(The following is adapted from Archbishop Gomez’ homily for Catholic Schools Week, delivered at St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy in Downey, on Jan. 28.)

Today we are celebrating the life of the great priest and teacher, St. Thomas Aquinas.

Aquinas was one of smartest men in the history of the world. It is hard to count all the books he wrote, and he wrote in so many areas — law, philosophy, Scripture, theology, even natural science.

He was also a holy man, and a deeply prayerful man. He wrote beautiful prayers and hymns that we still use in the Church.

Near the end of his life, Aquinas was on his knees in prayer and he heard the voice of Jesus Christ speaking to him from the crucifix on the wall.

Jesus said to him: “You have spoken well of me, Aquinas. What reward would you like?”

Aquinas said in reply: “Nothing but yourself, Lord.”

What would you say if God asked you what you wanted? It is an interesting question. We have to be honest with ourselves. What are we really looking for in life? Are we focused on the right things?

That is why a Catholic education is important. It helps us to know what is important. And what is most important, as Aquinas tells us, is knowing Jesus.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells us, “You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers and sisters.”

Of course, Jesus is not saying that you don’t have to listen to your teachers in school. What he is saying is that we need to learn from him, and that there is nothing more important than what he has to teach us.

Everything in life comes back to Jesus.

As you have learned, Jesus is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity — the Son of God, the Word of God. By this Word, the whole universe was created — all the galaxies, every living creature, all the oceans and mountains. Amazing.

What is more amazing is that Jesus came down to share our human life. He wanted to know what it feels like to live in “our skin.” And he was like us in all things, except for one thing. He did not sin.

He was tempted, just like we are, he felt weakness. He knew pain and sadness and frustration and hunger. And he knew love and joy and friendship. Everything that happens to us, Jesus understands. Because he has “lived” it.

But why? That is the question!

And the answer is just one word. Love. Jesus did all this out of love for you and me. When he was suffering and dying on the cross, he was thinking about you and me, and everyone else in the history of the world.

Your life is so precious to Jesus, even though we mess up, even though we make mistakes. He sees who we are, but he also sees who we are meant to be.

And Jesus is there to walk with us, to teach us the one true way to find happiness and joy in our lives. The one true way to get to heaven.

We need to get to know Jesus, just like we get to know our friends. That means we need to read the Gospels.

The Gospels are like the Instagram page of Jesus. They show us little pictures, little scenes from his life. We hear his words, he tells us what he is feeling, what he is doing. Just read a few verses every day. I promise you, Jesus is talking to you in the pages of the Gospels.

We need to meet him also in the holy Mass, in the Eucharist. Jesus loves you so much that he wants to make himself into “food” to feed you, to strengthen you. He wants to become a part of you, to be like the beating of your heart.

This is what Jesus wants to teach you. This is what your teachers want to teach you.

Jesus goes with us. He loves us so much that he will never leave us alone. We are in his presence all the time. We can talk to him, we can complain to him. We can share every minute of our life with him! 

And he wants us to live with him and live like him. Jesus wants us to love as he loved. If you live for love, if you put love into everything you do, you will find everything you are looking for in life. That is the promise that Jesus makes to you.

That is what Aquinas discovered, so let us ask Jesus for the grace to know him, just like Aquinas did.

Pray for me, my young brothers and sisters. And I will be praying for you and your families. 

And let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to teach us as she taught Jesus — so we can really know what is important in our lives.

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