Today, we celebrated a Mass of the Holy Spirit as we begin our school year.
I’m so glad to welcome all of our students back to school this year! It’s wonderful to see your faces again, at least from the mask up! We missed you so much for the last six months. I was able to walk around the school a bit yesterday, and was so proud of you to see that you’re following all the safety rules we have. I know it’s a lot, but better that we be safe and still be together.
Today, we are celebrating a Mass of the Holy Spirit to ask the Holy Spirit to be with us during this school year. As we begin our school year together, we want to pray to the Holy Spirit so that he will give us whatever gifts we need to learn well (or, for the teachers, to teach well), to use our gifts in service to others, and to grow in our relationship with God. We want to thank the Holy Spirit for those gifts, and promise to use them for our good and the good of the other people he puts in our lives. And we should always thank God for those wonderful gifts, because they make us better, happier people and using them makes our world a better place.
Today for our Mass of the Holy Spirit, we couldn’t have better readings! I love the first reading from the prophet Ezekiel. There is nothing more lifeless than a pile of dry bones. But when Ezekiel speaks God’s word to them, they are filled with the Holy Spirit and come to life. That sometimes happens in our lives. Things going on around us make us feel like a pile of dry bones. But when we hear God’s word, we are filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps us to know and experience how much God loves us, and that fills us with life. When we are filled with life and with the Holy Spirit, we can’t help but spread that to others. Maybe we are the ones God wants to use to help other people know that he loves them too.
In our Gospel reading, the Pharisees are giving Jesus a religion test. Just to give you some background, the Jewish people had over 600 laws in the scriptures, and they were required to know them and study them. So one of them asks Jesus which of those 600 laws was most important. That’s a question that the Pharisees discussed – and argued about – all the time. Jesus tells them the most important law of all is to love the Lord God with all their heart, soul and mind. And then he goes for extra credit: he says the second important law is to love your neighbor as yourself.
Do you notice what’s common in both of those? It’s love, right? Love God and love your neighbor. Jesus says all of the law and prophets – which is really saying all of the scriptures – depend on those two commandments. It’s all about love, and that makes total sense because God is love. God created us in love and loves us so much that he wants to have all of us come to heaven and be part of his life one day. That’s what we are all supposed to be longing for. If we want to be happy forever, we need to make sure we go to heaven. If we want to go to heaven, we have to do what God does: and that is love. Love God who loves us, and then love our neighbor. If we do these things, we will be happy with God forever. That’s good news!
So as we begin our school year together, we pray that the Holy Spirit would help us to learn and grow, but especially that he would help us to love God and love our neighbor, which is really saying love every person he puts in our path. So I think we should pray to the Holy Spirit for that gift today. I know a lot of you know the prayer to the Holy Spirit, so if you do, pray it along with me:
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.