Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
This weekend we are challenged to widen the circle of our identity to go beyond ourselves, to consider the Church as a much broader obligation and opportunity to realize our calling as the Body of Christ. As we traveled through Israel-Palestine and Jordan the past couple of weeks I was haunted by an awareness of our Church that seemed always broader. Not only is there a universal Church with whom we have real solidarity in the life, the breaking of the bread and the prayers, and we experienced the love of brothers and sisters everywhere we went, regardless of language or nationality. But there is also a rising tide of awareness that we who have so much have a profound obligation to share what we have with these brothers and sisters who still wait for us to share the knowledge of the faith as well as the many blessings and security which we have received so undeservingly.
One of the things pilgrimage does is broaden your horizons. Sometimes you have to go far away in order to recognize the truth that lies close to home.
To those who have suggested, in response to the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal, that our obligation lies really with the needs of our local community, I would recommend a pilgrimage of heart that causes one to travel outside of himself and discover somebody else’s life and circumstance.
Each Mass as we prayed in the Eucharistic Prayers for our Holy Father Francis and our Patriarch Archbishop Fouad, I realized that we belong to a remarkable flock, one that spans all time and geography. We are not really the Church of Fredericksburg, or even the Church of Arlington, though that is truly our local Church represented by the person of our successor to the Apostles, Bishop Paul.
To deny this is the foundation of the kind of divisions that so characterize post-modern Christianity, a literal parrochialism that allows us to think only of ourselves. We can justify our isolation because we are unique and special, and don’t have to answer, then, to the needs of others in their own sphere. A cult of opinion can stop listening to God—or anyone else, for that matter.
Our love and support has to be for our community on all these levels; our local Church of Arlington is not merely our guide, it is also our link to the universal Church in seeking response to our obligation as the larger Body of Christ.
We can’t be separate. We have to remain a branch on the vine or we dry up.
The BLA provides a lot of wonderful services and growth for ourselves in Fredericksburg — you can see Bishop’s mailing for a long list of things we ourselves benefit from. It also gives expression to the kind of outreach that only a diocese can do, as well as connectedness to world-level charity, peace and justice to which we would otherwise have no access. Please, let’s get the Appeal started and finished quickly–not because it is something we have to do, but because it is who we are.
As last year, there are matching funds for every dollar you increase your commitment from last year, a great benefit for the Church of Arlington.
I challenge each and every family in the parish to give something, no matter the amount. Not because it is a task, but because it is who you are, as a member of this Body who sees need and responds with love.
God bless you.