January 25, 2013

Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Catholic school students have opportunity to lead, see differently and bring others to Christ

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin(Editor’s note: A week after he was installed as the new archbishop, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin celebrated Mass on Dec. 10, 2012, with the seniors of all the Catholic high schools in the archdiocese. During the liturgy at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis, Archbishop Tobin shared a homily that asked the seniors to discover “the hidden possibilities” in their lives. His message is shared here as a fitting, faith-filled way to begin our coverage for the annual Catholic Schools Week Supplement.)

By Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin

Advent is a season that invites us to see the hidden possibilities: There is more to life than meets the eye.

These days, the word of God invites people who thought they had been abandoned to look again and recognize that God is coming to save them. John the Baptist points to the Savior when he does come. And the Word takes flesh because a young woman in Nazareth says “yes.”

Faith isn’t simply knowing a lot of facts and figures about God, like we were playing a sort of religious “Jeopardy.” Faith is a different way of looking at things, seeing more than meets the eye.

Today, the word of God offers three suggestions about the faith of leaders. What a nice gift to you, the seniors of our high schools.

Don’t be afraid to be different.

The Gospel story of the paralyzed man (Lk 5:17-26) begins by setting the scene. There was a crowd, but Luke takes pains to let us know who is there: “One day as Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, and the power of the Lord was with him for healing” (Lk 5:17).

Jesus attracted the attention of those who do not believe in him at all, many of whom were the religious leaders of his day. These are the same people who will eventually decide his death. So it is impressive to see the style of Jesus. He is calm and confident, not watering down his message because a good number of his listeners are hostile.

To live as a Catholic Christian today is to experience some opposition. There are voices, even very important people in our country, who dismiss what we believe and the choices we make. Some of our peers can make us feel like we are weird, out of step, uncool. The example of Jesus shows us the possibility of being true to ourselves, of sticking to our values, of making a free choice to believe and behave as a daughter or son of God.

You can bring others to Christ.

The friends of the paralyzed man used their ingenuity to bring the man to Jesus. Real friends do that. You can do that in your schools. Whether you like it or not, there are people watching you—juniors, sophomores, freshmen—as well as your classmates. You can influence your teachers and family. Your words and, more importantly, the testimony of your lives, can bring people to the Lord, people who are paralyzed by fear, disappointment, anger or even despair.

Keep an open mind.

Jesus tells the man that his sins are forgiven. The Pharisees and scribes immediately protest by making an incredibly logical statement: No one can forgive sins but God alone! They might have continued that thought: No one can forgive except God, but Jesus claims he can forgive sins, therefore. … Maybe some of them tried to get their heads around that thought but quickly shook it off. No way!

An open—and honest—mind will lead you to grow in your faith. When I was in high school, I hated math. But like it or not, I continued to apply what I had already learned and then learned some more. My first paycheck, applying for loans in college, and different jobs all required me to continue to learn and apply mathematics.

It would really be tragic, I think, if you closed your books and your minds to growing in your faith. If you want to be truly happy, then the eyesight of your heart, the gift of faith, must constantly mature and deepen as the circumstances of life change.

Conclusion: There is more to being a senior than meets the eye.

Could the Lord be asking you to take another look at the coming months? Is he inviting you not to fear being different? To bring others to Jesus? To keep an open mind?

We can recall the example of Mary, one of the great guides of these days of Advent. She did not fear being different as long as she believed she was living the way God wanted her to live. She did not always understand God’s plan, but “treasured things in her heart”, trusting that God would eventually show her the way. She brought Good News to her cousin, Elizabeth, and, through her trusting faith, brought to all of us the Savior of the world. †

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