Monday, January 27, 2014

The light of Christ at St. John's Catholic School: 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Catholic Schools Week Mass)

            I’m going to start with a quiz question.  It’s kind of hard, but the sixth graders should know the answer because I was in the classroom when they had a presentation about our readings today.  How is the first reading and the gospel from today related?  [6th grader answers:] “Some of the words were the same.”  That’s right.  In fact, Matthew quotes our first reading from Isaiah in his own writing.
            The key line is: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”  Isaiah said this to encourage the Israelites who were facing utter defeat.  Their nation had just been defeated by the Babylonians and they faced destruction and devastation in their cities and homes.  Many were exiled from their homeland to a foreign place.
            Matthew uses the same expression to point to Jesus.  Since Jesus has come we, who walk in a dark world, can see a great light.  We can always have hope in Christ who shines in the darkness.
            One of the great ways Jesus shows his light is through Catholic schools.  This week we celebrate Catholic schools across our country and we are blessed to start our week with Sunday Mass.
I want to ask the kids, how do we see the light of Jesus at St. John’s?  How do experience God’s love for us at school?  [Student responds:] “We pray!”  Yes, we do.  And when do we pray?  Do we pray to start the day?  “Yes.”  How about the end of the day?  “Yes.”  Before lunch?  “Yes.”  After lunch?  “Yes.”  That’s right, our days our filled with prayer every day. 
            Do you know how blessed you are to pray with your teachers at school?  You are learning to offer your whole day to God by offering simple prayers throughout the day.  And you wouldn’t get to pray with your teachers throughout the day in public school.
            How else does Christ’s light shine in school?  Well, from the choir loft we have a hand.  Do you feel like God speaking to us from above?  “Yep.  We have religion class.”  Good one.  We have time set aside especially to learn about God.  Again, this is not true in other schools!
            What else?  “The Bible.”  That’s one of my favorites.  And how do you use the Bible at school?  “You give us candy!”  You bet.  There is no better motivation for elementary kids to memorizing something than Skittles.  We also study the readings for Mass in religion class and pray them at a special time during our week.
            What is this time?  “Mass.”  Got it.  The most important time in our week is when we gather in church at Mass.  This is where Christ most fully lets his light shine on us, and for those of us who are old enough we receive his very Body and Blood in the Eucharist.
            One of my highlights this year has been seeing our students bring the darkness of their sin into the light of Confession.  At the end of last year, we began having monthly Adoration and Confession after our school Mass.  While we do this Kevin plays praise and worship music to which we can sing along.  The first time this year Kevin announced that if anyone wanted to go to Confession they could.  Fr. Rich was in the confessional and I was in the cry room so I could see what was going on in the church.  It was awesome seeing half the kids stand up and get in line for confession.  I thought, “This might take awhile!”
            Many of our adults can look up to you because you go to Confession every month.  Every Catholic should do this.  And if it has been a while, get in there—it gets much easier after you get the big one done.
            As Fr. Rich has often said, the greatest mission of our parish is St. John’s School.  Think about it.  What better way to promote the culture of life than to teach students about the dignity of life from conception to death?  What better way to teach our society that marriage is between a man and a woman than to teach the kids?  Is there a better way to teach our next generation to pray?  To serve?
            If your children are not enrolled in St. John’s School, please consider doing it.  You won’t regret it and the more the merrier in our school family.  And please think about the ways you can donate your time, talent and treasure to make the greatest mission in our parish thrive.

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