St. Paul gives us some good advice in the first reading:
Avoid those who are disorderly—
don’t be like them; be like those who follow Jesus!
We can put it another way:
Keep your eyes on the prize!
Keep your focus on Jesus!
That’s a good plan for the coming school year;
In fact—it’s a good plan for every year.
Have you been busy this week?
Who’s been busy? (Teachers too!)
Papers; projects; homework;
Any tests yet?
We can get focused on all that busy-ness,
And forget the one and only reason we are here:
To keep our eyes on the prize:
To keep our hearts and minds fixed on Jesus!
The Gospel reading told us about a “Pearl of Great Price”:
A prize truly worth having,
worth giving up everything for.
First-graders, where are you?
Pretend you could a free trip to an ice-cream place:
You’d be able to stay all day,
And eat ALL the ice cream you wanted!
Would you give up everything you have for that?
Everything: meaning, no more parents—no more friends—
No more fun at school; no more anything else:
You have to give up everything for that “prize”:
Is that worth it?
That’s not a good deal:
That’s not a prize worth the price.
Third-graders, where are you?
You’re the oldest children here at the south campus.
You are the leaders!
Now: suppose, you could win this prize:
You get to be all-powerful:
You can tell anyone to do whatever you want;
You can push other kids out of their seats,
Take their lunches.
Make other kids do your homework for you.
You can be “top boss.”
Sounds kind of good, doesn’t it?
Would you give up everything for prize?
Here’s the thing…
Would you keep many friends that way?
Who would trust you?
And who else—in your grade—
might come and push you around?
“I stole this lunch—
I hope no one comes to steal it from me!”
So I ask you—is that a prize worth the price?
Notice what I’m talking about.
With the first-graders,
It was about having good things—fun and pleasure.
With the third-graders,
about having power—having everything “your way.”
These aren’t necessarily bad, by themselves;
But they aren’t enough to make us truly happy.
There are grownups who live this way:
For the good things they can put in their mouths:
Or they always try to be the boss, to have their way;
And they aren’t happy! It’s not enough!
Being first, being best, being on top,
Getting all the toys—
It won’t make you happy:
It’s not a prize worth having.
The prize—the Pearl—worth having is Jesus Christ!
Who is this Jesus?
What does he teach us?
How does Jesus make things better?
Ah…those are the questions to ask!
My beloved children: Ask them every day!
Keep asking your teachers: Tell me about Jesus!
I want to know all about him!
I want to have Jesus as my closest, surest friend!
Ask your teachers; ask your parents;
Ask your friends; ask your priests:
To teach you all about Jesus!
Because that is the reason we have this school.
You’ll see a sign in the hallway at school, that says this. Sometime today, look for that sign. Look for it every day.
Look for the cross in your classroom:
that means the same thing.
If we forget about Jesus—
even for one day, for one hour—
We’re forgetting what we’re about.
So here’s what I want you to remember:
Keep your eyes on the prize!
Say it with me:
And the Prize is? (Jesus!)
And the Prize is? Jesus!
When I give the karate-chop, that means I want to hear:
Keep your eyes on the Prize!
And when I put my hand to my ear, and ask,
And the Prize is? You answer: Jesus!
Be ready: I may do it at a school Mass;
I may catch you on the playground.
Maybe your teachers will do it! Be ready!
I may even do it at Sunday Mass—so be ready!
This isn’t just for the schoolchildren:
This is for every one of us.
This is what our life is about:
Keep your eyes on the Prize…
And the Prize is…Jesus!