Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Memorial of Saint Clare of Assisi; Mass for the Convocation of Teachers of the Schools of the Diocese of Fort Worth

August 11, 2021
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church
Keller, Texas

Philippians 3:8-14
Psalm 16:1b-2a, 5, 7-8, 11
Matthew 19:27-29

“I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ.” These words of Saint Paul written by him to the Philippians almost two thousand years ago as both a witness and an admonition of his brothers and sisters in the Church at Philippi, are offered to us by the Liturgy of the Church for our meditation as we celebrate this Eucharist on the Memorial of Saint Clare and at the beginning of our convocation of our priests, administrators, and teachers in our apostolate of Catholic education in the Diocese of Fort Worth.

Yet, the Church also offers us for our meditation in this Eucharist the words of Saint Peter spoken honestly and almost impudently to Jesus in our Gospel reading taken from Matthew, “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” The words of each of these two great Apostles proclaimed on the Memorial of Saint Clare together set for us the mission and the challenge of Catholic education entrusted to us in the schools of the Diocese of Fort Worth.

 “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” As frequently displayed in the Gospel, Peter, the Rock, is struggling with accepting the demands of the love of Christ first offered to him and then asked of him.  Peter’s statement and question show for us the development in formation required of each of us in our lives as members of the Church and disciples of Jesus, that is to move from a position of investment in our life and service to a place of sacrifice and love for God and our neighbor.  Investment always places the focus on what is to be gained materially and psychologically by the power of the stockholder.  Sacrificial love has as its focus what is offered generously to God, who cannot and will not be outdone in generosity, but whose generosity can never be the object of our demand and presumption.  Saint Peter has not yet endured the Cross of Jesus when he speaks these illuminating words recorded in the Gospel of Matthew.  Saint Paul has had the grace of conversion, an ongoing process in his life and in the life of each of us, the baptized, whereby he gradually comes to the recognition that external compliance with the Law and standing in society ultimately cannot save him or anyone else. 

There is a particular challenge today for us entrusted with the mission of authentic and Catholic education: to teach as Jesus taught.  That challenge is the presumption among many in our world today that the highest good to be obtained, the summum bonum, is not love of God and neighbor but the attainment of an affluent lifestyle that affords one autonomy in this world, with Catholic and religious faith an afterthought or as a mere decoration of one’s private familial or cultural history.  This affects the parents of our children, those who have financial means and those who don’t have sufficient means but desire for their children to possess more financially than what is sufficient.  This also affects us as educators. Our mission in Catholic education as teachers and administrators who at paycheck time can say with some credible warrant the words of Saint Peter, “We have given up everything and followed you.  What will there be for us?” 

Saint Clare found the answer to these questions that she also had in her life through the introduction afforded her by Saint Francis of Assisi to Christ, the Son of God who became poor and humble, born in a manger, fully human and fully Divine.  It is only with the regular companionship with Christ through worship, prayer, and ministry that we can rightly prioritize our material possessions as gifts afforded us by the love of God, given to share with others for His glory and in response to His love saving us from the false idol of greed and the six other deadly sins in that pantheon of false gods.  She was free to pray honestly and with integrity the Sixteenth Psalm that we prayed today, “You are my inheritance, O Lord.”

Like Saint Paul, the children and their families entrusted to us and also ourselves are called to put aside childish things as we grow from childhood and are formed in Christ.  As he wrote to the Corinthians, “When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So, faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  The only thing that lasts is what we can take out of this life, what we can take out of this life is the state of our soul, saved through faith by the Truth, redeemed through hope by the beauty of God, the beauty of the Incarnation, and formed by love made manifest in the selfless sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man and the Son of Mary, by His Cross and Resurrection. 

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