Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 1, 2015 Cycle B
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E.

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In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Today’s Gospel presents us with Jesus teaching in the synagogue of Capernaum. People were astonished at the way he taught. They were impressed by the newness of the doctrine and the authority of the teacher. They asked themselves: “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him” (Mk 1:27).

Jesus’ teaching is new. He brought the world new life. Jesus invites his disciples to prefer him to everything and everyone, and challenges them to renounce all their possessions for his sake and that of the gospel. To the ones who follow him, he promises a much greater recompense: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Mt 19:29).

Shortly before Jesus’ passion, he showed his disciples the example of the poor widow of Jerusalem, who gave all that she had to live on. The precept of detachment from riches is mandatory for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Evangelical poverty is at the core of Jesus’ message. In the Sermon on the Mount, he proclaims: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3–12).

The poor of heart is the one who has hope in God and recognizes his happiness in Christ. On what does poverty found its value? It founds its value on the certainty that it is God who fulfills our lives. Lack of poverty is to rely on a particular possession for present and future happiness: “I hope to win seven million in the lottery tomorrow.” With seven million, I say to my soul: “My soul, eat and drink, rest assured because you have everything,” like the rich man in the Gospel. “But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God” (Lk 12:20–21).

Abandonment to the providence of the Father in heaven frees us from anxiety about tomorrow. Trust in God is preparation for the blessedness of the poor. They shall see God.

We are all invited to live out a commitment to poverty. Of course, it is not at the same level for a Franciscan friar as for the head of a household.

Like Jesus, the Church has the mission to teach people about the meaning of life. She has to remind the faithful about the new relationship with goods and values that Jesus brought to the world. To provide for the material needs of the Church is the ordinary way whereby we are educated in how to live the poverty of heart. The Catechism says: “The faithful have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities” (CCC 2043).

The most important educational means that the Church uses to teach us evangelical poverty are the Peter’s Pence Collection, the Cardinal’s Appeal and the regular parish collection each Sunday. This means that each of us has the duty to bear his fair share of the financial burden of the Holy See, diocese and parish.

The Cardinal’s Appeal 2015 is beginning. Cardinal Wuerl is asking us to provide financial support for the needs of the Archdiocese.

There are so many needs in our archdiocese that are supported by the appeal. I can give you some examples: financial assistance for seminarians (our archdiocese has eighty seminarians!), care of elderly and ailing retired priests; support for hospital chaplains, local prison ministry; support for pregnancy aid centers and other pro-life activities; and support for charitable programs at over 80 locations for Catholic Charities.

The Cardinal’s Appeal supports the work of the Archdiocese and is not just another special collection. Rather, it is the one time during the year that all Catholics are asked to make a significant pledge, payable over ten months, to our Archdiocese.

Next week at all the Masses, Cardinal Wuerl, in a recorded homily, will be asking those who have not yet contributed to make a commitment, using a pledge envelope that will be provided during Mass.

Our Bishop is asking for help. Let us respond generously to Cardinal Wuerl’s Appeal! Let us pray for the success of this appeal. May it help us go deeper into our understanding of the meaning of Christian poverty.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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