This morning we gather with our school community to celebrate Catholic schools’ week; a week to celebrate our school and to rededicate ourselves to Catholic education. There are allot of people out there who would ask why have a Catholic school. What is the purpose of school anyways? Parents why do you send your kids to school? Students why do you go to school?
Many people would answer that question by remarking that they need to get a good job so they can make allot of money and be happy. If that’s the case my life is a failure. I have 24 years of Catholic education. I am over educated at a cost of approximately $750,000. With the salary I make it would take me over 30 years to pay that down if it was interest free. Clearly, it has to be about more than just making money and being money happy. What is it then? Why do we study? Why do we send our children to school?
The purpose and the whole reason this parish exists, the whole reason our Catholic school exists, the whole reason our PSR program exists, the whole reason our athletic program exists, the whole reason for all of it is simply to help form people to cooperate with God’s grace to become a saint. That’s the goal. That’s the reason that we do everything.
Now you are probably asking yourself how learning makes you a saint. I struggled through calculus and I don’t use it in my life as priest, yet, you could argue that it builds virtue and character, which I think it does, but there is something more important. The key to all of it is Jesus Christ who is fully God and fully man. He is the fullness of humanity revealing the fullness of divinity. So, if we are called to be saints, we are called to be holy and the best definition I know of holiness is to be like Jesus. Jesus is fully God and fully man. You and I are not God so we cannot be like Him in His divinity, but we are human and so we can be like Him in our humanity. He is the perfect human. As you and I become more perfectly human, we become more like Jesus Christ, we become more holy. Thus, all of our learning and all our knowledge builds up who we are. Even art class, music class, gym, science, math, whatever it is, helps us to develop our full potential to who God made us to be. They make us more perfectly human, more like Jesus Christ, a little more holy. I think when we recognize that everything begins to fall into place. We begin to realize why school is so important, no matter where it leads us in our life. After all this parish exists so that we can become saints.
Even if you think some of the knowledge being taught in school might be worthless you never know how you might use that knowledge. I was involved in discussions with the leaders of one of our nation’s largest hospital systems as they were struggling with a complex issue of patient satisfaction scores and the opioid crisis. After listening for a while, I spoke up and asked them if they had ever considered looking to the inquisition. You should have seen the people in that room just stare at me wondering if I was totally crazy, but I went on to explain to them how the trials of the inquisition worked. Eventually, they started to see how this might work, so one of them asked me how I knew so much about such an obscure topic. Fortunately for me I needed to take a history class in college and who wouldn’t want to take a course entitled “heresy and inquisition in the high middle ages?” But there was a course that clearly was not going to have anything to do with me becoming a priest, was probably not going to have any practical application to my life and yet God found a way to use it to solve a problem.
Friends, you never know how God is going to use what He places in your life. That’s the challenge and invitation of today’s gospel. You see, Jesus calls those first apostles, but He doesn’t tell them how the plan is going to work out. Look I don’t know about you, but I’m not so sure Peter would have followed Jesus if Jesus told him the whole story upfront. If Jesus would have said to Peter, “sit down and let me tell you what is going to happen. You are going to follow me around without a home for three years, right before I die you are going to deny me, and then when I rise from the dead, I am going to put you in charge of getting this Catholic Church started and when we are finally done with that I am going to have you die by hanging upside down on a cross.” I don’t think Peter is leaving his fishing business to follow Jesus.
But what does Jesus do? He starts small, He says, come follow me. He doesn’t tell the whole story but rather day in and day out He invites us to follow Him and as we go down the path, He gives us all the tools and resources we may need so that we can complete the mission. I know there are times when we fall on our knees and beg God to show us the whole picture, but God doesn’t do that because often times we are not ready for the big picture. Instead He says “follow me. Follow me today, follow me tomorrow, follow me 5 years from now, follow me 20 years from now and as we go down this path I will give you the tools and resources you need to live out that plan I have prepared for you.” So, whether we find ourselves in our pre-school program or all the way up to living in a nursing home, the invitation is the same, come follow me, with God’s help become more perfectly yourself, allow the Holy Spirit to transform you into the person you are called to be. That way you become more human, you become more like Jesus, you become more holy.