Sunday, September 18, 2005

Catechetical Sunday

(25th Sunday in Ordinary Time-Year A; This homily was given 18 September, 2005, at Our Lady of Mercy, East Greenwich R.I.)

It’s that time of year when many people call the rectory to ask what day or what time the religious education or CCD classes begin. It’s also the time when many students might ask, “When will CCD end?” That is the question I would like to ask this morning: When does religious education finally come to an end?

You’ve probably figured out the answer already: it doesn’t! We are never through learning about and experiencing our faith. The truths of the Scriptures and the teachings of our Faith have been described as a great pool in which the smallest child can play in, but one in which the brightest of theologians could never touch the bottom.

We can—and should—spend a lifetime swimming in that pool. This Sunday our diocese celebrates “Catechetical Sunday” and it’s a great opportunity for us to check in and ask ourselves if we have learned everything there is to know about our faith, or if perhaps Christ isn’t asking us to go a little deeper into the pool.

A couple of months ago I was in the sacristy after Mass and one of our parishioners handed me the name and address of a woman in a nearby nursing home. They told me that she had some questions about our faith and wanted to talk to a priest.

I didn’t know exactly what to expect, and when I arrived I could see that apparently, she didn’t know what to expect either. When I knocked on her door, she opened it, saw me standing there, and said, “Oh, you must be the priest. This better be good!”

As it turned out she was a baptized Christian in another denomination, but felt that God was calling her to become a Catholic . . . at the age of 82! Maybe that sounds surprising to you, unless you were here for the Easter Vigil last March, when a 76 year-old man was baptized into the Catholic Faith.

As we heard in the Gospel this morning, God is constantly out walking the streets, looking for workers for His vineyard, and he’s asking everyone, regardless of age or faith experience. But where is He asking us to grow more deeply in our faith this year?

We could ask ourselves a few basic, very practical questions:

Firstly, “Do I own I Bible, and if so, when was the last time I read it?” St. Jerome has a challenging but appropriate saying with regards to the Bible. He says, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” Reading the Bible even for a few minutes a day could be totally life-changing. I was 22 years old the first time I ever picked up the Bible and read it. It changed everything. (So be careful; look what happened to me!)

Secondly, we could ask “Do I own a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church?” Nearly every question about the faith you could ever ask is covered somewhere in that book. What better gift could you give to your family than the teachings of our faith?

Finally, we could ask ourselves: “What does the Church here at Our Lady of Mercy have to offer to help me grow in my faith?”

If you’re a student, the answer is the Religious Education program here at the parish. Dozens of faith filled and generous teachers have volunteered this year—as they do every year—to help our young people grow in their faith. I ask you to please keep them in your prayers as we begin classes again this fall.

But if you are an adult, there are many things you can do to grow in your faith. There is a pamphlet rack at the back of the Church that is constantly being updated and stocked to help you learn about different devotions, teachings and the lives of the saints.

We have a Book Club that is about to begin once again in just a few weeks, a great opportunity to come together as Church and discuss your faith with others. As the year continues there will be many more activities like this. Why not pick one of them and check it out?

Finally, as you may have seen in the bulletin, the RCIA program is about to start up again on October 3rd. Every year people attend these weekly classes for many different reasons. Some are preparing to make their sacraments at the Easter Vigil; like that woman I mentioned earlier, they feel that God is calling them to become Catholic. Others are Catholics who have already been baptized and confirmed but simply want to learn more about their Catholic faith.

Whatever our faith experience is, we can be assured that Jesus is walking the streets of East Greenwich this fall, looking for more workers for His vineyard, and calling each of us to grow more deeply in our knowledge of the Kingdom of God. This Catechetical Sunday, why not answer that call by learning more about the faith we profess each week?