On this Sunday and the next, we are involving ourselves as a parish with the diocesan Charity and Development Appeal. This annual appeal is always very successful. It supports community and charitable organizations statewide in helping individuals and families in need or crisis.
The Word of God this Sunday could not be more encouraging for the Charity and Development Appeal. In the 1st reading from the prophet Nehemiah, Ezra the priest gathers the people in Jerusalem after the return from the awful experience of 50 years of exile in Babylon. The time is about 500 years before Christ. Finally at home, the priest publicly reads to the people the “Book of the Law,” which Moses had left them. It is all about how to live with God. Hearing the reading of the Book was a terribly emotional experience for the people who had been refugees for decades. While they shouted their “Amen” to what they were finally hearing again, many of them were crying. The priest tells them to rejoice, to celebrate and to provide food and drink for those among them who do not have the means to provide for themselves. In effect, Ezra the priest was teaching the people that living with God includes caring for the neighbor.
In the 2nd reading of this Sunday from the 1st Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul explains that we Christians are one body, the Body of Christ. Every member of the body needs every other member. Each should have the same concern for all. As in our human body, pain in one part of the body is felt by the whole body. Honor to one part of the body is honor to all. The body’s many gifts are meant for the whole. Everything I have is really ours. Everything you have is really ours, too. The lesson is that to be in Christ is to be also for the others. It is part of how Christians live with God.
In the Gospel reading today, Luke begins to answer the question, “Who is Jesus Christ?” He begins with the story of Jesus entering the synagogue in Nazareth and reading to the congregation this text from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” By reading this text, Jesus is making clear that God’s Spirit on him necessarily opens him to care for the human and spiritual needs of his brothers and sisters. He ends his proclamation of the Word by saying “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” The very presence of Jesus guarantees the well being of the brothers and sisters. And the challenge to us his disciples is this: associating with Jesus means involving ourselves with the needs of the neighbor. There is no life with God without care for the brothers and sisters. This Word is to be fulfilled in us today.
This is the fundamental meaning of the Charity and Development Appeal: living with God means sharing for the benefit of the neighbor. We are all now invited to express our faith and love of God with generosity to our neighbors in need.