I write you this briefly through Silvanus, whom I consider a faithful brother, exhorting you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Remain firm in it. The chosen one at Babylon sends you greeting, as does Mark, my son. Greet one another with a loving kiss. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
Why do people support charitable organizations? I've done some fund raising in my life and I learned that people give because a particular person asked. They might believe in the organization (#2) or the cause (#3). They might even want a tax deduction (#6) but the primary (#1) reason they give is they know and trust the person who is asking for money. In the end, life is about our personal relationships; the happiest people are those who trust and are trusted by others.
The Church has taken a bad rap in the last few years, especially in the secular media. People who were already distant from the Church were further alienated by the news stories. But the people who attended church regularly and liked their pastors stayed. They often spoke in defense of their priests and reassured them of their support.
Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Mark and our first reading, from the First Letter of Saint Peter makes a passing reference to the Evangelist Saint Mark. Peter calls him "my son." We suppose that means a disciple and protégé of the first pope. ("Babylon" is the empyreal city of Rome.)
This early document reminds us that "the church" is just people, a group of men and women with their children who support one another in the practice of our faith.
When Saint Francis wrote his "last will and testament" he said, "The Lord gave me brothers." By the time he wrote that document the small band had grown into an enormous organization, but he urged the friars to think of one another as brothers and friends. Our loyalty is to one another, not the institution. If we were to go bankrupt, as happens periodically, we would still support one another. We'd just find ways to adapt.
In the VA hospital most of the Catholic men and women I meet have fallen away from the Church. There are many reasons; each one is a story. Some have real complaints about the people whose mean or cruel behavior drove them away. Some were so appalled by what they experienced in the military they lost all faith in "right and wrong." Others experienced upheaval as they entered the military or "recommissioned" back to civilian life; they forgot to recommit to their community of faith. In the rush toward adulthood they sought education, a spouse, a career and a place to live before considering church.
They don't come to the hospital to meet the chaplain but they may be here due to that omission. Life without faith can be pretty brutal.
I hope that in meeting me and receiving the sacraments I offer -- Anointing of the Sick, Eucharist and Reconciliation -- they might rediscover the fellowship which Jesus founded so long ago. A few of us are exemplary saints; most of us are decent people who trust the Son of Mary and gratefully gather to worship his Father.