Monday, May 19, 2014

Homily - "Aye stail ghat JEEzus"

Here is the homily from the Sunday Vigil Mass / Baccalaureate:
We had senior night on Wednesday.  The seniors gave each other awards, “senior superlatives”.  It was for this person to be the “most likely to do…(this or that)”.  I gave them their own superlative as a class: “most likely to call me in the middle of the night”.  They have taken me up on my “available 24/7” policy many times!  Calls at 2 am from spring break or for confession or just to talk.  One time, I thought it was the alarm on my phone, so I went to hit it as I would my snooze button.  All of a sudden, a voice from the phone calls out, “Father”.  I thought, ‘that’s not my alarm.  That’s a person!’  As you can imagine at that time of night and given the condition of college students then, sometimes the voice was much louder:  “FAAATHERRR”.  My reply was, “we’ll talk tomorrow”.  I was actually very happy to get the (sober) calls because when a person calls a priest, it’s like calling Christ.  Calling Christ at 2 in the morning is very cool to me!

Seriously, there are many superlatives to give this class of seniors.  They are probably the biggest class Newman has ever had.  They have been the most active.  And, they didn’t wait until senior year to start leading.  They have led retreats, service trips, Bible studies, discussion groups, and served on our student board.  They are fun, cool, good, and faithful young people.  It really doesn’t get any better for a priest!  There are so many stories to tell.

One of our seniors when she was a freshman introduced herself to me on campus.  Then, literally, two minutes later, asked me, “so, can you help me to believe in God again?”  She has spent the last three years believing in God. 

One of our seniors as a sophomore came to our Opening Barbeque with his friends.  They were just looking for something to eat because no other place was open on campus at the time.  He saw that it was Chipotle burritos, and was like, “oh great, I love Chipotle”.  Then, he saw that it was an event by GW Catholics and thought, “hey, cool, I’m Catholic”.  He signed up for RCIA because he needed to be confirmed.  He came to RCIA every week, asking tons of questions, and then spent the next three years as one of our most active students.  

One of our seniors started coming to daily Mass last year.  Yes, parents, your sons and daughters have been coming to Mass during the week in addition to Sunday!  They even asked for additional Masses at night because they couldn’t make the noon Mass every day.  So, this one student had an epiphany at Mass about life.  A few days later, she told me, “Father, I just want you to know that I am now pro-life”.  Awesome!

This year, three of our seniors and grad students are getting ready for marriage in the next year or so.  Two of our senior men are entering seminary or religious life.  Two of our senior women are going on mission for a year after being very active in service with GW Catholics.  Some of them have been holding each other accountable with regards to chastity and sobriety, two virtues that are not very popular on a college campus. 

Now, you parents might hear all this and wonder, ‘have they been at a university or a monastery the past four years?’  They have been on a secular campus, defending Christ and His Church in incredible ways.  They believe firmly what Jesus says in today’s Gospel: that He is “the way, the truth, and the life”.  And, they have been showing that and telling that to others on campus.  When they were freshmen, Cardinal Wuerl came to GW to celebrate a student Mass and for food after Mass.  What he saw was the “New Evangelization” – students going out and bringing others to Christ.  He saw GW as the prototype of this, and used it as the example whenever he talked about the New Evangelization.  We understand he even told the Vatican about GW!

It really is incredible what you seniors have been doing and who you have become.  You have come to know Christ.  You know Him and you love Him.  You have given your hearts to Him.  And, people around you know this.  They know you are a friend of Christ.  They know you are a follower of His.  This is your identity.  Thank you for your friendship with Christ!   Thank you for your friendship with me and Amy.  It really goes back four years with some of you.  Some of the best times we had were just hanging out at Newman or at meals.  Just chilling.  You have been so much fun, and such good friends!

Going forward, do not be afraid of the future.  No matter what happens, you always have Jesus. Don’t worry about tomorrow because you will have Jesus.  Don’t worry about the future because you will have Jesus in the Eucharist.  Friends of mine who are priests went to seminary with a guy from the south.  He had a funny expression that he would say all the time: “waaail, aye stail ghat JEEzus”.  If something went wrong like he failed a test or got a bad report, he would just say,  “waaail, aye stail got JEEzus”.  No matter where you go or what happens, you still got Jesus! 

Finally, you have heard me say this a hundred times: “you are good and you are loved”.  Tonight, I want you to take it personally.  I have come to know you these past four years, and I say that you’re good.  You know that you are loved by me, Amy, and Almighty God.  But, tonight, it is cemented as you sit with your parents and families, that you are loved by them. Your parents are the main ones who say that you are good and you are loved.  They say it tonight, and I beg you to believe it deeply in your hearts as you go forward, especially if life gets tough and you start to doubt yourself and your identity in the world:  you are good and you are loved.     

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