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Education in Faith Sunday 2008: Homily Notes

27 January 2008


National Liturgical Calendar: 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Focus this Sunday: Living Faith Fully

Why, – because we celebrate Education in Faith Sunday across Ireland and Catholic Schools Week, Northern Ireland

Homily Resources and supports for the preparation of the Liturgy of the Word:

The People that walked in darkness have seen a great light, Isaiah 9: 2

The Lord is my light and my help, Response, Psalm 26

I appeal to you, . . ., for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to make up the differences between you, and instead of disagreeing among yourselves, to be united again in your belief and practice. . .1 Cor: 10

‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men’. And they left their nets at once and followed him. Matthew 4: 19, 20

The Scriptures this Sunday as we focus together on ‘Living Faith Fully’ point to an energy of immediate positive response to a call to living our faith not in darkness but instead in the light that overcomes the darkness and together responding to the call of Jesus and with his help to join him – working never alone but together collaboratively – in unity working with Jesus in his mission to build the Kingdom of God on earth.

An interesting story comes to mind:

A school sports teacher had brought a class out to the football field to play football. About half way through the match a student came to the teacher distressed saying that she had lost her ring – a family silver ring which she had inherited from her beloved grandmother who was now deceased. The teacher called the class together and explained what had happened and so everybody started looking for the ring. After twenty minutes of searching each in a different place and no sign of the ring one student rather insightfully suggested that the whole group should form a line across the pitch and walk together the length of the football pitch ensuring every space was covered. Sure enough before the line of students had reached halfway across the pitch one student shouted that they had found the ring.
Needless to say the young girl was overjoyed to find her ring again.

The story illustrates the value of working together and the positive results that ensue. In today’s gospel as Jesus begins his public ministry he too invites the first disciples to join him in his ministry. He is not working on his own. Today, Education in Faith Sunday we celebrate the fact that faith is a shared gift that flourishes most fully when we work together to share that gift at home, in the school community and in the parish. Like the three equally balanced legs of the milking stool, we cannot afford an imbalance if we are working fully with one another to live our faith fully. We need to encourage one another as home, school and parish working together, united in the same mind and the same full hearted purpose.

In today’s gospel we hear Matthew’s account of Jesus’ calling of the first disciples. They left their familiar lives as fishermen to follow Jesus and work with him in his mission of ‘proclaiming the Good News’. By spending time with Jesus and the community he gathered around him, the disciples grew in their understanding of Jesus and in their relationship with him and his mission. So too our education in faith is a lifetime journey. When we are brought by our parents in the early days of our lives to be baptised in the local parish church we are beginning an adventure in faith that continues throughout our lives. Today we celebrate all those things that encourage us in our faith from those first steps – the values our parents hand onto us not just by their words but also by their own example – supported by different ways we learn about our faith in our school community not just in our formal religious education classes but also by the atmosphere and ethos that pervades the school community which links back to our parish community expressed most fully when we gather together as a community to celebrate the Eucharist on a Sunday. Like the young students in the story it’s only when they worked together that they found the ring. So too growth in faith flourishes best when the different communities of home, parish and school are able to work together to build that faith.

The gospel today reminds us that Jesus calls each of us by name – to follow him – our response to that invitation is the challenge to live our faith more fully – to share that Good News proclaimed by Jesus in today’s gospel – each of us in unique and different ways in togetherness. Pope Benedict summed it up on the day of the inauguration of his pontificate“We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”

So whatever circumstances we find ourselves in, whether as a parent, grandparent, teacher, a young person or maybe somebody not so young – today is an invitation to nourish and share that gift of faith by working together to live our faith more fully.

Family Mass Liturgical Suggestion of using a fishing net and cut out paper fish with each Christian name
For the family mass, maybe borrow a fishing net and invite people from the parish community to carry the net forward to a central space unfurling it. Distribute paper/card cut out fish and pen/pencil and invite each person to write their Christian name on the fish and the Christian names of others whose faith has impacted on them and at some stage to come forward to place all the fish in the fishing net as a symbol of collaboratively living faith fully with Jesus.
Pope Benedict speaks of a faith based hope that is active through love:

Pope Benedict in his first encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est, indicates that our faith comes alive or becomes living when it is active through love and that the
way of Jesus is with a heart that sees:

. . . need to be led to that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others.

As a result, love of neighbour will no longer be for them a commandment imposed so to speak, from without, but a consequence deriving from their faith, a faith which becomes active through love (cf. Gal 5:6), par. 31

The Christian programme – the programme of the Good Samaritan, the programme of Jesus – is “a heart which sees”. This heart sees where love is needed and acts accordingly. par.31

and in his new and 2nd Encyclical Letter, Spe Salvi, on Christian Hope, Pope Benedict invites us to listen to the scriptures where ‘Hope’ is a key word in Biblical faith, so much so that the words ‘faith’ and ‘hope’ seem interchangeable(par.2). The Gospel is life-changing:

In our language we would say: the Christian message was not only “informative” but “performative”. That means: the Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known – it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing. Par. 2

Concluding with a Question or so to help us to take the living Word of God and our focus on Living Faith More Fully into the days and moments ahead as we live our faith more fully by working collaboratively as home, school and parish community together:

To what extent am I like those who worked by separating and searching for the ring in the story alone?

Have there been times in my journey of faith where I have worked collaboratively like the new insightful suggestion of a way that found the ring and where this has impacted on me but also on others in living our Christian faith more fully?

ENDS​​

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