Tuesday, August 2, 2022
Archbishop Thomas Wenski - The Archdiocese of Miami
Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily while celebrating Mass with archdiocesan school principals and their pastors, Aug. 2, 2022, in the Chapel of St. Anthony on the campus of St. Thomas University, Miami Gardens. The principals and pastors were meeting with staff from the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Schools to prepare for the start of the 2022-23 school year.
Jesus had just finished the feeding of the 5,000. 5,000 men, not counting the women and children, ate their fill in the miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes. He dismisses the crowds and sends his apostles off on a boat — into rough seas, by the way; and he goes off to a mountain top to pray. And while the boat is rocked by waves during a storm, Jesus appears walking on the water toward the boat and the frightened apostles think that they have seen a ghost. Peter attempts to walk on water and is rescued by the Lord and the boat — mysteriously and quickly — reaches the shore.
A similar episode has Jesus asleep in a boat when a storm erupts, and Jesus saves the day — and leaves the apostles wondering: Who is this man that even the winds and the seas obey him? Here he is not in the boat asleep, but he appears amid the churning sea and again does only what God can do. He calms the storm.
“Do not be afraid. It is I,” echoes the words God spoke to Moses in the burning bush. Jesus is basically saying: I AM (Yahweh). The apostles who had just the day before witnessed the feeding of the 5,000 no longer question who Jesus is; they do him homage saying: Truly, you are the Son of God.
The Church’s mission is to share the good news of this Jesus who does what only God can do because he is truly the Son of God and thus can save us. True God and true man, Jesus reveals to us the human face of God and the divine face of man.
Catholic schools serve the mission of the Church — and, I believe, that our Catholic schools are the best means we have to evangelize not only the children enrolled in our schools but their parents. So, I urge you to see the school as the most important ministry of the parish. And, as far as parish ministry goes, it probably uses the most resources — both in personnel as well as in finances. Principals and pastors should make every effort to maximize the potential of our schools for evangelization. And one of the areas — among many important ones — is encouraging the kids and their parents to be at Mass on Sundays.
Without embarrassing or putting any kid on the spot, teachers on Monday mornings could speak about their own Mass attendance the day before; or on Fridays they could give gentle reminders about not missing Mass. Creative strategies — with cooperation of pastors and principals — could increase Mass attendance. For example, you could have a Sunday choir made up of second graders; they won’t be able to get there on their own. Without pressuring or proselytizing, non-Catholic kids (and their parents) could be invited into RCIA programs. Priests could work on getting civilly married or not married couples married in the Church — perhaps in time for their kids’ first Communions, etc. Why not focus on school parents for the Emmaus retreats, etc.?
The Church wishes to educate the whole person — and that is why evangelization and integral human development is intertwined in the task of education. Academic excellence is the hallmark of Catholic education intentionally directed to the growth of the whole person — mind, body, and spirit. Also, service is fundamental to Catholic education and the core of Catholic discipleship. Service is intended to help form people who are not only witnesses to Catholic social teaching, but also active participants through social learning. Catholic schools instill in students their destiny to become saints.
Some of you may remember those old Perry Mason shows, or Matlock. In these courtroom TV dramas, a witness is called to testify, and he or she swears to tell the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth – “so help me God.”
As Catholic school principals, as Catholic school teachers, you are called to testify — to bear witness to the truth of Jesus Christ: “to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
How can anybody say that he or she is educating someone about the truth — and yet NOT to be able to speak about God? The history of these United States would be incomprehensible without acknowledging the role of Faith, the role of religion, in its foundation as well as in its foundational documents. And yet, how well — and how fairly — is this topic addressed in our secular schools? How can anyone say that he or she is educating someone about the truth, if they cannot teach that we exist not only for this life — but also for the next? Not to know that we were created for eternity is to be as ignorant as not knowing how to multiply fractions. In Catholic schools we can and do teach both well.
And today — more than ever — our world needs to encounter truth. The world needs to know that truth is knowable. The world needs to know its demands and to know that its demands are reasonable. Without truth there is no freedom; and without truth, there is no hope.
And this is what a Catholic education can offer our youth — an education founded on truth — which, if we’re honest, is available nowhere else. For today, in a society which is characterized by a crisis of anthropology — the understanding of man — because of the sway of ideologies which offer a reductive — and therefore diminished — understanding of the human person. Where else but in a Catholic school can you speak the whole truth about God, and the whole truth about man.
To return to the Gospel reading, I call your attention to Peter who boldly step out into the tumultuous waters. The controversies surrounding education today make teaching seem like trying to walk on water. Difficult but not impossible. Peter was doing fine while he was focused on Jesus. It’s when he lost that focus that he began to sink into the swirling waters.
As you begin this new academic year — hopefully with the pandemic finally behind us — stayed focused on Jesus. For truly, he is the Son of God.