Denise Fedorow
Freelance Writer
November 23, 2023 // Bishop

Bishop Rhoades Celebrates Mass for School Principals

Denise Fedorow
Freelance Writer

Bishop Rhoades joined Catholic school principals from across the diocese to celebrate Mass with them at St. Martin de Porres Church in Syracuse on Wednesday, November 8.

“I’m so glad to be with you; I’m especially glad to be back from a month in Rome at the synod,” he said as he greeted them.

Bishop Rhoades said when he came into the church and saw all the principals in silent prayer, it reminded him of being at the Synod of Bishops, saying that when he and the other participants were in meetings, they often stopped to pray.

Bishop Rhoades celebrated Mass with the principals of Catholic Schools from across the diocese at St. Martin de Porres Church in Syracuse on Wedesday, November 8.

“It reminded me when we have meetings we need more prayer,” Bishop Rhoades said, adding when the principals gather together to share ideas or with teachers in their buildings, “also pray together – it’s the heart of our mission.”

During his homily, which focused on the Gospel reading
from Luke (14: 25-33), Bishop Rhoades said: “Imagine that great crowd traveling with Jesus to Jerusalem. They were attracted to Him and interested in His teachings. They had witnessed His miracles. Some had shared meals with Him. But now was the time for a decision.”

“Most were simply travelling with Jesus, but now Jesus tells them what is required to follow Him as a disciple. There are three conditions: 1.) One must love Him more than anyone or anything else, even more than one’s family, and even more than one’s life; 2.) One must be willing to carry one’s cross and walk after Him; 3.) One must renounce all one’s possessions.”

“In sum, Jesus calls us to follow Him wholeheartedly,” Bishop Rhoades added. “When we think about the cost of discipleship, it’s pretty scary. We have a natural tendency to cling to ourselves and our life. To renounce ourselves and give our total allegiance to Christ – that’s a huge decision. In the eyes of the world, renouncing ourselves seems crazy and stupid. Actually, that’s what Jesus Himself did. Though He was God, He emptied Himself and became a man. Out of love, the Son of God embraced the cross and died for us. He’s calling those who would be His disciples to join Him along this way of the cross, the path of self-renunciation.”

“Pope Benedict XVI once said that ‘every form of holiness, while following diverse paths, always passes along the way of the cross, the path of self-renunciation,’” Bishop Rhoades shared.

He continued, telling the principals: “Like the crowd in the Gospel, we are called to make a decision about becoming disciples of Jesus, not just traveling with Him as part of our life, but as the center of our life. Jesus tells the crowd to consider carefully the call to discipleship. He gives the example of a person wishing to construct a tower. The person needs to calculate the cost first and shouldn’t proceed unless he knows he has the resources to finish the work.”

“Jesus gives a second example: A king before he marches into battle needs to calculate if he has enough troops to win the battle. Otherwise, he shouldn’t go, but should send a delegation to ask for peace terms. The lesson for us is that we need to carefully consider what it means to become a disciple of Jesus. Are we ready and willing, for example, to carry the cross? We should ask ourselves, ‘Who is Jesus for me?’ Is He truly the Lord of my life? Does He occupy first place in my life?’ St. John Paul II taught that ‘faith is a decision involving one’s whole existence.’”

Bishop Rhoades said Jesus isn’t calling everyone to leave their family or sell all their possessions, but He calls some to do that. However, “He calls all of us to renounce whatever gets in the way of following Him, to get rid of whatever prevents us from wholeheartedly becoming His disciples.”

He gave the example of St. Thomas More, who was a loyal servant and had a wife and daughters he loved deeply, but he put God first. “Like so many other martyrs, he renounced even his family’s pleas and his own life for the sake of Christ. By losing his life, Thomas More found it. In the radical letting go of ourselves, we become free and find life. We fall into the hands of the One who is love eternal.”

“The Church’s mission, received from Jesus, is to go and make disciples. You and I have a special responsibility in this regard. I am called to teach the Gospel and make disciples here in our diocese through my ministry as bishop,” he said. “You, as Catholic school principals, are called to lead your teachers and help your students to grow as disciples of Jesus. But in trying to accomplish this mission, we need to think about our own lives of discipleship and our witness as Jesus’ disciples and our commitment to Him. We can ask ourselves, ‘What cross am I carrying in order to come after Jesus? What impedes me from following the Lord wholeheartedly? Am I too attached to my possessions? What do I need to renounce so that Jesus is truly the center of my life?’”

In conclusion, Bishop Rhoades told the principals: “When I speak to young adults, I will often talk to them about the Christian life, the life of discipleship, as a great spiritual adventure. It truly is. Jesus compels a choice like no other figure does. He invites us to be His disciples, which is to enter into the mystery of God’s holiness, the mystery of the divine life, the mystery of love. There’s no greater wisdom than this – a wisdom that the world sees as foolishness. It’s the wisdom of saints. The cost of discipleship is high, but it’s of the greatest worth because in Jesus, we find life, lasting joy, and eternal peace. In Him is our salvation.”

At the end of Mass, Bishop Rhoades thanked the principals for their ministries and Superintendent of Schools David Maguel for organizing the Mass.

“I am grateful for all of you,” Bishop Rhoades said. “I love hearing about your schools and having the opportunity to visit your schools.”

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