Monday, January 28, 2013

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Mass for Catholic Schools Week)

Note--this homily is different than the first one I posted for this Sunday in Ordinary Time.  We celebrated Mass with our kids from school and they did the serving, music, lectoring and gifts.  This homily was specifically addressed to our families from the school.
            Two thoughts came to me when I thought about how the Israelites in the first reading listened to Ezra read from the Law from sun up until noon.  First, I decided to go with the longer version of the 2nd reading for Mass.  If the Israelites could listen for five or six hours, we can listen to a minute or two more.  Thanks, N. for your excellent reading for this!  Second, I wondered what it would be like to listen to Fr. Rich preach for five hours.  Though it seems like that long every time he takes the pulpit!
            Can someone remind me what we celebrate this week?  [Younger student answers] “Catholic Schools Week.”  And how are we celebrating Catholic schools this week?  [Students answer:] “decorating our doors,” “dressing up,” “playing the staff in volleyball,” and “having Fr. Rich and Fr. Ben play a game.”  Yes, we have a great week coming up.  For the record, the staff will be destroying the sixth-graders in volleyball and I will be destroying Fr. Rich in any game we play.
            Why do we celebrate Catholic schools this week?  Put in another way, what is your favorite part of attending St. John’s school?  [Students respond:] “we have God,” and “we get to pray.”  Wow, impressive.  I promise, I did not bribe the kids to say any of that!  You are exactly right.  We praise God for a week of Catholic schools because we are blessed with so many gifts He gives us in school.  And whenever we thank God we celebrate.
            Let me share two parts of our school that I am grateful for.  First, our readings today show how important the Bible is in our lives.  The Israelites listened attentively for five or six hours, the Psalm reminds us: “Your words, Lord, are spirit and life,” and Jesus even quotes the Old Testament.  I am proud that we take learning God’s Word at school.  What are some ways we do this?  [Student responds:] “You give us candy to memorize verses.”  I do?  Yep, I do indeed encourage our students to memorize verses!  [6th grader responds:]  “you give us homework slips if we don’t!”  Indeed—both the 5th and 6th graders have another incentive to memorize their verses—by not getting a slip!  Where else do we learn about the Bible at school?  [Student responds:] “in religion class.”  You bet—we are blessed to have time in our day to read and pray with God’s Word.  Where else?  [Student responds:] “Mass.”  Excellent!  We are so blessed to attend Mass each Wednesday where we hear God’s Word and then experience the Word made flesh in the Eucharist.  This is by far the highlight of our week.
            Second, I appreciate how our school, like St. Paul’s image of the Body of Christ, has many important members that make up one body.  We have a wonderful principal, Mrs. Frederickson, and excellent teachers.  They excel not only in teaching their subject materials, but also in leading our children in the faith.  Our volunteers, staff and maintenance men keep our building ship shape and ensure the odds and ends are taken care of.  Dare I say, we also have great priests here.  Now, I rarely would say such a thing in public, but Fr. Rich has always inspired me in how involved he has been at school.  He probably sees the kids two or three times every day and even opens their milk cartons at lunch!  I have never met a priest who has spent more time in the school than Fr. Rich and he has shown me how important the mission of our school is in my own priestly call.  Finally, we have our parents who do so much to bring their family here and most importantly our students.  We certainly couldn’t have a school without you!
            We gather this morning at Mass—the highlight of our school, parish and lives.  We come to hear God’s Word and then experience the Word made flesh in the Eucharist.  This is the greatest source of strength for our school and we pray this morning that we may be strengthened in our faith and mission.  We want all of you to know you are welcome here at Mass every weekend.  And kids, if your Mom or Dad forgets to bring you each week, remind them and ask them to take you because you want to experience God’s love for you! 
            Let’s have a great Catholic schools week, praising God for the great gift St. John’s School is to all of us, and ask that we may be drawn ever more closely to Jesus through this week.

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