Mass of the Opening of the 2020-21 School Year
Isaiah 25: 6, 7-9; Acts 4:32-35; John 6:1-5
September 30, 2020

Brothers and sisters – and especially our students – it is so good to be able to join with all of you for this special Mass to celebrate the new school year and to honor a few of your teachers who have served our Catholic Schools so well for many years.

But I have to be honest with you:  I’d much rather be in each of your schools celebrating this Mass than doing so apart from all of you.  … But we grateful for the opportunity to join together, to pray and to give thanks to God for watching over us in these challenging times.

And one more thing:  Thanks to the few people who have joined with me in our Cathedral as many of them do every day.  Your presence and your prayers are deeply appreciated.

I think we’d all admit that life has been a little bit different this year than what we’re used to experiencing.   We went through a lot of challenges this past spring and summer and now we’re back in school.  But even now, things are still different.

Many of us keep wondering what life will be like in the months ahead.  Will we be safe?  …  Will we ever get back to participating in sports or plays or other activities as we used to?  …  How will we celebrate Halloween – or Christmas?  …  Will we miss another class trip or graduation season?

I can’t answer all of your questions, although I wish I could.  But I can share with you something that I hope lessons some of your concerns and helps us realize just how blessed we are – right now!

We were able to get up today and experience another day of life, weren’t we?  …  We’re able to participate in this Mass.  …  We’ve got friends around us.  …  We’ve got teachers who have done so much for us these days.  …  We’ve got families who love and care for us.  …  And we have all these things and more – because of a God who loves us and watches over us – especially during these difficult days.

I chose today’s gospel story about the miracle of Jesus multiplying loaves and fish to feed thousands of hungry people for a couple of reasons.

The first reason focuses on God.  The miracle story reminds us of just how much we are loved and cared for by God.  While a lot of difficult things have been happening all around us, God watches over us and provides us with what we need to get through each day and to find peace.  The miracle also reminds us of the Eucharist – the sacrament in which Jesus feeds us with his body and blood – that gives us the strength that we need to live each day with hope.

The second reason I why I chose this gospel focuses on us.  …  I have a book that contains letters to Pope Francis from young people all over the world and his responses to them.  Here’s one that I especially liked that reflects our gospel today:  

Dear Pope Francis,

Why are lots of people so poor and have no food?  Can God give the poor people some food like he fed the 5,000 people?

Love from Terry   (Age 7, Australia) 

Dear Terry,

Yes!  Yes! God can do that.

And he continues to do so.  At that time, Jesus gave bread to his disciples to distribute to all the people.  If Jesus’ disciples had not passed out the food, the people would have still been hungry.  See, there is bread!  And there is enough for everyone!  The real problem is that some of those who have plenty do not want to share it with others.  The problem is not Jesus, but selfish people who want to keep their abundance all for themselves.  …  We have to learn to share what we have.  That way, there will be enough for all, and everyone will be happy.

Pope Francis 

Pope Francis reminds us that while Jesus makes miracles happen, he chooses to do so in a certain way.  The multiplication of loaves and fish did not start with nothing.  First, a boy was willing to share what he had – a couple of fish and five barley loaves.  Jesus also chose to use his disciples to have the people sit down on the grass, to pass out the food and to collect what was left over.

Jesus made the miracle happen and cared for thousands of poor people – but he made it happen by using those who were able to help!

So we will get through these days and God will take care of us and those we love.  But we have a responsibility as well.  We have allow ourselves to be used by Jesus – to be his hands and heart and voice – in serving our brothers and sisters and in making miracles happen today!

You’ve all done this – more than you might realize – in serving others during past months.   …  You’ve written cards to residents of nursing homes who were isolated from their family and friends.  …  You’ve waved to them through their windows and sung songs loud enough to touch their ears and hearts.  …  You’ve worked in parish food pantries and collected food to fill empty shelves to feed the poor.  …  You’ve offered prayers for those who were sick, alone or afraid – and so much more!

In doing all of these things, I hope you noticed something.  You’ve thought of others more than yourselves.  You’ve lived the great commandment to love God and to do by the love you show your neighbor.

Loving so generously doesn’t take away the problems in our world today.  It does, however, make them easier for a lot of people to face.

Saint Theresa of Calcutta – Mother Theresa – used to say, “Don’t worry about why problems exist in the world – just respond to people’s needs.”

So, give God room in your lives, love and serve your brothers and sisters in the midst of these difficult days – and make miracles happen – now – when we need them the most!