6th Sunday in Ordinary Time – February 12, 2017

Two weeks ago I attended the Fortieth Anniversary celebration of Temple Ahavat Shalom, our neighbors to the west on Curlew Road. The dinner was held on Saturday evening, and Rabbi Klein began the evening with the prayer that is used to conclude the Sabbath. The prayer used a candle with two wicks (symbolizing the two fundamental choices facing each person); the words of the prayer reminded all present that our human nature is capable of good or evil, and that people of faith are obliged to use their energies only for good.

It was an appropriate prayer for the Sabbath. In Judaism, the Sabbath is sacred time, separated from the rest of the days of the week. The prayer that closes the Sabbath observance offers a necessary reminder to all those who will return to their normal activities and pursuits. The reminder is to avoid profaning the previous Sabbath by following it with destructive actions. This practice has its roots in the Scriptures; we can see an example of this in today’s first reading.

The book of the wisdom of Sirach says, “If you choose, you can keep the commandments; loyalty is doing the will of God. Set before you are fire and water; to whatever you choose, stretch out your hand. Before everyone are life and death, whichever they choose will be given them.” (Sirach 15:15-17) Every day each of us faces multiple opportunities to put our energies to work to accomplish good, that is, God’s will. However, it remains up to us to choose. We are free to choose good or evil, and the Scriptures say that we are fully capable of doing either.

Most of you have received an APA pledge card in the mail, but if you haven’t we will provide you with one now. If you didn’t get a pledge card in the mail, or would like to use one now, please indicate so to the ushers. I will try to keep you entertained for a few minutes while the ushers hand out pledge envelopes and pencils.

Last weekend, you heard one of your fellow parishioners talk about his experiences of working at Pinellas Hope. One of his stories remains very vivid in my memory. Walt mentioned a man who recently moved into an apartment at Pinellas Hope. The man had developed a dependency on painkillers following serious surgery that was not completely successful.

Today, the man has been clean and sober for five years. He is trying to put his life back in order, and reestablish healthy relationships with his family. Walt told about a phone call the man made to his children and his father prior to their first visit to Pinellas Hope and their first contact with him in a very long while. The man was understandably worried that perhaps his children and his father might not want to meet with him. His father came to the phone, and told the man, “Son, you are my hero.”

That man had made herculean efforts to beat drug addiction, get a job and repair the brokenness of his life. No words could have been more healing than the words spoken by his father, “You are my hero.” That family’s experience of reconciliation was possible only because of Pinellas Hope, and Pinellas Hope is possible only because of our Diocese.

The Annual Pastoral Appeal is one of those things that is so big and amorphous that it can be easy to disregard it, and dismiss the opportunity it offers us for doing God’s will. As I mentioned last weekend, we highlight one diocesan ministry at the beginning of each APA campaign year. We focus on only one diocesan ministry each year in order to see more clearly the great good that is accomplished by the Annual Pastoral Appeal.

Your contribution to the Annual Pastoral Appeal creates possibilities for reconciliation and healing, exactly like that man at Pinellas Hope experienced. All of the parishes in our Diocese are allocated a share of the costs for sustaining diocesan ministries and activities. Our share of these costs is an opportunity to bring the Gospel to the poor; it is an opportunity to be someone’s hero. This year, our APA goal is about ten percent higher than last year’s. My choice regarding APA was to increase my pledge by ten percent. If you have contributed in the past, I ask you to join me by increasing your pledge. If you haven’t contributed in the past, please consider doing so now.

If you complete one of the pledge envelopes handed out by the ushers you will receive monthly reminders to fulfill your pledge. I make my pledge online. It’s charged monthly to my credit card. I don’t have to remember it, and I don’t really miss the money. Most of all, I know the good it does for so many people in need. I’ll give you a few minutes to make your choice. The Scripture says that whatever we choose will be given us. (Sirach 15:17) Your support of the Annual Pastoral Appeal is a choice to bring lasting good into the world; it is a choice to be someone’s hero.