Last week we celebrated Catholic Schools Week. It was wonderful to see our school children assisting at Mass. The theme for this year was “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.” The theme beautifully encompasses the core products and values that can be found in Catholic schools across the country. In Catholic schools, we not only teach students to become future servant leaders, faith-filled disciples and engaged citizens, but we learn and grow with our children. Our schools remind us that we also are learners, servants and leaders. These shared values make us different from other school systems, and these values help us grow and succeed. As your pastor, I am proud to mentor students and to learn and grow with them.
If you did not have an opportunity to visit our school last week or thank our wonderful school staff it is not too late. Please stop by the school and see our students’ work in the classrooms. You can also support the school by encouraging your friends and neighbors, particularly those who may be considering Catholic education for their children or grandchildren, to consider our Academy. As a graduate of Catholic school, I can tell you one thing for certain: it is a worthwhile investment. When I am asked what does a Catholic education provide and why do people work so hard to attend a Catholic school, my answer is three-fold: a Catholic school provides an academically excellent education, it provides faith-based formation that allows each student to develop a moral foundation on which to stand for the rest of his or her life, and thirdly, it enables students to think beyond themselves and consider the needs of others, such as the less privileged in society.
The readings this week remind us that it is challenging to live our faith today. But at the same time, we should have and show the courage of our Christian convictions in our Faith and in its practice in our communities, even when we face rejection. We need to live and share our faith with courage.
The first reading describes the call of Jeremiah. He had faith in God even though he did not believe he was ready for his ministry. God assures Jeremiah that he is ready and that He will be with him. Knowing Jeremiah’s heart and also his weaknesses, God equips him to face opposition and rejection. In his prophetic vocation, which he lived out while encountering rejection and persecution, Jeremiah prefigured Jesus, the greatest of all prophets.
In the second reading, we hear Paul speaking with the courage of his convictions in correcting the Corinthian Christian community where the exercise of God’s gifts was causing competition, jealousy and divisiveness. He courageously presented them with a “way” which surpasses all others, namely, the way of love and instructs them to exercise their gifts with love.
The Gospel reading is a continuation of last Sunday’s reading presenting His own people’s reaction to Jesus’ “Inaugural Address” at the synagogue of Nazareth. The passage shows us how Jesus faced skepticism and criticism with prophetic courage. Jeremiah, Paul, and Jesus believed that they were commissioned by God to proclaim a disturbing or challenging prophetic message. Though they faced opposition, they fervently believed that God was with them.
Perhaps we have experienced the pain of rejection, betrayal, abandonment, violated trust, neglect or abuse, even from friends and family members, when we reached out to them as God’s agents of healing and saving grace. Perhaps we ourselves are guilty of such actions and guilty of ignoring or humiliating people with our arrogance, judgment and prejudice. Let us learn to recognize our actions, correct our mistakes, and face rejection from others with courage while always remembering that God is with us, and we are just His agents, doing His will.
The readings remind us that the greatest gifts are faith, hope, and love, and we must not be discouraged or remain silent in the face of evil or when sharing our faith. Jesus taught us to love and respect others without condoning or encouraging sinful behavior. We need to be kind, charitable, honest and forgiving, but clear and firm in living and announcing our Christian convictions as Jesus did when He spoke in the synagogue at Nazareth.