In the first reading we hear the ardent prayer of an Old Testament Jew named Azariah who finds himself in a pretty hot spot. He fervently prays, “… O Lord, do not deliver us up forever, or make void your covenant. [Save us for] the sake of Abraham, your beloved… to whom you promised to multiply … offspring like the stars of heaven, or the sand on the shore of the sea.”
This was God’s covenant promise to Abraham, and God has indeed made Abraham’s spiritual offspring vast and numerous. Today, half of the people on earth claim Abraham as their father in faith—these are Christians, Muslims and Jews who all seek to worship the God of Abraham.
Yet Jesus prayed that all people would be one in Him, as one holy family of God—a diversity of persons sharing one perfect unity. To achieve this goal Jesus established one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, so that all may be one, as He and the Father are one. Our Church was established by Jesus, Himself, who said to Peter, our first pope, “You are rock, and upon this rock I will build My Church.”
Our Catholic family is made up of every race and reaches to every nation. To illustrate this, I would ask all high school students; freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, to stand up now. Imagine that these 146, or so, young men and women represent the world’s nearly 1.2 billion Catholics. Each one represents about eight million of our Catholic brothers and sisters.
In the United States we have 68 million Catholics, but this is only 5.7% of all the Catholics in the world. I would now ask the male freshmen to remain standing and for everyone else to sit down. These guys represent the Catholics of the United States, plus the rest of North America and the Caribbean—just 9% of Catholics worldwide.
The freshmen can sit down and I would ask the male sophmores to stand up. This is Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands, totaling 11% of all Catholics.
You can sit and I’ll ask the senior males to stand. This is Africa’s Catholics, 12% of the Catholics in the world.
You can sit and we’ll have the male juniors and the female seniors rise. This is Europe, 27% of all Catholics. (The pope is in there somewhere.)
You can sit and we’ll have our largest region of all, represented by the female juniors and the full sophomore class, please stand. This is Central and South America, where 39% of all Catholics live.
So, as you can see our Catholic family is far more diverse than you might have imagined. We are young and old, men and women, rich and poor, sinners and saints.
Our Catholic family not only spans the globe, it also spans the centuries. This is reflected in the ancient prayers we sing today, such as the Latin Sanctus and Agnus Dei, the Kyrie which is ancient Greek, and the Amen which is Hebrew.
Let me put this another way: Could I have one high school student please stand up. This one person represents about 13½ years, which is about how long you have had to explore and get to know about your faith. Now could all of the high schoolers please stand up. You represents all the years that the Church has been on earth, since 33 AD. Our Church has been around a lot longer than we have. You may be seated.
Roman Catholics make up the largest religious denomination in the United States. However, it is said that the second largest denomination in our country would be former Catholics. Tragically, many Catholics leave the Church. Oftentimes, they experience one or two parishes and a couple of priests, in one region, of one country, over a handful of years, and they imagine that they have exhausted the riches of the 2,000 year-old worldwide Church and Faith of Jesus Christ. But in reality, you can explore the mysteries of Catholic beauty and truth for a lifetime and never exhaust them.
My message for you, with all passionate the urging of Jesus Christ, is this: always remain in the Church that Jesus Christ founded. Never walk away from the fullness of God’s family, but dwell in the household of God.