Homily — 3rd Sunday Ordinary Time A Jan 27, 2008
We see in the readings today, Our Lord Jesus beginning to proclaim “The Gospel of the Kingdom“.
Matthew says He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.
This “Gospel” Jesus proclaimed would have been something totally different from anything that the people would have previously heard. Even the very word “Gospel” would have been strange sounding to the people of Galilee, coming from a religious figure like Jesus. They would have said “The Gospel? What’s the Gospel got to do with our religion? Moses never spoke about a Gospel, the Psalms or the Prophets never spoke about a Gospel. Where does He get that from?”
In fact, the only person who spoke of a Gospel before Jesus and John the Baptist was the Roman Emperor.
The Emperor in Jesus’ day saw himself as a god and a savior of his people. And from time to time, the Emperor would issue what was called an evangelium, the Latin word for Gospel, which was a decree from “god the Roman Emperor” which would have to be followed by all his subjects.
As he considered himself a god, these Gospels the Emperor issued were considered, by him at least, to be ushering in a better world than before.
More often than not however, these Gospels would be decrees which raised taxes, forced young men into military service, or declared war on some smaller and weaker country.
So these Gospels were not exactly what you would call “Good News.” And most of the time these Gospels issued by the Emperor made the world a much worse place to live in, rather than a better place.
But it’s this same word “Gospel” that Jesus choses to use to describe his teaching. However, whereas the Roman Emperor thought he was god but really wasn’t, Jesus thinks He’s God and really is.
And therefore, unlike the Roman Emperor’s “Gospels”, Jesus’ Gospel always does make the world an easier place to live in, for those who accept it. For Emperor Jesus in today’s Scriptures decrees a Gospel which is a Kingdom of Hope, of Mercy, of Wisdom, and of Charity come to earth in the hearts and lives of those who believe in Him.
But in order for this Gospel of Jesus to take root, we need to be schooled in it. We see in the reading today Jesus went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people..
Jesus spent a great deal of His time teaching people the ways of God, so that they would be able to embrace His Gospel and find healing.
We observe this weekend throughout our country Catholic Schools Sunday. At the 10 a.m. Mass this weekend, the school children from Good Shepherd Catholic Regional School next door will do the readings and serve at the altar, and the student choir of 45 children will supply the music.
And Catholic education needs to be mainly about training our children and young people in the ways of God — teaching them the wonderful doctrines of our Catholic Faith, teaching them the moral laws Christ and His Church give us to live by, teaching them how to pray and worship God, both publicly through the celebration of Mass and the Sacraments, and privately through personal prayer and devotions such as the Holy Rosary.
I’m happy to say that our Catholic Regional School system, of which Good Shepherd is a part of, places a strong emphasis on the Faith aspect of the education of students, at the same time keeping a high standard in the other areas of education.
Because Catholic Schools have a very vital important mission in our Church.
When St. Elizabeth Seton, one of the first canonized American born saints, started the Catholic School system in America, she said that Catholic Schools “are of the greatest importance for the propagation and preservation of the Catholic faith in the United States.”
St. Elizabeth Seton’s belief was that if Catholic schools weren’t strong, the Catholic Faith wouldn’t spread to other people in this country; and if Catholic schools weren’t strong, neither would the Catholic Faith survive in this country.
That is because just as it was in Jesus’ day, if people aren’t taught well the Gospel, there’s no way that they can be able to fully embrace the Gospel and benefit from it.
On this Catholic Schools Sunday, let us ask St. Elizabeth Seton’s and St. Don Bosco’s and all the other great Catholic educators to intercede for our Catholic schools in Rhode Island and America today, and may we do all we can to support the mission of Catholic Education of our youth.