SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER – YEAR C
Baccalaureate Mass of St. Gregory the Great Catholic Academy
When Bishop Chappetto administered Confirmation three weeks ago, our parish experienced a mini-Pentecost as many of you were sealed with the Holy Spirit. The Scripture readings for this Sunday between the Feast of the Ascension and Pentecost invite all of us to reflect on some of the gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit. And these three gifts have special bearing on you, my dear graduates because, in addition to conveying knowledge, both St. Gregory the Great Catholic Academy and Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Academy have striven to assist you in developing and deepening them. The gifts are three: character, camaraderie, and confidence about the future.
Stephen, described as a man filled with the Holy Spirit and the first Christian martyr, illustrates the first of those gifts: character. Character building is what Catholic Education is all about. Stephen knows who he is; there is no identity crisis as he puts his life on the line. Likewise, he has the vision to see beyond the superficial and trivial to reality in its fulness. Added to this is Stephen’s courage to testify to his convictions despite opposition and threats. “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Character is the result of many virtues bestowed by the Spirit: integrity, faith, courage, well-formed conscience, self-mastery, compassion,
As this evening’s festivities, many of you will receive academic awards. At the graduation ceremony next Friday, other awards will be handed to you with your diplomas and the announcement of scholarships. We will applaud your achievements as we send you forth from St. Gregory’s; but, more importantly, we will salute the character that each of you manifests each in his or her own way.
At the Confirmation ceremony you heard Bishop Chappetto make reference to the friendship that he and I have shared since we started high school sixty years ago, and how much that friendship has meant to him, especially with all of the challenges that face him as the Vicar General or Second-in-Command of this diocese. Last October my Alma Mater, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Catholic Academy, celebrated its 90th Anniversary. At the dinner after Mass, I sat with my fellow graduates of the Class of 1959. We, and classmates who could not attend the party, have deep and lasting friendships forged long ago in the halls of OLQM.
All of that brings me to the second gift: camaraderie. Jesus prayed for that gift for his disciples at the Last Supper. “Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they all may be one.” A special gift of Catholic Education is the gift of knowing that you never have to go it alone. As you take on the challenge of higher education, choose and pursue careers, take spouses and raise families, you will have friends doing the same – friends who will support you, assist you, challenge you, celebrate with you, strengthen and console you when necessary. Camaraderie – the graduates of St. Gregory’s have it in spades.
The surge in the number of action heroes and heroines in recent times reflects an anxiety about the future. With divisions and international tensions at an all time high, those larger-than-life characters provide a powerful if unreal sense of security. Long before the first action hero or heroine appeared on the scene, the Book of Revelation promised the ultimate triumph of good over evil despite breathtaking challenges, using imagery of dragons, beasts, epic battles that would boggle the imagination of any comic book illustrator. Toward the end of the book, the Risen Jesus in all his glory summons his disciples to continue the struggle against injustice, idolatry, indifference, exploitation, and every form of evil because he is coming soon. He invites them to come forward to receive the gift of life-giving water.
That invitation is extended to you once again as you go forth from St. Gregory the Great Catholic Academy. We want you to take from here a confidence about the power of love, compassion, generosity, nobility of heart. At commencement exercises all over the nation, graduation speakers, salutatorians and valedictorians are saying, “You can make a difference.” At Catholic schools, we say more than that. We say, “You will make a difference because you have been empowered by the Spirit of the Living God.” So, go forth and take your place among the ranks of women and men who day in and day out are moving this confused and anxiety-ridden world closer to the Kingdom of God.
Now, as we go to the altar, we repeat Jesus final prayer, “Righteous Father, may the love with which you loved Jesus be in these graduates and may Jesus, himself be in them always.”