Sunday, October 02, 2016

“Teacher, What Must I Do to Inherit Eternal Life?”

If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ. Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the Gospel preached by me is not of human origin. For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:10B-12

Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”  Luke 10:36-37

A Prayer for Camden
Almighty God, we praise you for all you have done.
Help us with all that you want us to do!
Come, Holy Creator, and rebuild the City of Camden
So that we do not labor in vain without you.
Come, Holy Savior, and heal all that is broken
In our lives and in our streets.
Come, Holy Spirit, and inspire us with energy and willingness
To rebuild Camden to your honor and glory. Amen.

The topsy-turvy order that Jesus is installing in the world takes a big step forward today with the telling of the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  However, connecting this story to ancient Samaria loses something in translation.  Samaria was a place I studied in history class.  It hardly exists today. Samaritans were the enemies of the Jewish people (even more so than the belligerent Roman occupiers).

Samaria was the territory between Judea and Galilee west of the Jordan river. 
For ethnic and religious reasons, the Samaritans and the Jews were bitterly opposed to one another.  A more appropriate parable parallel today would be the story of the Good Palestinian, perhaps. 

Since 1967, Samaria has been used by Israeli officials to refer to the north of the West Bank, as the administrative Judea and Samaria Area.  Jordan ceded its claim to the area to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in August 1988.  The Palestinian Authority and the international community do not recognize the term "Samaria"; in modern times, the territory is generally and almost universally known as part of the West Bank.

Expecting a Samaritan/Palestinian to take better care of a wounded Jew than a priest or a Levite was unheard of in ancient Israel (probably modern Israel as well). Many individuals defy stereotypes then and now and that is a key lesson that Jesus is driving home with this story.

People who are expected to help do not and the one who is not expected to help does.  There is no try.  There is only help or help not.

What stereotype can you defy this week?  What vulnerable population can you aid?  Sometimes it is easier to focus on the needs of the foreign missions than on the needs of children in our own inner cities.  Sometimes it is easier to sponsor a child in South America than it is in South Camden.

However, not if you read the monthly letters from Fr. Michael Doyle.  Fr. Michael is pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Camden.  The poor, inner city parish does not have enough funding to pay for its Catholic School.  So Fr. Doyle took a page out of the Christian Children Fund playbook and every year he sets out to raise about $1 million by getting people to sponsor one or more students in his school.  Do you want to know what?  IT WORKS!

Check out the school’s website While there, you might read the full version of this excerpt of note by Fr. Michael:

Some years ago, Sacred Heart School did a survey of its students, asking this question: “What do you like best about your school?” Eighty-five percent declared: “I feel safe here.” On the one hand, that was good to hear; on the other, it was very sad, because it indicated that our dear children did not feel safe in their own neighborhoods. 

Children have only one chance to grow up and Camden is not an easy place to do it.

I grew up in a very safe place in Ireland, but I was burdened with a school experience that was mostly miserable because of the severity of physical punishment. I loved learning and hated school. Consequently, it is a great joy to me to see the happy faces of children in Sacred Heart School where they are treated with care and support in an atmosphere of warmth and appreciation.

Sacred Heart School is not only a center of education and development but also it is a place of prayer, where God is honored, where people are respected and God’s gifts of creation are not taken for granted.

The parents of Camden’s children have the same dreams as parents everywhere –that their children will be healthy, happy and safe; that they will have the opportunity to get an education in a nurturing environment, and that a bright future awaits them. And the children dream, too – of friends and fun, school, college, a career, a family. Just like children everywhere around the country.  And so, the sponsorship program was born.

Fr. Michael asks people to sponsor a child for $300 a year. At first, the letters went to a few hundred people. Now each month over 3,000 people receive the letters, and from these a huge number become Sponsors. For these thirty years, Sacred Heart Church has kept the Sponsorship Program alive through Father Michael’s letters and an enormous amount of volunteer time by Sacred Heart parishioners who embrace the mission to keep our school open.

We are one month into a new school year and 3,350 sponsors are needed.  Full sponsorship of one student is 82 cents a day.  (Twelve $25 contributions, six $50, three $100 or just one check for $300).  It is so easy that you can even use PayPal.

You can be a Good Palestinian in Camden (yes, I know it is New Jersey after all and we are in Virginia).  Your sponsorship is the only way Sacred Heart School can continue to educate the children of Camden. If you prefer the old-fashioned way of leaving two silver coins with the innkeeper, then send your check along with your address to:

Sacred Heart Church
Attn: Gail Gooney
1739 Ferry Avenue
Camden, New Jersey, 08104
Please mark your check memo: School Sponsorship

No comments: