Third Sunday of Easter – Year B

15 April 2024

Appears in: Messages and Homilies

Third Sunday of Easter – Year B


[Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; Psalm 4; 1John 2:1-5; Luke 24:35-48]

As part of my pastoral visit these days, I went on Friday to two of the schools associated with this parish: Saint Paul Elementary and Saint Rose Junior High. They had known for quite some time that I was coming for a visit, and they were very well prepared. In each, the principal met me at the door, and then she and other leadership staff took me through the school, bringing me to a number of different classes so I could meet the children as they were directly engaged in the activity of learning.

Whenever I go into a classroom, I’ll always ask: “What are you studying right now?” Usually the answer will vary: math, English, science, and so on. In these schools, however, I noticed that the answer was always the same: “Religion!” It did not matter at what time of day I walked into the classroom, which school it was, or the grade level; the answer was always the same: “Religion!” Afterwards I thought, “Either this is the only thing these children are learning, or I had just witnessed a rather well orchestrated conspiracy on the part of the schools.”

At one level, we know, of course, that religion is not the only thing our children are taught in our schools. At another level, though, it is. The life of the Catholic school is supposed to unfold according to the principle of permeation. We expect that all aspects of the school, both curricular and extra-curricular, will be fully permeated by the faith of the Church. Everything is to be received, understood, and lived in the light of what we believe. Religion is not just a certain number of hours in the week, limited to the classroom. In this broader sense, it is everything.

Let’s consider this as we turn to the Gospel text for this mass. The message there is this: as it is supposed to be with the students in Catholic schools, so it should be with every believer in their daily living. Our faith in Jesus Christ is not limited to a set time and place, but is to pervade every aspect of our existence.

The passage from Saint Luke narrates an event that happened in the Upper Room, transformed by the presence of the Risen Lord into the most consequential classroom in history. Notice the instruction that happens. First, he demonstrates to them the fact that he, the one they had seen crucified and buried, is now truly risen from the dead; he showed them his wounded hands and side and then ate in their presence a piece of broiled fish. Then, he “opened their minds” to understand all that had been written about him in the Scriptures. Finally, let’s note carefully what he says at the end: “repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations.… You are witnesses of these things.” In other words, the encounter with the Risen Lord and what he teaches us is not be confined to the “classroom”. It must spill out into every aspect of our lives, permeate everything, so that in all things we become witnesses to the wondrous truth that Jesus is Risen and calls all people to new life through repentance and his forgiveness of our sins.

In our day, this is a crucially important reminder. I have noticed a tendency in our increasingly secularized society to limit freedom of religion to freedom of worship. The practice of religion, we are told, should be confined to the “classroom” of the church or home; it ought not have anything to say in the public square. But we know that is impossible for Christian faith. Our weekly “classroom”, if you will, is Holy Mass. In the celebration of the Eucharist, Jesus nourishes and strengthens our faith. From the Eucharist, we are sent into the world to permeate it with the truth of the Resurrection. “Go forth! The mass is ended.” The Lord whom we meet in the Eucharist, sends us from the mass on mission, as he sent the apostles from the Upper Room. Let’s always be on guard against the temptation to limit our faith to “the classroom.”

Now, that was not the only lesson derived from my school visits. The children also taught me some new vocabulary. From some grade five students I learned a new way of expressing how something is wonderful or great. I’m accustomed to hear them say, “cool”, or “awesome”; now they say “bussin’!” No one has explained that to me, so I assume it is an abbreviation of “bussing”, which I was always thought referred to a form of public transportation. Now, apparently, it also means “wonderful”, “awesome”, “great”, “stupendous,” and the like. Even though I have yet to figure that out, I want to borrow this vocabulary from the children to describe this parish. From what I have seen and heard, it is clear that this parish is truly “bussin’”.

In the course of this visit, I’ve witnessed the way the team here is working very hard at strengthening the relationship between the parish and its affiliated schools as well as with the Misericordia Hospital. Yesterday, I had occasion to listen to representatives of the many parish groups long active here, and heard of the strong commitment uniting them all to care for the poor, needy, and homebound. The use made here of technology to communicate the faith and keep parishioners united in it is exemplary. I could go on, but, in short, this parish is “bussin’” because you are not confining the practice of religion to the “classroom”.  You give our faith frequent and varied public expression in the loving service you extend to others. So, to each and every one of you I express my heartfelt thanks for your dedication and witness.

The need for our witness will grow increasingly urgent. I discussed this yesterday with the pastoral council and finance committee. In the midst of many disturbing societal and global trends, the world needs convinced and joyful witnesses to Jesus Christ. So, in this mass, as we thank Almighty God for the gifts He pours out upon us, let us ask for the grace always to be renewed in our faith, especially in this “classroom” of the mass, so that, strengthened by this sacrament, we will go forth boldly and joyfully to permeate our world with the truth and beauty of the Gospel.

Most Reverend Richard W. Smith

Saint John the Evangelist Parish

April 14th, 2024