Audio homily here:
The kids will be going to school after Labor Day; their older brothers and sisters are probably in colleges and graduate schools already. It’s a new school year at places of learning throughout the country.
What about us who aren’t going to school? Do we learn too? If we believe that learning is life long, then we’re still going to school, the school of life. In our first reading from the Book of Wisdom we’re reminded how little we know, despite what we might sometimes think. “Scarce do we guess the things of earth and what is without our grasp we find with difficulty.” We have to be life-long learners.
We’re fragile learners, we have to keep at it, so we go to the School of Everyday.
One of the psalms says: “Teach us to number our days aright that we may gain wisdom of heart.” Our days are our school, the prayer says, so how can we go about numbering our days aright that we may gain wisdom of heart?
Well, could I suggest a way ? It may sound so simple I’m afraid to suggest it. Why not follow our church calendar? Why not use it as our school?
Most of us get church calendars around New Year’s Day. That have the seasons and feast days of Jesus and his saints. Maybe we hang them up in the kitchen and look at them occasionally, but the calendar provides great hints for learning and living day by day.
She’s not on our calendar yet, but she will be. This Sunday Mother Teresa will be canonized, that dynamic little nun who went to the world’s poorest places to take care of the poor, the sick and the dying. The wisdom we learn from her is that we’re all called to be more generous with the poor of this world and those around us. She teaches us something we easily forget. She’ll be on our calendar next year.
The saints in our calendar show us that God has raised up wonderful people through the ages and God’s still works, even in our time, with us. The saints are not just people of the past to admire or pray to, they challenge us to go beyond ourselves and imitate them in our time, and they tell us we can do it.
Look at the saints and feast days coming up this month in September. There’s St. John Chrysostom, September 13th. He complained that people of his time didn’t know much about the church’s calendar: “Many people today just about know the names of the feasts we celebrate in church. They know hardly anything about where we come from and what it means… What a shame.” He challenges us to remember and not forget the teachers of faith we have.
September has a parade of interesting saints, like Gregory the Great, September 3rd, the pope who lived when the Roman world was falling apart. He didn’t fall apart. He believed it was to do something and he reached out to the ends of the world of his time. He sent missionaries out to faraway England and northern Europe. In a world falling apart, he tells us don’t give up, be courageous. There are still things to be done. St. Peter Claver, September 9th, worked among the black slaves in Colombia, South America. He reminds us not to forget there’s still slavery in our world. Don’t forget it: let’s try to get rid of it.
Saints Cornelius and Cyprian, September 16, early Chistian martyrs, remind us that people died for the faith we believe in. It’s that important. September 26th , St. Vincent De Paul was inspired by God to take care of the poor in France. He started a whole movement in the church of people who looked after the poor. St. Matthew, the tax collector, September 28th. Jesus called him to be one of his apostles. Others looked down on him. But God didn’t look down on him, nor does he look down on us. St. Jerome. September 30th was a saint who loved the bible and constantly studied it. That’s something we should do too. Most of our calendars give us a list of the scriptures we’re reading in church. So why not read them with the church day by day. That would be a wonderful way to keep learning.
September 14th we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. It’s like a Holy Week in September. We need to be lifted up by the mysteries of Jesus continually. He died and he rose again. We die and rise again with him. September 15 we remember the sorrows of the Mary. Every month we have at least one feast of Mary, this month, September, we have two. We remember her birth on September 8. She is our companion as we follow her son. She can help us understand him and do whatever he tells us.
On September 1st this year, Pope Francis asked the church to remember creation, and the care of creation that each of us is called to give. He wants us to join Christians of the eastern church who also remember the duties we have to the created world, so endangered because of our abuse.
Our calendar is like a school book that lays out lessons we need to learn throughout the year, day by day, and so as programs for religious formation begin in our schools and parishes this month, don’t forget the church calendar. It’s your school, a good teacher and, you know, like any good teacher, it knows we are forgetful listeners. It’ll be back again next year.