“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” With these words in today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples about true greatness. This teaching appropriately complements the teaching of the Apostle James the Less in today’s Second Reading: “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.” We Christians are to be Christ-like in setting aside selfishness for the good of others. The good of the Church and, indeed, of all of humanity depends on selflessness and a disregard for worldly gain at the expense of others.
The value that Saint James upholds in today’s Second Reading is “righteousness,” which is the “fruit of peace.” The ability to make peace is a manifestation of “wisdom from above.” This is wisdom that comes from God. It is not an earthbound way of thinking, but it is God-like: “pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.” Recall that in last Sunday’s Gospel Peter was rebuked by Jesus for “thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” It would seem that all the disciples were thinking in this way in today’s Gospel. They were interested in status rather than righteousness. Instead Jesus takes a child—a person with no social status—and identifies himself with the child. Indeed Jesus’ earthly life will end as a person with no legal status, a criminal.
You recently received a request to make a commitment to the Diocesan Annual Appeal. Through the ministries and apostolates supported by the Appeal, we have an opportunity to contribute to alleviating the sufferings of others by supporting the Church’s charitable works and relief services. We support Catholic education and evangelization, both at home and abroad, which bring the gospel of hope to young and old alike. We contribute to the formation of priests who will preach the gospel and celebrate the sacraments in our diocese and in mission lands, and the formation of the permanent deacons and pastoral ministers who collaborate with them. We support those who assist the diocesan leadership in the administration of the temporal goods of the Church, including the maintenance of our own diocesan Cathedral.
All of us are beneficiaries of the Church’s ministries and apostolates. With gratitude for what we have been given, and aware of our obligation to support our brothers and sisters, let us each consider carefully what we can give to the Diocesan Annual Appeal over the next ten months and make a pledge today. Thank you.
Bishop Callahan has asked that a second collection be taken up this month to assist Catholic Charities of the Diocese of La Crosse in the flood-relief efforts that are underway and very much needed in the southern counties of our diocese. These include Juneau, Monroe, Vernon, Richland and Crawford counties. Communities along the Kickapoo River were devasted by flooding from a heavy rain at the headwaters, all of which went downstream and brought record flooding to those communities. After those floodwaters subsided, those same communities were again flooded by another round of heavy rains. We will take up that second collection at all the Masses next weekend. Checks should be made payable to your parish and the funds will be forwarded to Catholic Charities.
I am sure many of us will also want to help those affected by the devastating Hurricane Florence. Opportunities to do so will be made available in the future through Catholic Charities USA. In the meantime pray the rosary this week for all working on the relief effort as well as the cleanup and reconstruction. Pray for the needs of the Church in our diocese and for a generous response to the Diocesan Annual Appeal. Pray for our young parishioners preparing to receive sacraments this year and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.