Today, Catholic Christians celebrate the Third Sunday of Easter.
In the Gospel reading of today, we hear the famous Emmaus story that took place after Jesus had risen from the dead (Luke 24: 13-35).
In the story, two disciples were walking the seven miles from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus. While they were on their journey, Jesus began walking with them on their journey. When he asked them what they had been discussing, they were amazed, for everyone was talking about the crucifixion of Jesus. They did not recognize Jesus in his risen body. They said, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?”
We then read how Jesus did what today we call Bible study. We read,
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures. As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scripture to us” (Luke 24: 27-32)?
For over 2,000 years, Catholic Christians have studied the Sacred Scriptures. In fact, the early Catholic Christians are the ones who wrote the books of the New Testament.
Catholic Christians have also taught other elements of the faith to youth and adults alike, and they have built churches where the community can come together to worship the Lord.
Often, in the United States, we take parish campuses for granted. We somehow think that churches, parish halls, schools and other buildings magically appear. But that is not the case. Building requires money – lots of money.
And though Americans are far richer than most people of the world, we still have some areas where people have little money to build their parish structures. One diocese of the United States – the Diocese of Raleigh – recognized how poor parishes could not afford to get enough money to build what they needed to build. Thus, the diocese proposed a solution.
In his Thanksgiving Day homily of 2007, Bishop Michael Burbidge announced the formation of the Diocese of Raleigh Home Mission Society. The purpose of this diocesan society would be to raise funds for the construction and furnishing of churches and chapels in the mission areas of the diocese. Though the bishop announced this formation, it was a Raleigh priest, Fr. Jim Garneau, who came up with the idea.
The society places special emphasis on building churches and chapels in areas where parishioners are not able, because of economic circumstances, to fully fund the construction of sacred worship space in the traditional manner of capital campaigns, loans, and parish savings.
The larger parishes of the Diocese of Raleigh take turns having a second collection for this society.
Money generated by this society has already produced to beautiful worship spaces. St. Mary of the Angels parish in Mount Olive, for example, received a $300,000 grant to build their new church. They dedicated their new sanctuary on August 28, 2011. And the community of St. Isidore in Fayetteville, a mission of Good Shepherd parish in Hope Mills, received a grant of $183,000. As a result of the grant, the St. Isidore community was able to build a new church and dedicated it on September 15, 2012.
The Diocese of Raleigh Home Mission Society is an excellent model for other dioceses that are growing very rapidly.
From the Scripture reading of today and the story of the home mission society, we can glean many things. Here are just three.
First, we need physical structures in parish life. These structures allow us space to worship, teach, and serve the community with corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
Second, some communities are way too poor to count on generating sufficient funds to build necessary buildings.
And third, those of us who are blessed with riches not given to the poor are called to do all we can to help. After all, the Church is the Body of Christ, and whatever affects one part of the body, affects the whole.
Today, I ask you to be generous in helping our brothers and sisters in the poor hinterlands of our parish who have so very little material goods, but who are rich beyond measure in their love of God and love of their Catholic Christian faith.
And that is the good news I have for you on this Third Sunday of Easter, 2017.
Story source: Diocese of Raleigh, Mission Possible: Home Mission Society, no date.