Homily — 24th Sun. OT C (Catechetical Sunday) 9/16/07

Homily — 24th Sun. OT C (Catechetical Sunday)           9/16/07

We observe this weekend National Catechetical Sunday in parishes through the United States.

At the 10 a.m. Mass, those who teach in our Religious Education Program received a blessing as they begin the School Year. CCD for Grades 1-8 begins tomorrow; Confirmation for Grades 9-10 begins at the end of the month.

Whether we are a CCD or Catholic School teacher, or a parent (who are the real, primary educators of the faith for their children) or godparent or grandparent, for all of us there’s one aim of Religious Education.

And one could call that aim the “Prodigal Son Prevention Plan.” — keeping these children and young adults from growing up to be like that younger son in the parable.

We are all familiar with this story — how the younger son, when he was old enough to be on his own, took his inheritance and journeyed far away from his Father and his Father’s house.

For many years, the son never came back to visit his Father, and never wrote or called to see how his brother, his other relatives were doing.

And no matter where this son went, his Father would send him messages;  but the son didn’t respond to the messages, and even left the letters the Father sent to him unopened and unread.

The goal, my brothers and sisters, of religious education is to try to help the youth of our parish avoid making the same mistakes that younger son made.

To help our youth value the inheritance God the Father has given them — their God given gifts and talents, their education and skills — and to use that inheritance to glorify God the Father, rather than use their talents for sinful or selfish motives.

And we also hope and pray, that through the Religious Education we give them, our young people will come visit God the Father each week in “the Father’s House”, their parish Church; that they will have a care and concern for their brothers and sisters in Christ that they worship with.

We hope and pray that they would listen to and answer the “messages” God the Father sends them — that they would listen to, and follow and form their Consciences throughout their lives, in accord with the teachings of our Holy Catholic Church.

And that as adults, they will read each day the Holy Scriptures, which are the letters of love and encouragement and guidance God the Father sends them.

And we also pray that, through the seeds faith we plant in these young people, if they do wander far away from the Father and His House, that they will come to their senses like the prodigal son did, be given the grace to make that journey home to the Father House.

So this is the goal before us as we begin a new academic year of religious education.

But not only is CCD a “prodigal son prevention plan,” it has to be an “older son prevention plan” as well.

Pope Benedict, in his recently released book “Jesus of Nazareth,” speaks about how we who do go to Church can easily fall into the trap of legalism that the older son fell into, the trap of seeing following God as just a set of rules, of dos and don’ts, perhaps more don’ts than dos.

Because the older son represents people who obey God’s rules, but do so grudgingly, joylessly and half-heartedly.

The Pope says in people like this “there’s an inward bitterness regarding their own obedience (to the Father) . . . .in their heart of hearts, they would have gladly” done the things their younger brother did with his inheritance.

In the older sons, “There is an unspoken envy of what others have been able to get away with.”

The Pope concludes by saying that in the person of the older son, “Christ is addressing . . . . the ones who never left home, encouraging (them) too to convert truly and to find joy in our faith.”

And so the challenge is to teach our children that it is the greatest of joys to follow Jesus, to “take up His yoke and learn from Him.”

The challenge is to teach them that embracing God’s commandments is what makes us truly free.  But if we don’t believe that, if we become lukewarm like the older son, there’s no way others are going to learn from us.

So as we begin our Catechetical Year, may Jesus help all of us in this very important task of teaching the youth of our parish the splendor of the Catholic Faith.

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