Friday, May 27, 2016

Riding the Catholic Bike - Homily for the End of the School Year (2016)

Good morning!

Isn’t this wonderful? It’s the last day of school! I hope you’re all looking forward to summer…. it’s the season of lemonade and swimming at the pool and staying up late and having friends over. There’s so much time to go out and play!

Many years ago, I had summer vacation just like you. And during one of those summer vacations, I learned how to ride a bike.

Who here knows how to ride a bike? … Who here knows how to ride a bike without training wheels? (I figured: you all do).

I mean, training wheels were fine when we were little, right?—when we had the ribbons on our handle bars or the noise-makers on the spokes. But when we got older, we wanted to ride the bike like older people do. Right?

So, many years ago, I learned how to ride a bike. Of course, I began with training wheels and wobbling back and forth—and those training wheels kept me from falling over. But during one summer, I was tired of the training wheels and I wanted to be able to ride the big boy bike.  So, my dad took off the training wheels. Now, dad didn’t have me try out the big boy bike on the road—instead, we tried it in the grass. But it was on a hill. (Thanks, Dad)

And so I climbed on the bike, dad steadying me, and then he gave me a little push—down the hill—and I fell over. I'm thankful we didn't have YouTube back then.

Dad picked me up, gave me a little encouragement, and we tried it again. And I fell again. We did this for a little while and it could have been easy to say, “Well, this is dumb. I give up.” But we kept trying and eventually I was able to ride the bike.

And I can still ride. I take my big mountain bike over to Klondike Park or on the Katy Trail. And I can go fast and it’s so much fun—especially when people ask: “Was that a priest on that bike? ... And was he using training wheels?" 

*          *          *

The reason why I tell you that story is because for the past nine months, you have had training wheels on. Teachers and Sisters and Aides-- this School—they have all been helping you stay steady, training you in how to ride the bike: and that bike is the Catholic faith.

We’ve taken you to Mass; we’ve trained you in the virtues; we’ve helped you up when you’ve fallen down, encouraged you when you thought it was dumb, and hopefully showed you the joy of living the faith. We’ve been the training wheels.

But today, we’re taking the training wheels off. It’s time for you to ride the bike. You are going to have to decide when and whether you pray or when you're going to go to confession or whether you are going to be kind to people. WE are not going to be at your home. We’re not going to be with you on vacation. We're not going to be reminding you about what you need to do if you want to ride a bike. But, if you would like, we'll be with you and help you remain steady and pick you up if you fall over. Because we love you. That's why we were here in the first place.

*          *          *

So, parents, I turn to you. You and I grew up in a similar generation—we grew up in a time when there was still a remnant of Catholic/Christian culture that would support our parents in raising us Catholic. But something was going on during our training: the culture was falling apart; such that, for most of us, our faith became something merely served up on a platter. What I mean by that is, it was the school that took us to Mass, it was the school that took us to confession. We started to learn that the only time we went to Mass and confession was when our school took us there.

So, what happened when school ended? Religion ended.

But that’s not the point of a Catholic education, is it?—to have a Catholic faith that ends when Catholic school ends?

I mean, who would keep training wheels on for 8 years, but then mothball the big boy bike at precisely the moment when it was time for the big boy bike?

That's what happened to many in our generation-- and we've seen the devastating effects of that. You're here because you wanted to raise your kids in the faith. So, I'm telling you, it's time for the big boy bike.

*          *          *

This is the moment, then—this is the moment when we find out if our Catholic faith is a just a school thing or a lived thing. A training wheels thing or a big boy thing.

And your kids will need you, just as any kid who is trying the big boy bike. When you’re on vacation, they may wobble in the faith, as kids do when the training wheels are gone—why do we have to pray when we're on vacation and so on. But that’s the moment when a kid learns how to ride the bike.

I mean, how many of us ever went to confession during the summer or Mass on a week day? We have all of that free time—so, why not? Wouldn’t this be the best time to help the kids see the connection that hurting others and God means that we need to go to confession now—and not simply when our school teacher tells us... in Advent? I mean, really, how many kids will remember in December what they did in June?

*          *          *

So, the training wheels are off. Summer break is here. Let’s ask God right now, then, to help us to be steady and to persevere in this faith in the months ahead-- to discover the joy of being alive in the faith all year 'round. I truly think this is the best way that we can give thanks for all that we have received during this past year at this Catholic school. If we are thankful for the Catholic training wheels, then it’s time we ride the Catholic bike.

No comments:

Post a Comment