My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
As I said, I’m very happy to be with you today for this special celebration of the Eucharist. It is a smaller gathering than I’m used to because I say Mass at the Cathedral every Sunday, but it’s wonderful. It’s the first time that I’m saying Mass here at the basketball court — I came here to play several times but they don’t invite me anymore. That’s not true — I just have a challenging calendar.
Before I give my homily I just wanted to say that I think it’s important for all of us to pray for our country these days. For the new administration, for the new president of the United States — challenging times in our society. And I think as we reflect on what is it that this country’s supposed to be, I think one of the most important things is that we all really are united.
And we need to pray for the immigrants, for the refugees, for the workers, for everybody. And for the politicians and especially for the new administration in Washington.
Obviously, this country is a country of immigrants, as we all know. If immigrants are not welcome here, nobody should be here! Everybody was an immigrant, since the beginning of this country, including the Native Americans. So I think it’s important for all of us to pray for our country.
I have a lot of hope, I think with time things will go okay. But transitions are difficult so let us pray for that.
So this week we start — today we start Catholic Schools week in our country, in the Church. So Catholic schools and Catholic education are so important, as you all know.
This is why you are here — because you know the importance of learning in a Catholic environment.
True education — a true Catholic education — is learning who we are and how we are called to live.
In our Catholic education we find the response to the most basic questions of our humanity: what is it that we should be living for? What is the good life and why should I even want to be a good person? What is it that God wants from me?
And today, Jesus is talking in the passage of the Gospel exactly about the answers to those questions.
The Beatitudes, from the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, are the answer to the most basic questions of humanity.
Jesus is the great and true teacher. The Sermon on the Mount is the summary of his teaching. And the Beatitudes that we hear this morning are the summary of everything that Jesus came to teach us. About the world and about life. About how to be and about how to live.
I was thinking that the Beatitudes are like Jesus’ “graduation requirements.” These are so important in high school — aren’t they, Brother John? So in order to go to college — to graduate from high school — you need to go through different steps and there are some basic requirements.
Well, that’s what the Beatitudes are all about when we think about human life. And obviously about what the Catholic faith is all about.
So this is what we need to learn if we want to be successful and happy in the world. That’s what the word “beatitude” and the word “blessed” means. It means, as we all know, happy.
Now, when we think about what it means to be happy and successful in our society, it is a lot different than what Jesus is talking about. Money and power and pleasure and influence. That is how the world in which we live measures success.
And as we heard in the Beatitudes, Jesus gives us a very different standard. It is actually almost the opposite of what the world proposes.
Just listen again to the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit … Blessed are they who mourn …. Blessed are the meek … Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness … Blessed are the merciful … Blessed are the clean of heart … Blessed are the peacemakers.”
It’s totally different from what the world is trying to measure success.
And Jesus is teaching us about what is really important. And I think more than everything else, Jesus is teaching us about what is real and what is not.
More and more, I think that Catholic education — that the Beatitudes are really what Catholic education is supposed to be.
It’s about preparing people for “reality” — for living in the world as God created it to be. It’s about preparing us to live in the world as the men and women that God made us to be.
Cause Catholic education starts with Jesus and the truth he reveals in his Gospel. Jesus does not teach us science or grammar. He does not teach us how to specialize in a certain profession or how to use technology.
What Jesus teaches is more fundamental. He shows us that the world has an order, that the world has a purpose and a design. And Jesus shows us that you and I — that we are made for greater things. That we are all made for love and holiness and glory.
And when we know this, when really understand what life is all about, when we know God’s love for us and his plan for our lives — then we are truly educated.
Really what makes the difference is if we know who we are, and who the people around us are. And when we learn how to live in a society that is diverse and that we give importance to the basic things of daily life — even at home.
The most important thing, as we all know, is not just to have things. That’s not what’s going to make us happy. What makes us happy is if we love one another, isn’t it true?
When we see every person as a child of God, when I see every person as someone whom God loves and someone whom Jesus died for. Then I am seeing the world the way God wants me to see it. When I treat every person with empathy and compassion. Then I am living in the world the way God wants me to live.
So my dear brothers and sisters, to be educated is to know how to love.
And that is my hope for Catholic education here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
My hope is that every Catholic school will be a place where we celebrate God and celebrate life. A place for learning and praying, for reading and playing and creating. A place where our children learn to live in God’s holy presence and receive everything as his gift. Because the world is a gift! My life is a gift for God!
This is the beautiful life, the blessed life that God is calling us to live. This is what it means to be an authentic person, to be truly alive and happy. And obviously to be a faithful Catholic.
So today, as we especially pray for the families at Cathedral high school — for all of you. When we pray for your teachers, your principal, all the people who help in your school. When we pray for the administrations, and for the parents of all the children that are the young men that here at Cathedral high school, let us especially give thanks to God. For the blessing of being open to this beautiful teaching, of understanding God’s love for each one of us. And how much we mean to God.
You know, every morning — when we get up in the morning and think God loves me personally, our life will be totally different. Because we understand that God loves me and that he has a plan for me and what happens to me makes a big difference in the life of many people.
So today, let us ask Mary our Blessed Mother to continue to intercede for us. That we really rediscover, once again, that beautiful plan of God for each one of us — our families, our Catholic schools, and our society. And may she help all of us to grow in wisdom. May she help us learn how to be the blessed people that Jesus wants us to be.
1. Readings (4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A): Zeph. 2:3; 3:12–13; Ps. 146:7–10; 1 Cor. 1:26–31; Matt. 5:1–12.