Archbishop Launches 2013 LifeLink Appeal
Hundreds of LifeLink Parish Appeal Representatives, Parish Priests, LifeLink Agency Directors and generous LifeLink contributors gathered together with Archbishop Costelloe SDB and Bishop Sproxton for a Liturgical Service in St Mary's Cathedral on 29 October to launch the 2013 Christmas Appeal for LifeLink.
During the Liturgical Service, Archbishop Costelloe addressed the following words to those present:
2013 CHRISTMAS APPEAL FOR LIFELINK
ARCHBISHOP TIMOTHY COSTELLOE SDB
This evening as we gather in our Cathedral to officially launch our LifeLink Christmas Appeal, I would like first of all to express my gratitude to all of you who play such an important part in this annual appeal. I am very conscious of what busy lives all of you lead and the many demands placed on your time and your generosity. Your willingness to involve yourselves in our annual Christmas Appeal is a very important and very practical expression of your own faith and therefore, of course, a great source of encouragement and witness to so many other people. So please do accept my very sincere thanks.
As Catholics we have always known that reaching out to people in need in practical and life-changing ways is an essential part of our Christian faith. This idea is as old as the Scriptures themselves, as this evening’s readings make clear. What could be more stark than the words of St James, who tells us very plainly: If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty,’ without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? In the same way faith, if good deeds do not go with it, is quite dead. This is of course a practical spelling out of the message which Jesus gives us in the Gospel: that the most basic commandments of our faith are that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and that we love our neighbor as ourselves. And lest we think that loving our neighbor means only loving those we like, or know, or live with, Jesus in another part of the gospel will tell the parable of the Good Samaritan, reminding us that our neighbor is anyone in need, including the stranger.
Our story of faith over the last two thousand years teaches us that there have always been great men and women who have lived this gospel of practical charity in remarkable ways. It is not hard to call them to mind. We can think for example of St Francis of Assisi, who began his life of Christian commitment by embracing a leper and exchanging his fine clothes for the leper’s rags. We can recall the courage of Saint Maximilian Kolbe who offered his life as a prisoner in a concentration camp so that a fellow prisoner could be set free to return to his wife and children. Or we can think of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Mother Teresa, whose whole life was lived as a gift of healing and hope for the poorest and most rejected of people. These are the people to whom Pope John Paul II was referring when he spoke, as he often did, of the lived theology of the saints. In them, and in countless other saints over our history, we see what being a real Christian looks like in practical terms.
Another great example, closer to home, is our own Saint Mary MacKillop. Many of you will know her famous advice to her sisters, the first Josephites. “Never see a need,” she used to say to them, “without doing something about it.” It is a simple piece of advice but a very profound one, for it is really a call to people, to us, to allow God to shape us so that we have eyes that are able to see the needs of others, ears that are able to hear their cries, and most of all hearts that really want and need to help. But Mary MacKillop knew, as Saint Francis, and Maximilian Kolbe and Mother Teresa knew, that this on its own is not enough to be a true Christian. And that is why Mary MacKillop also used to say to her sisters, “Never forget who it is you are following.”
We are disciples of Jesus, and our true vocation, the real basis of our lives as Christians, must be our willingness to allow God to draw us into a communion of love and life with Jesus so that it is with his eyes that we see, his ears that we hear, his voice that we speak, and his heart with which we love.
This is really what LifeLink is all about. It is not just about the amount of money we raise, although that is obviously important for without it we are not able to offer the help people so desperately need. Lifelink, and our involvement in it, is about responding to the presence of the Lord in our lives, who through his Holy Spirit develops within us a deep spirit of compassion, a spirit which in a sense leaves us with no option but to do what we can for others in need.
For us as Christians, it is because God has first loved us that we return his love by loving our brothers and sisters who are his beloved children as much as we are. As Saint Paul says, “Caritas Christi urget nos – the love of Christ urges us on”.
And so as we launch our annual Lifelink Christmas Appeal this evening, let me thank you for being people who allow yourselves to be urged on by the love of Christ; people who as Mary MacKillop advised, “never see a need without doing something about it” and people who, like Mary MacKillop and all the great men and women of our faith, “never forget who it is we are following.”
May God bless you all.