Mark 1:21-28
School Days
by Rev. Stanley J. Krempa

Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.

Then they came to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.  The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.  In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are - the Holy One of God!"  Jesus rebuked him and said, "Quiet!  Come out of him!"  The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.  All were amazed and asked one another, "What is this?  A new teaching with authority.  He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him."  His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

During this election year, many pundits will try to play the role of prophet and try to predict the outcome of the mid-term elections. In contrast to that, the role of a "prophet” in scripture was not necessarily one who tells the future but one who speaks God's Word.

In today's first reading, Moses says that after he has departed, God would provide the people with prophets who will speak to the people in God's name, just as Moses did. Of course, the great prophet to come would be Jesus who was God's Word made flesh. After the Lord returned to the Father, He left behind a church to be the prophet and speak in His name. In every generation, the church would speak and apply God's Word to the world around it. The church would always be the place where the Word of the Lord would be present. "I will raise up for them a prophet and I will put my words into his mouth." These words are fulfilled in Jesus and now in His church.

That is why, to extend today's second reading from St. Paul, the church must remain unmarried — unmarried to any political party, ideology or political system. The Church is called to speak the truth of Christ. We must do what we can to enable the church to keep that freedom.

The church is also called to continue Jesus' ministry that we see in today's Gospel as Jesus casts out an evil spirit. The church uses its sacramental power to cast out the spirits of greed, lust, selfishness, hate, racism and anything that defaces human dignity, including evil spirits themselves. How does the Church do that today?

There is, of course, the preaching of the church that goes on in churches every Sunday and, usually every day. There is the sacramental life of the church. There are also institutions like Catholic Charities that the church uses to extend the compassion of Christ.

One of these institutions that is used to extend the reach of the Gospel is the Catholic school. Today, we begin Catholic Schools Week when we highlight the work being done in Catholic schools throughout our nation.

About a century and a half ago, the bishops of the United States made a huge multi-decade commitment to establish a Catholic school system. One reason was that most of the public schools at that time were imbued with an anti-Catholic Protestantism that manifested itself in teaching and in prayers in the public schools. The bishops decreed that every parish, to the extent it can, shall have a parochial school. In fact, the school was to be built before the church to indicate the high priority they gave to Catholic education. Today we are the heirs of that commitment with 6,000 parochial schools and about 2 million students. The Catholic school strives to be a community where young people can be identifiably Catholic, can learn the faith and learn how to be a Christian.

Today, parochial schools have many more costs than they had years ago. Still, they strive to be part of fulfilling the mission of Jesus. With our support they will. The future of our nation and our church is not in the stars but in our classrooms.

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