Giving a Reason for our Hope

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The following is the text of the homily given by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades in a livestreamed Mass on May 17, the Sixth Sunday of Easter:

We’re in the midst of graduation season. I feel sorry for our college and high school graduates who aren’t able to celebrate their graduation ceremonies, unable to gather with their classmates and receive their diplomas together because of the pandemic. Our four Catholic high schools hope to celebrate these ceremonies in late July, if it is possible. I miss celebrating their Baccalaureate Masses, but hopefully it will be possible at that time. In any event, let’s be sure to congratulate our young men and women on their graduations. To the graduates who are watching this Mass, we are proud of you!

In the Gospel today, Jesus speaks of the Advocate that He will give to His disciples to be with them always. He is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. So I’m praying that the Holy Spirit will be with our graduates as they go into the world, a world where many do not believe or can even be hostile to believers, especially Catholics. I pray that our young graduates will stay firm in the faith.

I hope we have prepared our graduates well, to go forth not with fear, but with hope and courage. I pray that their faith will remain strong and will grow, not become weak or disappear. I hope that when they sit in a class where a professor is attacking religion or Christianity and particularly Catholicism (a favorite target today), that their faith will not only not be shaken, but that they will be able to stand up for our faith.

This brings me to today’s second reading, the wonderful passage we heard from the first letter of our first pope. St. Peter wrote: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”

Are we able to give an explanation for the hope that is within us, the hope that springs from faith? Of course, our hope is Christ. Are we ready to give a good, articulate and intelligent explanation of our beliefs? Are our young people able to do so? I hope so — that’s why our Catholic high schools and our parish youth ministry programs must be excellent in catechesis. And that’s why it’s so important that parents are practicing and living the faith, giving good witness to their children. Parents need to be able to give a reason for their hope and be able to explain the faith to their children. This is effective only when parents are authentically living the faith, living in a way that is consistent with the faith.

St. Peter doesn’t say that we should be ready “now and then” to give an explanation of our faith or reason for our hope. He doesn’t say “sometimes.” He says: “Always” be ready to do so! I invite you to ponder these questions:

Are you ready and able to explain why you believe and hope in Jesus Christ and why you are His disciple?

Are you able to intelligently speak to an atheist why it is reasonable to believe in God or to a Muslim or Jewish friend why you believe that Jesus is God or why you believe that God is a Trinity of three Divine Persons?

Are you ready and able to explain to a Protestant friend why you believe that the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus and has preserved the fullness of the apostolic faith?

Are you ready and able to explain the importance of the seven sacraments and the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist?

Are you ready and able to explain why we confess our sins to a priest, why we venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints, why we believe in the authority of the Pope and bishops and why we believe in the doctrine of purgatory?

Are you able to explain and defend our belief in the sanctity of all human life, in the dignity of the child in the womb, of immigrants and refugees, of the sick and the dying, and, therefore, why we oppose abortion, xenophobia and euthanasia?

Are you able to explain and defend why marriage is a union between one man and one woman, why some reproductive technologies are harmful to human dignity and why sex should only be within marriage?

Are you ready and able to explain why the option to follow Christ in the Catholic Church is a po