A. Fr. Proffitt, Msgr. Phillips, my brother deacons, and dear friends in Christ: It’s a real pleasure to be with all of you today for the annual Archdiocesan Scout Mass and Presentation of Awards. And thank you so much, Father Proffitt, for hosting us here at St. John’s.
B. Let me say how grateful I am to the members of the Catholic Committee on Scouting. And I am especially happy to offer my warm congratulations to all of you who will be receiving special awards today. I admire your hard work, dedication, faith, and values. You are models for your peers and for all of us gathered with you today.
II. God’s Gifts As Reflected in the Scout Oath and Law
A. Today’s Scripture readings seem tailor made for today’s Scout Mass. The first reading speaks about the wisdom, knowledge, virtue, and skill you are striving to attain through Scouting. The Gospel speaks about Jesus’ great love and respect for young people – a love and a respect I hope you will experience as something very real.
B. So, our first reading from Sirach is part of a poem that celebrates God’s wisdom reflected in the dignity of the human person. In this reading we can see some elements of the Scout Oath and Law. It states, “He created for them counsel, and a tongue and eyes and ears, and an inventive heart, and filled them with the discipline of understanding. He created in them knowledge of the spirit; with wisdom he fills their heart; good and evil he shows them. He put the fear of himself upon their hearts…”
C. These gifts that God has given us are to be put to good use by our generous service to God and our neighbors. He gave us a tongue to proclaim God’s goodness by practicing our faith, by going to Mass on Sunday, and receiving the Sacraments. He gave us eyes and ears so that we might understand the needs that are all around us – whether they be big or small. God has given us a share in his own wisdom and love so that we might be make good and wise decisions and relate to the people all around us with integrity, goodness, and generosity.
D. God has also given us an inventive heart. Certainly, an important element of scouting is being creative, resourceful, and thrifty in all that you do. This means you make the wisest use of all that you have. To be thrifty means focusing not just on today, but also on tomorrow. As scouts you are “always prepared”.
E. The gifts of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge certainly keep you mentally awake so that you may achieve success and satisfaction in life, and they will help you to overcome any challenges that you will face. Being mentally awake means that, as scouts, you will not allow yourselves to be influenced or snared by what is evil. There are many negative influences all around us that can pull you away from task of getting a good education and developing your God-given talents. Scouting challenges you to focus on these tasks.
F. The gifts of fearing or respecting the Lord and the knowledge of good and evil help you as scouts to be morally upright, obedient, and always reverent. Through scouting, you learn to develop moral virtues, to show respect for others, to have good manners, and always treat others fairly. Scouting teaches you to know the difference between right and wrong and hold your ground even if you peers sometimes chose what is wrong. A scout needs to show self-discipline, even in the face of temptation. When we have deep respect for God and for others, we will also respect ourselves. So let’s remember what Pope Francis said at a World Youth Day: he told the young people, “don’t be afraid to swim against the tide.”
G. If, as a scout, you strive to accept and develop all the gifts God gave you and make the Scout Oath and Law a real part of your life, then you will grow to be that human being that God wants you to become. And when we become what God wants us to become – then we are truly happy.
III. Jesus Blesses the Children
A. And this brings us to the Gospel. If the first reading spoke about human dignity in general, the Gospel tells us of Jesus’ love for young people and his affirmation of their dignity. In other words, children and young people were very important to Jesus. All of you, gathered here this morning, are very important to Jesus. As we saw in the Gospel, Jesus got upset when his disciples started shooing away parents and children because they thought Jesus was too busy or too tired to see them. Jesus insisted that the children come to him that that nothing be put in the way of their coming to him. Jesus insisted that the children come to Him and that nothing be placed in the way of their coming to Him. Jesus wants you to approach Him with trust and confidence. Many things in our culture threaten to take you away from our Lord. There is a lot of peer pressure to go down a path that leads away from God. When you are faced with moral choices think of the Scout Oath and Law and remember the duty you have to God and others. And rely on the many good friendships you have formed in scouting. A good friend would never allow another to go astray.
B. In the Gospel Jesus says, “Whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” He is suggesting that we have a lot to learn from children. We have to learn to welcome the kingdom of God as children do. What does Jesus mean by this? Children are completely dependent on their parents for everything. And so, God wants us to be completely dependent on Him in all things. He wants us to run to Him as children and open ourselves to every good thing that He wants to give us. Children are very receptive to good things, to gifts, including the gift of the kingdom of God. As you grow older, do not lose a sense of dependence on God. May you have a young heart, open to God, every day of your lives!
Dear scouts, I challenge you to be the best scouts you can be. Good scouts are good citizens and we certainly need good citizens these days. Good Catholic scouts are good and active members of the Church and the Church is counting on you to be part of her mission in the years ahead. Scouting is designed to bring out the best in you so that you develop your God-given gifts and share those gifts with both Church and society. It doesn’t emphasize winning as an end result; rather, it emphasizes the far more demanding task of doing one’s best. The awards you receive today represent impressive accomplishments. May they also be a sign of your many future accomplishments for the good of the Church and for the good of our world. God bless you and God keep you always in his love.