Monday, February 2, 2015

Homily 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Capital Campaign Kickoff

          In the Gospel today Jesus preaches in the synagogue in Capernaum – a town in Galilee on the shore of the sea by the same name.  Archeologists believe they have found the ruins of a 3rd Century A.D. synagogue there, which is built on a foundation from the first century; in other words the actual building we hear about in today’s Gospel, where Jesus preached and worked the miracle we just heard about. 
          All that is left is the foundation.  The rest of the building Jesus preached in has fallen down long ago.  Buildings have a tendency to do that.  
          (put up rock from church on pulpit).  This hunk of rock is NOT from Capernaum, but from our very own church.  We have a problem that I want to address with you today.   (put down rock).
          But first, we heard in the Gospel:  “The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.”
          What kind of authority did Jesus have?   Not governmental.  Jesus was not from the royal court.  It was not military authority.  Not priestly or clerical.  Not academic, Jesus had no advanced degrees and probably the scantest of formal education if any.  Not professional authority, he was not a lawyer or doctor or professional.  Nor did Jesus have the authority of great wealth.  
          Rather, I think the authority Jesus had was the authority of being authentic.  His words rang true. His words meshed with His actions.  He spoke from someplace deep in Himself that touched other people.  Jesus’ words had authority because they were authentic. 
          I think we see this with Pope Francis.  His words are heartfelt, genuine, honest – sometimes too honest.  He lives what he preaches.  Even though he is Pope, people who don’t care at all about his being Pope – including some Catholics I might add – still listen to Pope Francis and take his words to heart because his words have authority, solely because they are so authentic.
          That is how Jesus was.  It is how Jesus still is.  It is how we are called to be.  We are called to share and proclaim the Good News of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ.  In that sense we are called to be evangelizers.  St. Austin’s Parish is called to be an evangelizing parish, served by the Paulists, deep in the heart of Texas. 
          To do that we have to earn the respect and hearing of others by our authenticity.  We have to live what we preach.  Only then can we authoritatively proclaim genuine Good News.
          Just as Jesus used the synagogue of Capernaum to preach the Good News, so this building is a tool we as a parish use to evangelize. We conduct various religious services and other activities here which are integral to our effort to evangelize.   Even our physical presence on the drag, announcing our presence, is a part of our effort to evangelize.
          But after 60 + years our church building needs some work.  If you want proof of that need, go outside, stand across the street and take a good look at the front of our church. 
          So we are going to give the exterior of our church and rectory some TLC.  A team of dedicated parishioners on the Finance Council, the Building Committee, the Parish Staff, and the Campaign Committee have been preparing for this effort.  And I am pleased to announce to you that this weekend marks the official kickoff of the “Faithful to Our Mission” Capital Campaign.
          What is our mission as St. Austin’s Parish?  To share the Good News of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ.  Everything else is secondary.  All the parts of the parish – the school, the liturgies, the social outreach, the small Christian communities, the Knights of Columbus, the Prayer Blanket Ministry, the educational programs, all ultimately have to serve the mission of being an evangelizing parish.
          And being “Faithful to Our Mission” means giving us the tools to share the Good News of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ.  Specifically in this capital campaign we will 1) address the safety concerns related to the exterior of the church and rectory buildings.  2)  improve our appearance and presence on the Drag,   3) provide accessible bathrooms, more usable space for programs like Children’s Liturgy of the Word, and 4) reduce St. Austin’s debt in order to provide the wherewithal for our parish to carry out the programming that will allow us to accomplish our goals.
          This is an exciting and dynamic time in the life of our parish.  Many parishioners have stepped forward to be leaders and volunteers in the capital campaign effort.  And now the “Faithful To Our Mission” campaign is coming directly to YOU.
          Earlier this week you were mailed a letter from me asking you to consider a sacrificial donation to the “Faithful To Our Mission” campaign.  With that letter was a colorful brochure describing the goals of the campaign, and suggesting a pledge over three years.  (hold up brochure)
          Our goal over the next 6 or so weeks is to have full participation from all our St. Austin parish families.  We are asking everyone – University Students and singles included - to make a sacrificial pledge.  Some will be able to make very large gifts, some can make small gifts, others somewhere in the middle. 
I have made my pledge, and I am asking every family or individual to make a gift.  I am asking for equal sacrifice from every parishioner, not equal gifts.
          The campaign goal is $4 million.  It is a stretch, but the leadership team believes it is fully do-able.  And it is.  That goal allows us to position our parish for evangelization now and for the future. 
          In the coming days and weeks you will be contacted by one of the St Austin parish volunteers.  Please take the time to visit with them, to learn about our project, and how you can help make sure we accomplish our goals.
          To help track our campaign we have a campaign towermeter – like a thermometer but shaped like our tower.  You can see we are already at  
$ 500,000 pledged.   A great start. 
          One of the goals of the campaign is to give you frequent status updates and keep you informed of our progress.  You can also find more information on the campaign on the parish website, and the FAQ pages in the racks at the back of church.
          Jesus taught with authority.  Pope Francis speaks with authenticity.  We need to show concretely and specifically our commitment to our parish, our faith, our mission.  Please join St Austin’s Parish as we strive to be “Faithful To Our Mission.” 

          THANK YOU!   Fr Chuck

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