Bishop Robert McElroy’s Homily at #NCEA16

On Tuesday, March 29, 2016, Bishop Robert W. McElroy celebrated Mass with thousands of Educators from all over the world at the National Catholic Educational Association 2016 Convention and Expo at the San Diego Convention Center. Listen to his homily here.


One of the most beautiful movies of the past decade isTerrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” which is ultimately a reflection on the meaning of life and our pilgrimage on this Earth and God’s accompaniment with us. the story is the story of a Young Man about 12 years old growing up in Waco Texas. His name is Jack O’Brien but it’s told from the vantage point of Jack when he is 50 years old. he is a mature man and his life has gone awry and he’s looking back upon his life to understand where the seeds of the goodness that are in him lay and the seeds that led him astray. and as  the film begins it begins with beautiful cinematography of the creation of the universe of the Sun and the moon and the stars as in The Book of Genesis which we read each year at the Easter Vigil. and as all of these beautiful images unfold on the screen and if they do so and breathtaking Beauty, the “adult Jack” in narration says, “where are you God? why have I have abandoned you?” And then he says when we were children the sisters used to teach us that there are two things that move the hearts of men the order of Nature and the order of grace. the order of nature is the world as it is Harsh demanding controlling itself upon us competitive unrelenting the order of grace is the opposite it is the beauty which lies all around us in the universe the moments of Grace of forgiveness of friendship of love of savoring of reflectiveness, and the story of Jack throwing up is really the story of how the order of nature played out against the order of Grace in the life of his parents his father symbolized the order of nature he was a good man he loved his Three Sons but he had had a hard life. when he was young he was a talented very talented musician an organist and he wanted to be a professional organist but his father had died young and thus head had to leave school and leave the music behind and instead take up a job and a career he did not like to make a living for the family he was born into and ultimately to make a living for the family he in the wife he married created and for him life had always been competitive he always seemed one step behind even though he had many talents everytime we try to get ahead at work somehow he would be frustrated and so in his love he sought to teach his son to look always at the world through the order of nature he said “never let the guy behind you catch up with you always look for the end life will never be good to you and you gotta make the opportunities or else you will be left behind. Jack’s mother on the other hand was played by Jessica Chastain and very beautiful role embodies the order of Grace for her life is to be savored in a beautiful loving caring way and she teaches her young Sons as they grow up to look for the opportunity each day to see the presence of God there in their lives teaching them the God provides to them each of them each day beautiful wondrous opportunities to experience grace.

If only we stop and savor those moments and recognize them and Ponder them and embrace them and love them and she teaches them to be men of kindness men of poetry men of beauty who savor all these things and see the presence of God all around them. she teaches them to be men of faith and in his adult life this is the conflict with Jack O’Brien wrestled with the order of nature and the Order of Grace and he chose the order of nature he became very competitive. at the age of 50 he looks back in his life that he was distinguished architect building and they’re great but he has created his father never was behind Architect who builds a great building and they’re great monuments that he has created a successful the way his father never was but he looks back and feels an emptiness in his life because he has left God behind and he left so much of the beauty that his mother told him to save her at the see behind also and he realizes in doing so ignore the old is on family of marriage and the children he brought into the world anytime there’s all this his mother has died and his father calls him on his 50th birthday and wants to come over and talk to him and his father says to him on that day Jack don’t keep following the example I set for you he said I look back on my life and I realized I had missed all the glory to God put there for me to save her and enjoy and to hold in all I beg you don’t do the same

The primary Mission of Catholic Education at the primary, secondary, and university levels, is to point unswervingly to the Order of Grace in a world which is all too consumed with the Order of Nature. It is the Mission of Catholic Education to prepare hearts and souls to savor the beauty of the world that God has created, to understand that it is God who is the author of all the blessings we have in our lives, to see its apex in the gospel of the resurrection of Jesus Christ which we heard today. And as Mary Magdalene beheld it, so we are to behold it, and to see in the Catholic tradition of education at its best, that the core of what we do is to point to the beauty of life that God has created for us here in this world, and to seize it, and nurture it, and in so doing, to ennoble the world in which we live by acts of love and forgiveness, by making things of beauty and artistry, by bringing awe into the lives of others and savoring the awesome things which God brings into our own lives. In the gospel today when Mary encounters Jesus she calls him Rabboni, which means teacher. Each of you here today is a teacher of hearts and minds and souls. May you also be wonderful teachers in the Order of Grace, for that is the pathway by which God leads us most powerfully to encounter all that we have been created for.

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