Today is the beginning of Catholic Schools Week. It always begins on the last Sunday in January, which this year is also the fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. As it happens, the readings are very appropriate.
In the reading from the book of Deuteronomy, Moses tells the people that God will send another prophet like Moses who will teach God’s Word to them. This is no small promise, because Moses was the greatest prophet and teacher that the Israelites had. He had a very special relationship with God, and it was through him that the Ten Commandments and much of the Old Law were revealed. It was Moses who led the people out of captivity in Egypt through the Red Sea and the desert, right to the threshold of the Promised Land. To be “a prophet like Moses” is something very special.
Throughout the Gospel, we see Jesus presented as the man who fulfills this promise. Just like Moses promulgated the Ten Commandments as he came down from the mountaintop, Jesus has his Sermon on the Mount. We see in the Gospel today how Jesus freed people from slavery to sin and the devil, and taught with true authority. He led us all from sin and death into new life in His Kingdom through the waters of Baptism. In the process, He also made us partakers in His role as Priest, Prophet, and King. We are called to pray in His name, to share the truths He revealed to us, and also to guide each other on the way to heaven, each according to our vocation and state in life.
We cannot all be teachers in the same way; we do not all have the knowledge, time, or talent. That’s why we have Catholic schools, as an embodiment of the Church’s mission to teach. They help guarantee that our children will be educated in both the knowledge of the world and the truths and wisdom of our faith. Supporting our Catholic schools is an important way for each of us to fulfill our own duty to be “prophets” who ensure that the faith is passed from generation to generation.
Many of us here are beneficiaries of the Catholic school system. Time and time again, I meet people who tell me they are graduates of St. Ann’s school. I myself studied in Catholic schools from third grade onwards. That was key both in my getting a good education, and to my discovery of my vocation to the priesthood. I will be forever grateful to my teachers. They included lay people, as well as nuns, priests and brothers who dedicated their lives to God in the religious life as educators, living St. Paul’s message from our second reading in a radical way.
I know that many of you, like me, can still name the teachers who helped you most. Maybe there were some who scared us at the time or were really tough, but I hope that all of us remember with gratitude the great gift they gave us through their teaching. As we celebrate Catholic Schools Week, let’s pray for all our Catholic schools, and their faculty and staff, past and present, very especially our own St. Ann’s School. We are all responsible for the education of the youth of the Church, and so we are all responsible for supporting our Catholic schools according to our own vocation and resources. May they continue to prepare our youth to be wise, capable, and virtuous people who know and love their faith, and who carry that gift with pride, passing it on to their own children in turn.