we are close to the end. This Sunday, I would like to ask for your support for the campaign.
The diocesan campaign, Forward in Faith, is an opportunity to look out for the interests of fellow believers. This is a campaign to build two new parochial schools, one in Hillsborough County and one in Pasco County, and to support the renovation of the major Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida. The Diocese hopes to collect enough beyond those construction costs to add to the fund that provides tuition assistance for students in our Catholic schools.
These projects will have a direct effect on a small minority of people in the Diocese, but the Diocese is asking every Catholic to support this campaign. As I have mentioned to you previously, your participation in this campaign is strictly voluntary; you are free to contribute, or not.
As most of you here will not be direct beneficiaries of the projects funded by this campaign, you might be wondering why you should contribute. I’ll offer, at least, a partial response to that question. In addition to contributing to All Saints Parish, I contribute to a couple of non-religious organizations. There is a public radio station to which I contribute regularly and a private charity which I support with financial contributions.
I am not directly involved in either of those organizations. I listen to the public radio station because I like the music it broadcasts. I could easily get away with not contributing because there is no way for the station to know that I use their services. I am just one supporter of the private charity; they would certainly survive without my contributions. I contribute to both because of the positive effects that it has in my life. I enjoy knowing that I am part of the good work done by those organizations.
My part in both is so small as to be insignificant to the organizations, but my participation is a big deal in my life. I enjoy knowing that I support a broadcast service that entertains me, and I enjoy knowing that I support a charity that serves the needs of society. These might seem like small satisfactions, but they make a difference to me.
Why should you participate in the construction of two parochial schools and the renovation of the major Seminary? Why should you contribute to the tuition assistance program in the Diocese? I would suggest to you that doing so might have positive effects in your life; you might find real satisfaction from being involved in good work that does not touch your life directly. Most of all, your sacrifice is a service, and an example, to your fellow believers.
Generosity is the sort of thing that we do for its own sake. Regardless of the recipient, our generosity is first and foremost an expression of who we are and what we value. Some people contribute to the parish in response to what they perceive as a need, either their own or the parish’s. Others contribute because they believe in, and value, what the parish does; these are the ones who are most generous and who find the greatest reward in giving.
Contributing to the Forward in Faith campaign is an opportunity to give expression to the best parts of your personality; it’s an opportunity to be generous solely for the sake of doing good. I’d like to thank those who have already contributed, and I ask those who have not done so please to consider it. As I’ve said, there is no obligation on your part to contribute, but perhaps there is an opportunity for you to be a part of a project that does good for others. A number of families from All Saints have contributed already to Forward in Faith; theirs is an example worth emulating.
The ushers will bring the collection baskets around again; please place your completed pledge card in the basket. Please turn in a completed pledge card even if you are not making a pledge; a negative response is a valid response, and helps the parish by demonstrating your participation. There will also be personalized pledge cards available after Mass. Please don’t hesitate to approach me after Mass if you have any questions about this. Thanks, again, for your attention and participation.