Christ working through us to free those bound

Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde, on the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.

Why were the people listening to Jesus in the synagogue at Capernaum astonished at His teaching? Because He connected with their deepest needs, their longing for authentic fulfillment deep down in their hearts. After all, "homilies are inspirational when they touch the deepest levels of the human heart and address the real questions of human experience" (cf. Preaching the Mystery of Faith: The Sunday Homily, USCCB 2013, p. 15). The Lord Jesus touched the hearts of His audience because He taught with authority. He taught with the confidence that is rooted in the Truth and the Truth is, in the end, God Himself. And the Truth touches the human heart.

In today's Gospel account, the authority with which Jesus taught was confirmed by His freeing the man with an unclean spirit, a man bound by the Evil One. The Lord Jesus freed him so that he could begin to live with purpose and meaning, to love and be loved.

The Lord Jesus continues to teach with authority so that we too can be freed from whatever keeps us so bound that we cannot live with purpose and meaning, that we cannot reach out in love to God and to one another and that, therefore, we cannot reach our eternal destiny. If we but let Him, Jesus the Lord will touch our hearts and transform them as we listen to His teaching us with authority. Then we shall be free to love God and one another and truly live with inner peace and joy as we journey toward our eternal home.

Each year, as we move closer to Lent, we take part in the annual Bishop's Lenten Appeal, what we popularly call the BLA. This appeal enables us to reach beyond ourselves to those among us whose needs are greater than ours, to our brothers and sisters within this diocese who are experiencing spiritual or educational or emotional or physical needs.

This year the theme for the Bishop's Lenten Appeal is "Stewards of Christ Sharing Gospel Joy." Stewards are people who manage the affairs of the person in whose employ they serve. In our baptism we are made stewards of Christ, partners with Him in fact. We are sent forth to manage and to share Gospel joy. What is Gospel joy? The joy that comes from being touched by Jesus Christ Himself, Who teaches with authority and frees us from whatever keeps us bound and thereby transforms us.

Yes, Jesus Christ chooses us to be His stewards so that through our care for others made tangible and real by both prayer and financial support, those in need among us may be freed from the difficulties that keep them bound. Our participation in the BLA helps the less fortunate among us, provides spiritual and physical comfort and counsel to those in crisis, and inspires children, young adults and families to embrace and nurture their Catholic faith.

When we make a sacrificial gift to the BLA, we are sharing our gifts with others without expecting anything in return. You and I are blessed in many ways so we need to return our thanks to God for the many blessings that He has given us. Certainly one way to give Him thanks is to reach out to those less fortunate. Let our pledge to the BLA be an authentic sign of both our gratitude to the Lord and our care and compassion for those truly in need.

It is my hope that each of you will make a pledge to the BLA this year. And I join you in so doing. Let our pledge stretch us just a bit so that it can become truly sacrificial, giving from our first fruits and not from what is left over. Next weekend is Commitment Weekend for the BLA, so I ask you during this coming week to pray for the wisdom to know how best to support this appeal and for the strength to do that with joy.

This year's BLA presents us with an ideal opportunity for allowing Jesus to work through us in responding to the needs of our brothers and sisters whom He desires to free as He asks us to be the instruments of His liberating action. After all we are Stewards of Christ Sharing Gospel Joy.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015