Homily by Deacon Jay Ziolkowski
“Unless you change and become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven” Matt: 18:3
Today we celebrate the feast of St. John Bosco, who was born in 1815 into a very poor family in Becchia (Italy). John had 2 older brothers, and the Bosco family were farm hands on a local farm. When he was 2 years old, John’s father died and his mother was left to care for him and his brothers. It was tough going back then.
Even when he was going to school, besides learning about God and Jesus from his mother and others, he also had to work. He probably spent as much time in the fields working and to take care of his family as he did studying in school. Even life was challenging for young John Bosco, he always knew this–God loved him and God was always there for him. That is something that we always need to remind ourselves when our lives are rough. Jesus said: “I will never leave you or forsake you”, remember that!
When John turned 9 years old something happened to him when he was sleeping. John had a strange dream. In it, he was standing on a playground, and there were all these kids not just playing, but fighting, and calling each other names. As he was watching the fight in his dream, there was this messenger who came to him and said, “John, you have to do something about this. Go and stand in middle of the them and ask them to be kind like Jesus.” Yes, that is exactly what John did. And they listened. Then the messenger told John “I want you to spend the rest of your life with young people, telling them to live like Jesus.” “But how can I do that, I am just a 9 year old kid.” To which the messenger replied “God will lead and take care of you.”
As John grew older, his heart went out to people, he loved and accepted people as they were. John loved to play games, tell jokes and in the end, he would add something about Jesus. That was his way of sharing his faith with others.
In 1841 John was ordained a priest. Fr. John Bosco met a young boy and found out he was as orphan. Fr. John was willing to be a father figure for him and also his teacher. Because of Fr. John’s kindness to this boy, other priests began to work with him. Fr. John Bosco went on to establish what is now know as the Salesian priests (based on the teaching of St.Francis de Sales, and from that group the Salesian Sisters were also founded. Today Salesians live on almost every continent in the world.
John Bosco’s life tells us two very important things that you need to remember, that we all need to remember: Even though our lives may be filled with challenges at times, God loves you and God is longing for your love, and secondly we mustn’t stand on the sidelines. We need to get involved, get in the trenches to do something, to give witness. That is what we are called to do as the Church–to get involved.
There may be something going on at school that is not right. You can stand on the sidelines and let it go on or you can jump in and say: “This is not right!” We can see dishonesty, or bullying or see our friends do dangerous things on the internet. In those moments, we can say “oh it’s somebody else’s job” or we can be like John Bosco and be gutsy and bold. We can say: “Jesus, I am willing, help me to make a difference.”
Here at St. Francis de Sales , you have the privilege to attend a really great Catholic school. A Catholic school that offers an incredible opportunity to gain knowledge for today, for tomorrow and for the rest of your life. A Catholic school that also gives you the privilege and opportunity to personally know Jesus and to know people like St. John Bosco, who was bold and courageous and when the situation presented itself, who made a difference.
You will come to know Jesus–and it’s not just by reading about Him. Catholic schools, like St. Francis de Sales help us to know Jesus as our friend and our brother. Catholic schools are what they are because of the many dedicated people who give their lives in service to you every day, and every year. They have said yes to their call from God to be involved in the vocation of Catholic education. We need to thank all the administrators, teachers, staff and parents and Fr. Paul because each of them has heard and responded to God’s call.
They do all this for you and you, all our students because you are very precious in God’s sight. He has called each of you by name.
John Bosco said “yes” to his dream. We pray that just as John Bosco heard God’s message at the age of 9, and then again at 15, so can you. God has a dream, a big plan for you, and we hope and pray that you will find it and follow that dream. Remember we all have a purpose I this life…Find Yours!
Harriet Tubman was a slave in the south who became a conductor on the Underground Railroad. She said this: “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”
And with Jesus journeying with you, there is nothing you can’t do.