The children were lined up in the cafeteria of a Catholic elementary school for lunch. At the head of the table was a large pile of apples. The nun made a note, and posted on the apple tray: "Take only ONE. God is watching."
Moving further along the lunch line, at the other end of the table was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies. A child had written a note, "Take all you want. God is watching the apples.”
Lent is a great time to think about the fruit and the cookies. Maybe you’ve even given up chocolate as many people do for Lent? How many of us know that we should probably eat the apple – it’s healthier, more nutritious, etc. but we end up going for the chocolate cookies because we just have a weakness and want to indulge?
Let's use the analogy as we reflect for a moment on our annual appeal, ShareLife. The weekend of April 1/2 is ShareLife Sunday and probably a good time to consider ShareLife as the apple in our life, the one that we probably should pay more attention to, that will help our spiritual health and the reality of those who are struggling both here at home and around the world. While the cookie or excess in our life may be more tempting, what are we really called to focus on?
ShareLife is our annual appeal not someone else’s campaign. It has its roots in the catholic community. For those not completely familiar with the history of the charity, it started way back in 1976 when the Archbishop of the time, Philip Pocock, made a courageous decision. The United Way of Greater Toronto funded a number of Catholic agencies at the time but made a decision to include funding for a number of agencies that supported pro-abortion activities.
Archbishop Pocock took a very firm stand and decided to sever ties with the United Way of Greater Toronto. This created a significant gap in funding and the need to start a new charity to bridge the gap for our catholic charities. The result? ShareLife was born.
ShareLife agencies continue to help those most in need: a pregnant teen in crisis with nowhere to turn, a couple looking for counselling to open the lines of communication once again; helping seniors live their twilight years with dignity and compassion; a summer camp experience for deaf children.
It was a rallying cry for Catholics who literally went door to door in their neighbourhoods asking people to support the cause. 35 years later, the charity touches the lives of more than 225,000 people every year, they’ve raised hundreds of millions of dollars and are a leader in fiscal responsibility with more than 90 cents of every dollar going directly to those who need it most.
It can be easy to think of people turning to ShareLife agencies for help as “those people”, the faceless or nameless individuals who will be served each year. But we’re really talking about your neighbour, relative or close friend. I can think of three examples in the last month of people in my own circle of contacts who have turned to a ShareLife agency for assistance. Wouldn’t we do everything we could to help a friend in need?
They also support overseas development and missionary work, reaching out to more than 60 countries worldwide. We can't forget ShareLife's support of men studying for the priesthood at St. Augustine's Seminary either. More than 225,000 people will be served by ShareLife's 30+ agencies this year. Quite a family.
Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words. That quote from St. Francis of Assisi reminds us of our call as members of the catholic family in our Archdiocese to live a faith that acts.
So this brief reflection is not going to challenge you to go door to door. I’m not going to ask you to canvass your neighbours to support ShareLife. (What a relief you're thinking...)What I am going to ask is that you personally make a sacrificial gift to the ShareLife appeal this year. The challenge is to put down the indulgence - the chocolate chip cookie for the healthier alternative - the apple.
How can each one of us be that beacon of hope to Frank, the alcoholic to Sally and John who are in a broken relationship? Who will shepherd Rahim, a newcomer to our country or Linda, a special needs child?
These are the apples among us, waiting to be fed through your support of ShareLife. So this Lent, you didn't just give up chocolate. You changed a life forever, following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Not a bad reason to shelve the cookie and keep on sharing...
Photos: Archdiocese of Toronto