21st Sunday Ordinary Time B August 27, 2006

Homily — 21st Sunday Ordinary Time B August 27, 2006

Christ the Teacher (Mt. Angel Abbey Icons)

As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

The “back to school” time of year is now upon us, the school next door starts next Wednesday, public schools in two weeks, and this weekend many young adults have packed up and headed off to college, some for the first time.

Those of us who have already graduated from high school or college could probably remember one course that we were required to take, either in high school or in college, that we really had to struggle through in order to get a passing grade.

Of all the courses we took in school, this one course was the toughest for us; we did well in the other subjects, but we just weren’t gifted in that particular one.

But as much as we wished to just drop that course, we couldn’t. It was a required course. If we wanted to graduate, we needed to buck up and work hard to pass that course.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, as our children go back to school, it’s good to remind ourselves that as disciples, as students of Christ the Teacher, school is always in session. We enrolled in the School of the Good Shepherd at our Baptism, and we must continue to learn and grow in knowledge of Christ each day of our lives, until Christ hands us our diploma on our particular judgment day immediately after we die.

And today’s readings remind us that, every now and then in this school of the Good Shepherd, Christ our Teacher will require us to take a course in our Religion that will challenge us, really test our resolve as disciples of Jesus.

What exactly that course is depends a great deal on the circumstances we currently find ourselves trying to follow Jesus in. An adolescent teenager or young adult, for instance, will be challenged by different courses than a middle aged person. A middle aged, married person will be challenged by different courses than an unmarried senior citizen. A rich and prominent person will be challenged by Jesus in different ways than a poor, common person.
Christians may struggle with different aspects of the faith depending upon whether they are male or female, whether they are living in America or living in China or Saudi Arabia, whether it’s the 3rd Century during the Roman Persecutions, or the High Middle Ages of the 13th Century, or the post-modern, post-Christian 21st Century.

Who we are and where we are will depend on what courses we struggle with, and what ones we find easier, but one thing is certain: the curriculum is standard for every baptized believer. Courses in Faith, in Forgiveness, in each of the Ten Commandments. Courses in Fidelity, in Truthfulness, in Chastity. Courses in the Cross, in Persecution, in Perseverance. You and I and every baptized believer are required to take and pass these same required courses Christ had his followers take 2000 years ago. And Christians 2000 years from now will also be required to take these same courses we’re taking now.

In today’s Gospel, we see Christ the Teacher finish up His teaching on the Holy Eucharist. The Gospel writer John, who was there, states Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said “This saying is hard, who can accept it?” And the Gospel concludes by saying many of His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Jesus. They dropped out of His school, because belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist was just too tough for these particular disciples.

It’s very sad when every now and then we hear of people who leave the Church or even stop believing in God because Jesus enrolls them in a course that they find too challenging given their circumstances.

If only these people before throwing in the towel tried to use the many study aids Christ the Teacher gives His disciples. For every tough course Jesus enrolls us in, there’s the Bible and the Catechism as the best of reference books, there’s the writings of the Saints, and the Communion of Saints to help us. There’s the power of prayer, the power of the sacraments to help us get through the course were enrolled in. There’s our parish community, and many spiritual guides such as priests and others who’ve also struggled in the past with some of the same courses but have made it through them, who can peer tutor us. Finally, if we are really flunking out in a certain subject, the confessional is the greatest tool to get our Grade Point Average above passing!

But one of the worst things we can do is what many of the disciples did in the Gospel today: drop out, stop following Jesus, stop going to Mass, when faced with an aspect of the faith that challenges us.

But that is only one of the worst things we could do as students of Christ the Teacher. An even worse thing we can do is stay enrolled in the course, but cheat our way through it.

How often these days we hear on the news “60% of Catholics don’t believe in this teaching of the faith, 40% of Catholics think this teaching should be changed” These Catholics, when they come across a tough course they don’t particularly like, just blow off their homework, refuse to take the tests, skip the class, and then on Sunday waltz up to receive communion as if they were honors students!

That’s cheating. You might get away with it for quite a while, maybe for your whole life as the road to destruction is wide and many travel on it, but come graduation day, expect a blank diploma from the Teacher and a place with the goats.

And so as we students come here today to Worship God, some of us currently find ourselves with a fairly easy course load from Christ, others of us a more demanding one, still others the toughest course load of our lives so far.

And today some of us gathered here are currently on Christ’s high honor role, many others are barely passing, and others flat out failing some key required courses.

May Christ give all us students the grace never to drop out of this most prestigious of Schools, and may He even more deliver us from even the thought of cheating on His tests.

And May Christ, the Bread of Life, give all of us disciples of His the grace to say firmly with Peter until our graduation day, Master, you alone have the words of eternal life.

One Response to “21st Sunday Ordinary Time B August 27, 2006”

  1. Rudy says:

    Father Wooley, I enjoyed your homily of last Saturday. You obviously spent lots of time and thought on this topic and it showed. I learned a lot.