The reading from the Apostle Paul’s letter
to the Roman Church raises a question—
why is Saint Paul so filled with “sorrow and anguish”
concerning his Jewish brothers and sisters?
What is so urgent?
Paul is afraid they will go to hell.
This is a difficult topic, this question of who is saved,
and what about people who aren’t Catholic or Christian.
To explain what we believe, let me offer an illustration.
Picture yourself standing at the door of a room.
On the other side of the room is another door;
and getting to that door is “salvation.”
The room is pitch-black—
and it’s full of stuff you can trip over.
Now: is it possible you can there safely? (Update: see note below)*
Yes, it is possible—but very hazardous.
Some light would help, wouldn’t it?
Well, God does give everyone some light.
But even then, you can still trip and fall.
Clearly, the more light you have, the better off you are.
Well, that’s what it means to be a Christian:
Christ is the Light of the world.
As Catholics, we have the fullness of that Light.
So: yes, you can be saved without being a Christian,
but more light is better than less;
what we believe matters.
Also, just because you’re a Catholic—
the lights are all on—does that mean you will make it?
No—you can still rebel, make wrong choices,
or simply not bother to cross the room.
One more thing: when we share our faith,
we’re giving others the light we were given.
This is what Paul did so urgently—
And what we are likewise sent to do.
This is why we have RCIA for people to become Catholic;
We baptize our children; we have Piqua Catholic
and Lehman schools to shape their lives;
we have religious education and Life Teen
for the same purpose to reach those our schools don’t,
to support what parents take the lead on.
Is it urgent for us to do these things?
Our Catholic schools provide a quality education—
but that is not their primary purpose;
Their reason for existence is to share the Faith.
Do we even need religious education and Life Teen?
Well, some of our parents do it themselves.
That’s the ideal and it’s great when it happens.
But many more parents do want the parishes’ help;
and some kids would fall through the cracks.
Let me say a word about our youth program.
Three years ago, we had almost nothing;
We’ve put resources into it, Life Teen is growing,
it teaches the Faith, it is centered on the Eucharist.
Do you know we have teens making holy hours?
We had teens getting up for 8 am Mass this summer!
We’re growing; kids are coming from other parishes…
And yet, we’re held back; we’re stalled.
For one, we still have many more teens to reach.
Our teens are incredibly busy. It’s hard for them.
Many of our teens have no free nights—none.
Some do sports all weekend—no Mass—
with their parents’ encouragement.
On the other hand, we are held back because
we don’t have enough adults to help as leaders.
Last week we had to cancel a scheduled event,
because we couldn’t get enough adult chaperones.
We desperately need adults
to take leadership for Sunday evening sessions.
These are when the kids can come to learn their Faith,
to be able to stand when the storms come,
and not sink as even Peter did.
We need more adults to be present as mentors;
your unique experiences and wisdom can mean so much!
You’ve been given Light—will you share it?
* Update: I corrected the flaw in this part of the analogy, which an eagle-eye would catch: in fact, if the "room" is "pitch-black," then no one can make it to salvation--i.e., it is not, in fact, possible to be saved purely on ones own (that would be Pelagianism); everyone and anyone who is saved, must have the assistance of divine grace. I reworded this the second time I preached it, to something like this:
Now, what do you think? How can you make it?
You'd like some light, wouldn't you? Even a little light would help.
And in fact, God does give everyone some light...