Before he ascended into heaven, Jesus gave the apostles a mandate: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:19-20).
This past week the annual Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal was launched throughout the archdiocese with the theme of “Go and make disciples.” And whether or not you realize it, the mandate to make disciples is closely linked with performing acts of charity by Jesus’ “new commandment” – that we love one another as he loved us (John 15:12).
The opportunity to give the best of what God has given us opens our hearts and the hearts of those who receive our charity to greater conversion. This is what the early Christians experienced as they sought to live out Christ’s new commandment. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that “all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. … And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
The same is true for us today. When you contribute to the appeal, the archdiocese is able to carry out Christ’s command to bring the Gospel to all nations in many meaningful ways.
When a woman in a crisis pregnancy situation is searching for help, Lighthouse Pregnancy Center and Catholic Charities are able to respond because of your financial support. If a young man is seeking to follow the Lord’s call and enter the seminary, he is able to do so because the seminaries are in part funded by your donations. Then there is the example of a homeless single mother who is looking for a place to spend a cold night with her children and she finds shelter at Samaritan House.
All of these are concrete situations in which your commitment to the Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal and tithing make it possible for those in search of the Gospel—whether they know it or not—to receive the mercy and generosity of God and therefore become more attentive to his voice.
The challenge presented to all of us by Christ’s new commandment to love one another is to go beyond making a donation and to listen for the other ways that God is calling us to make disciples. These include physical acts of charity and helping those in need spiritually.
Before a person is able to hear and accept the good news that Christ has died for them and longs to save them from their sins, it is often necessary to address their physical needs, to bind up their wounds. Then they will be more able to receive the love that Jesus wishes to pour into their hearts.
For this reason, Pope Francis has been repeatedly calling for an authentic culture of encounter with those on the peripheries. A good place to start this encounter is by making a financial commitment to helping those in need. But do not stop there. Ask Jesus how he is calling you to place your life at his service, how he is calling you to love others as he has loved you.
As you prayerfully consider how you will respond to Jesus’ call to make disciples, I want to express my sincere gratitude to you for all the ways so many of you have already done so. Without your commitment to Christ and his Church, much of the good work done in the archdiocese would be impossible. May God bless your generosity one-hundred-fold!