Summary: It is necessary for us to teach our children to run the race, and to run to win
Septuagesima Sunday 2016
Year of Mercy
Run to win. We stand here together some seventy days before Easter to let St. Paul and St. Matthew and yes the Blessed Trinity all tell us the unvarnished truth: we are all works in progress, sinners becoming saints. We cannot stop running, or run with half a heart. We are called to drink the same spiritual drink–the Blood of Christ that was given for the forgiveness of our sins. We are all called to eat the same supernatural food–the Body of Christ that heals and strengthens us and energizes us for the race and brings us together to announce and celebrate the Gospel. But we must constantly examine our conscience, admit what evil we have done and what good we have refused to do, and allow Christ to change our hearts, fill us with His Spirit, and change our behavior. The effects of original sin are still disordering our world. Just consider the sad anniversary we commemorated last Friday. We cannot shirk in our mission to this world. St. Theresa was exactly right. Our life is like a bad night in a cheap hotel, and our response must be to point to the day that will follow, the Resurrection that can follow death, and help others to live for that day.
On Friday, by the grace of God, I began my seventieth year of this earthly phase of my life. For all the great gifts of God, I gave and give thanks. They are too many to list but I head them off with life in Christ and an awesome spouse and family. Folks sometimes wonder why I still teach, and even more after almost twenty years in Catholic schools why do I teach in a public school. Let me share that story in the light of today’s Gospel. And in doing so, let me tell you why you and I should still choose and support Catholic schools, and not just during Catholic schools week.
I was adopted by a Catholic couple when I was ten days old, and baptized a couple of weeks later on the Feast of the Purification. I’m told by their old friends that mom and dad intended to adopt more kids, but I must have been a handful, because I was it. Yet they knew that I needed companions in order to grow into the man they wanted me to be, so they made the sacrifice to send me to Catholic schools (all boys) for twelve years. There I was surrounded by young men who mostly professed the same faith as our family, and I learned my religious practices and beliefs along with math and reading and chemistry. It was in every way a complete education of the spirit, mind and body, led by men and women both lay and religious.
These days you see all over the city billboards and radio spots and bumper stickers that say “go public.” There is a big pushback against the idea of vouchers for nonpublic schools. State schools have some big advantages over our Catholic schools. Consider capital improvements. North East ISD just passed a half billion dollar bond issue. Catholic schools are not supported by taxes, so there’s no bond issue in their future. St. Pius put together a first-class facility in our new gym, library, and labs, but it cost a lot of parishioner and parent money, funds that have been miraculously finished by two generous donors for whom we should sing a Te Deum. So I teach in a very well appointed science lab, and our work at Johnson High has also been supported in the past year by three generous grants. So why am I so high on Catholic schools?
The most important goal of anyone’s life is not a good education, a good job, a handsome spouse, a great pension plan, a beautiful house or high-powered car. Fulfillment in life does not come from the things of this world. True fulfillment, true happiness only comes when we end our earthly life in the arms of the Father, when we gaze constantly on the beauty of the Blessed Trinity. What does it profit anyone to gain the whole world at the loss of his soul? The foundation of Catholic schools is formation in faith–the faith of Jesus Christ. The prime directive of a Catholic educator is to help young people become like Jesus and Mary. That’s something I can’t even talk about in my public school. It’s only recently that we were again permitted to say “Merry Christmas” in December. We have to be very guarded in our speech both with fellow faculty members and parents and students. What Catholic schools are built to do is literally against the law in a state school.
The love of God is paramount in Catholic schools. But service to our neighbor is right up there in the curricular top-five. Not only that, I believe especially in these days that the kids in Catholic schools develop stronger bonds with their schoolmates and parishes than otherwise would be true.