Editor’s Note: Following is Bishop O’Connell’s homily for Catholic Schools Week, which is Jan. 31-Feb. 6. The Mass was celebrated by Bishop O’Connell in the diocesan Chancery, Lawrenceville, and pre-recorded amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. It was streamed Feb. 1 across all diocesan media, including the diocesan YouTube channel.Just a little over one month ago, all Catholics and Christians celebrated the Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem on Christmas Day. 

Most families have figures of Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus in the manger in their homes.  These are not just Christmas decorations … they represent and show something that really happened: God sent his Son born of Mary into our world to save the world and to teach us how God wants us to live.

But baby Jesus did not stay a baby.  He grew up in Nazareth, obeyed his Mother Mary and foster-Father Joseph, learned from them and went into the world to follow God’s plan, what we call his “mission.”

A very important part of his mission after he became an adult involved preaching and teaching others to look for God’s will; performing miracles; praying to God his Father and teaching others to pray and how to live in this world with others.  His life and lessons, recorded in the Four Gospels, are meant for us to follow.

In today’s Gospel from St. Mark, the first Gospel written in the New Testament, the Lord Jesus tells his disciples that his message was NOT just for grownups and adults.  The Lord Jesus’ message was for young people as well.  He wanted the young to come to him, to learn from him, to come to know him.  The Kingdom of God was for them, too.  St. Paul tells us that the Church Jesus founded was a place where our fellow Christians prayed for one another that we all – young and old – would come to know God’s will, God’s wisdom and understanding so we could live our lives in a way worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, growing in our knowledge of God and strengthened by his grace and power so that we might be filled with joy and gratefulness to God who gives us his light and forgiveness.

As I thought of these things from the Bible, I thought about our Catholic schools.  What is said in these Bible readings today describe Catholic schools and Catholic education.

Catholic schools really represent your parents bringing their children – YOU – to the Lord Jesus so that he might embrace and teach you and lead you to his Kingdom where, like St. Paul tells you today, you can live lives worthy of the Lord, doing what is right.

This is Catholic Schools Week in our Diocese.  So let’s all work together – parents, teachers, staff, volunteers, supporters, parish priests and me, your Bishop – to become stronger, better, smarter, kinder, more prayerful, holier people, always eager to do God’s will, to do good, to love our Catholic Church and to love God and one another as Jesus taught us.