To me, the Catholic Appeal is an opportunity to answer the Gospel invitation to reach out to the poor, the ill, and those seeking Christ's healing presence.
As co-chair of the Catholic Appeal Leadership Committee and pastor of a collaborative, I know firsthand how the Catholic Appeal benefits not only the archdiocese's Central Ministries, but parishes themselves. By supporting the Catholic Appeal, we are in reality supporting the work of Christ through the ministry of his Church. Sometimes, we may not notice all that the archdiocesan ministries offer, but their work continues the mission of Christ, especially to those most in need.
To me, the Catholic Appeal is an opportunity to answer the Gospel invitation to reach out to the poor, the ill, and those seeking Christ's healing presence. As I was reflecting on this, the story of the "Fourth Wise Man" came to mind. This story tells the fictional account of Artaban, an astrologer from Persia, who like the other Magi saw a bright star announcing the birth of the King of the Jews. He gathers his treasured gems -- a sapphire, a ruby, and a pearl -- to give to the new King. As he prepares to join the caravan of the other Three Magi, he stops along the way to assist a dying man. This act of kindness costs him one of his gifts and prevents him from meeting the caravan.
Artaban, alone but still determined to find this new King, begins a journey that spans more than 33 years and brings him through Bethlehem, Egypt, Nazareth, and finally Jerusalem. At every step of the way, Artaban encounters people in need and is so moved by their plight that he interrupts his journey to help them. He sells another of his gems and is able to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the sick and the dying. Artaban still longs to pay homage to the King, but he cannot turn his back on those whom society so easily disregards.
When he finally finds himself in Jerusalem, Artaban is stunned to discover that Pilate has condemned a man named Jesus to death for claiming to be the Son of God. He is convinced that Jesus must be the King whom he had been seeking, and having one gem left, decides to offer it to Pilate to save Jesus's life. However, before he makes it to Pilate, his gem is needed to ransom a young girl from being sold into slavery. After he saves the girl, he sees in the distance three crosses on a hill and knows he is too late and has failed in his quest to honor the King. Later, as Artaban lies dying, he has a vision of Jesus, who thanks him for his gifts. Confused, Artaban questions the Lord, telling him, "I never gave you any gifts," to which Jesus replies, "Amen I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me."
Through our commitment to the Catholic Appeal, we can become like Artaban and offer our gifts to Christ by supporting the work to continue Christ's mission to evangelize and educate the faithful, serve the poor, comfort the ill and dying, and work to promote a just and moral society.
On the weekend of March 11 and 12, parishioners will be asked to prayerfully consider a gift or pledge to the 2017 Catholic Appeal. On behalf of Cardinal Seān and the Catholic Appeal Leadership Committee, I thank you in advance for your support of this year's Appeal. May the Lord bless you for your generosity!
Father Louis Palmieri is pastor of the Quincy Catholic Collaborative of Sacred Heart, St. Ann, and St. Mary Parishes.