By Bishop James Conley
Jesus was a master teacher. He preached powerfully, and his words were effective. He told clever and insightful stories. He had memorable and beautiful phrases that brought his message to life.
But St. John the Evangelist wrote that it wasn’t the words of Jesus that taught the Church to love. It was his actions.
The world came to know love, St. John the Evangelist wrote, because Jesus laid down his life for us.
In response, he added, we ought to lay down our lives for one another. If a Christian “sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion,” he asked, “how can the love of God remain in him?”
“Little children,” St. John wrote, “let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).
Loving in deed and truth means laying down our lives for our friends. It means coming out of ourselves and making sacrifices. It means giving without counting the cost. And this year, as the Diocese of Lincoln begins the Charity and Stewardship Appeal, I invite you to love in deed and truth, just as Jesus Christ did.
The Charity and Stewardship Appeal is the annual campaign that invites every Catholic in the Diocese of Lincoln to make a sacrifice—a commitment to an ongoing gift —to support the ministry of the Church in southern Nebraska. The Charity and Stewardship Appeal supports our schools and parishes, our works of mercy and service, our catechetical programs and missionary outreach. The Charity and Stewardship Appeal supports the Church’s mission of love, expressed in real deeds, and alive in the fullness of the truth.
Last year, more than 75% of funds raised in the Charity and Stewardship Appeal went directly to fund the work of our schools and parishes. This appeal is specifically designed to support the work of the Church in the local communities of our diocese, and to support the coordinated services of charity, ministry, and education, through the spiritual and corporeal works of mercy undertaken on behalf our entire diocese. The entire appeal is designed for one reason: to bring together the generous sacrifices made by Catholics in our diocese, for the sake of the Gospel, in an outpouring of love undertaken in the name of Jesus Christ.
The theme of the 2018 Charity and Stewardship Appeal is “Stewardship: cultivating love in deed and truth.” In truth, it’s obvious to me, wherever I travel in our diocese, how much our parishes understand what it is to love the Lord through sacrifice.
I see that spirit of sacrifice in the faces of parents who volunteer in our parishes, in the work of teachers who go far beyond the requirements of their jobs, and in the ministry of priests and religious, who are available whenever they’re needed, laying down their lives to serve the Lord any time they’re called. Being good stewards means making good use of what the Lord has given us, and, in the Diocese of Lincoln, I’m grateful that so many people are doing just that.
But this year, I would like to challenge those who give to consider whether they can give a bit more, deepening their sacrifice, for the sake our Church, and for the sake of the Lord. I would also like to challenge those who have never pledged to the CSA before, to consider what sacrificial gift they could make in thanksgiving for Christ’s sacrifice. I would like to challenge priests and laity, young people and old, to consider how to emulate the sacrificial love of Jesus through a gift to the Charity and Stewardship Appeal. As your bishop, I am called to give as well, and I have challenged myself to deepen my sacrifice this year, and to increase my commitment—to love the Lord, not just in words, but in deed and in truth.
The Lord has given us everything and he has called us to be good stewards. With a spirit of sacrifice and deep generosity, let us love him—not only in words—but in deed, and in truth.