[Homily given at the opening of Baltimore's High School Leadership Institute (High-LI) - 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time]
Dear Mr. Potter,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find
enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.
Terms begin on September 1. We await your owl by no later than July 31.Yours sincerely,Minerva McGonagallDeputy Headmistress
Ah, remember how all that began? Harry could not be kept from receiving that letter that forever changed his destiny. It seems that from that fateful moment when You-Know-Who zapped him, giving him his trademark scar, he was destined to be the “chosen one.” When Hagrid delivered that acceptance letter, he was merely adding the formal finishing touches to the calling of “The Boy Who Lived.”
Now, think back to some time several months ago. Maybe your youth minister called you or asked to talk to you about this wild program in the summer called High-LI. If it were a letter, maybe it would look like this:
Dear Miss Doe,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at the High School Leadership Institute. Please find enclosed a list of necessities, like pens, fans, music, fans, thumb drives, and fans.The term begins July 24. We await your owl no later than April 15.Yours sincerely,Youth Minister
Your selection to be here is no accident. People see in you much potential and the qualities of a good Christian leader. These qualities will be developed further here. But your presence here is only a part of a great adventure that began long ago – when you were baptized. God chose you first! St. Paul talks about this in our Second Reading: “Those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. … And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.”
This adventure is our Christian life. God has called each of you – each of us – to a unique vocation of service to His People the Church, and the reason you are here is to further discover and develop that calling. Just as Harry Potter learned his potential, his gifts and his power in his time at Hogwarts, so you will find out just what you are capable of with the help of God’s grace.
And when you do discover that, you will come to a deeper understanding of what God is calling you to be. Do not be afraid of that. This week will test you and try you, but it will not break you unless you let it. Joyfully discover your roles in the Church and embrace them generously, like the person who discovers the treasure in a field or the pearl of great price. There is nothing more valuable than discovering God and His purpose for you!
Why does Jesus give us these two “mini parables” in the midst of all the others that talk about sowing and gathering and reaping? These two talk about the dramatic lengths to which someone will go to possess that Kingdom of God. For them, it’s all or nothing.
I was always struck by the drastic nature of the action in those Harry Potter stories, too. These are young people – like you – and they are battling evil, and dying for that battle. Why?
I’d guess that it is similar to the reasons someone would give up all they had in order to buy a field or a pearl – why someone would sacrifice all for the Kingdom of God.
The stakes are that high, friends. Do not settle for mediocrity. You are better than that – because God has made you so! If the Lord asks something of you, you are capable of it. All it takes is trust and prayer – just like young Solomon in the first reading, who prays for the wisdom to do what he is called to do.
The invitation has been sent, my young friends. And you have accepted. Now, with God’s help, you embark on an adventure that will lead you to discover the great things that you can do.