Monday, May 20, 2013
Homily - "The Spirit has been leading us"
Given at the Vigil Mass for Pentecost which was also the Baccalaureate Mass for our graduating seniors:
Earlier in the week, we had our Senior Night when we honored our seniors with a Mass and dinner. It was a great time of reminiscing over the past four years. If you all remember that summer of 2009, then you might recall meeting me at orientation (CI) or in the first few weeks of school. I asked you what you would be studying and what you wanted to do after graduation. So many of you said, “I want to be president”. I replied, “That’s cool. President of what?” “Of the United States”. I laughed it off with the first few of you, but then after the first dozen or so (!), I took it more seriously. That summer was when I arrived as chaplain of the Newman Center (we are seniors together!) and the campus minister was two campus ministers ago. So, a lot has happened since you began GW…even the outside of the Newman Center has changed dramatically! When you arrived, the exterior paint was something out of the Partridge Family from the 70s – “earth tones” like brown, green, orange, etc. We brightened it up with yellow and blue, trying to make it in the family of buff and blue.
If you think back to who you were four years ago – teenagers right out of high school – then you will see how much you have grown intellectually, personally, and spiritually. We all have grown! You have helped me to grow, no doubt. I said the other night that you have taught me so much. One of the greatest things you have taught me is to teach the truth in love. And, underscore IN LOVE. My primary task is to teach. We celebrate Pentecost tonight when the Spirit of Truth came upon the early Church and has been guiding the Church in truth ever since. Our mission is to speak the Truth, and you have taught me, mainly through your example, to do it in kindness , compassion, gentleness, and patience. Thank you for all that you have taught me!
One thing we have definitely shared together these past four years is the Holy Spirit. If there was any doubt that the Spirit has been guiding us, God made it abundantly clear this semester. We had such an awesome semester with the Spirit, especially during the Easter Season when the readings spoke to us so much about uniting in persecution and in joy. Sometimes, God sends the Spirit in dramatic ways so that we will know He is there with us. Look at the event of Pentecost: it is pretty dramatic! The Spirit comes upon the Apostles who were all together in a room afraid to go outside “for fear of the Jews”. They were afraid to be identified as followers of Jesus. Then, the Spirit comes upon them as tongues of fire, and they go out and boldly proclaim Jesus. The same Spirit that dramatically came upon them has come upon you these past four years, sometimes in extraordinary ways and sometimes in ordinary ways. But, make no mistake, the Spirit has been leading us.
Jesus says in the Gospel (Jn 20:19-23) that “as the Father has sent me, so I send you”. The word apostle means, “one who is sent”. You have been modern day apostles on this campus the past four years, going out to campus and inviting people to Jesus. I said this to you when you were freshmen and you response has literally been known around the country and the world. Cardinal Wuerl has used you and our GW Catholic community as the main example of the New Evangelization in homilies and talks in Washington and around the country, as well as in his new book. Who knows, maybe he even mentioned you in the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization last year in Rome! As Christ sent out the Apostles, He has sent you out to this campus. Now, He sends you out to the world. Just like the Apostles, you have been all together to receive the Spirit; now you, too, go out separately to speak the Truth in love.
So, that’s the plan going forward. How do you live it? St. Paul gives you a spiritual blueprint for your future in our second reading (Rom 8:8-17): life in the Spirit. You have a choice as you have had the past four years: to live in the flesh or in the Spirit. You have seen that when we live in the Spirit, it’s just different. Living in the Spirit brings joy, and not just pleasure which passes. It brings peace. When Jesus gives peace to the Apostles in the Gospel (and He says twice, “peace be with you”), He gives it in the form of a divine person, the Spirit! It is the Spirit of joy, peace, love, kindness, generosity, chastity, and all the fruits. Life in the Spirit means a life of freedom. I hope you have experienced this freedom in your time here, especially with regards to chastity.
Finally, live this life in the Spirit centered on the Eucharist. Jesus promises in John’s Gospel that those who remain in Him and Him in us (Eucharistic language) have life, bear much fruit, and live forever. The saints found happiness in their devotion to the Eucharist, and I promise you will find happiness in a life centered on the Eucharist. So, go to Mass every Sunday no matter where you are, and daily Mass whenever you can. And, pray the rosary every day, at least a part of it. Again, the saints’ ticket to happiness was in Jesus through Mary.
Just because we will be separated physically does not mean we will be separated spiritually. I will pray for you every day, and please pray for me and our GW Catholic community. I am always here for you in the future as I’ve been here for you the past four years. One of the things you have realized about having a celibate priest around is that I am always here. If there is one thing I hope you have learned in these four years from me – other than that the Eucharist is really the Body and Blood of Christ (!) – is how much God loves you. And, how much I love you. My hope is that you believe deeply in your hearts that you are good and you are loved.