By Katherine Long | Editor

As a new school year began, Syracuse’s new bishop gave a one-question pop quiz: What’s your passion?

Teachers, administrators, and members of the Catholic Schools family marked the opening of a new school year Aug. 29 with Mass celebrated by Bishop Douglas J. Lucia at Holy Cross Church in DeWitt.

In his homily, Bishop Lucia noted the day’s liturgy was a Mass of the Holy Spirit. When asked about the liturgy, Bishop Lucia said he “thought it might be better to celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit since on the liturgical calendar, today is also known as ‘the beheading of St. John the Baptist.’”

“And I thought, ‘No, we don’t want to start the school year off with anyone losing their head,’” he said to chuckles from the congregation.

The Roman Missal now refers to the feast as the Passion of St. John the Baptist, Bishop Lucia said. So, “the question I want to ask this morning is, What is your passion? As you begin this new school year, what is your passion?”

For all who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, the bishop said, the question naturally comes: Do I have a passion for God? Do I have a passion for Jesus like John the Baptist?

John’s life centered on Jesus and on pointing Christ out to others, Bishop Lucia said, so a second question for the faithful then arises: Is that not also our calling? How do we help others to know Jesus Christ?

Bishop Lucia offered a retelling of a favorite story:

A rabbi and a soapmaker are out for a walk after a rainstorm. The soapmaker is having a bad day and asks the rabbi, “What good is religion?” In a world full of religion, people still hate each other, families are still divided, he says.

The rabbi points to a child playing in a post-storm puddle, covered in mud from head to toe. “What good is soap?” he asks the soapmaker. “Look at that kid over there. With all the soap in the world, that kid is still filthy.”

“But Rabbi! Soap isn’t any good unless it’s applied and used!” says the soapmaker.

“And so it is, Mr. Soapmaker, with religion,” the rabbi replies.

“For me, that story always gives pause about, in a sense, my passion,” Bishop Lucia said. “Is my passion for God, is my passion for Jesus Christ, evident in the way I apply myself in daily life?”

Bishop Lucia urged the educators in the pews to apply themselves to the passion that grows with their relationships with God and to let that be what drives them in what they do both inside and outside the classroom.

He also noted that the red color of the vestments he wore that day symbolizes not only martyrdom but also the Holy Spirit, “that flame of God, that power of God that is available to you and me every day.”

The Holy Spirit is “the one gift that Jesus said would be with us all our days, and yet it’s probably the one gift we don’t unwrap,” Bishop Lucia said.    

“Today is the day, tomorrow is the day, next week is the day for all of us to unwrap that gift, that gift of God, and as we unwrap that gift, just like John the Baptist, it will give us all that we need to show our passion for God and to pass it on to others.”

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