Gerard McKeon, S.J., 76, Assistant Chaplain
The following homily was presented by Fr. McKeon at the
Baccalaureate Mass on May 23.
Men and women of the Cross! Four years ago you were given
this title. Please carry it with you as you take leave of
this beautiful College on the hill.
In these days when you find yourself reminiscing, can you
hear the cheers ring out on the basketball court, down at
Fitton Field, and behind the Hart Center? Once again, the
Cross stands out, unique among its contemporaries. A name
like none other. And you, men and women of the Class of 2002,
how have you lifted high the Cross during your years on Mount
In truth, some of you have surprised the complacent with
your generous service and your courage in speaking out for
justice: At Fort Bennings, Ga., protesting the abysmal human
rights violations from graduates of the infamous School of
the Americas. In Washington, D.C., joining thousands in the
march for life. During spring break through your Appalachia
Service Projects and your work with Habitat for Humanity.
In the city of Worcester, serving so many elderly, youth,
homeless and hungry brothers and sisters. And on this campus,
in your efforts to promote respect for the dignity of all. No
more gay bashing, some of you have cried out. No
more violence and abuse against women, others of you
have powerfully proclaimed through a variety of dramatic
presentations. Leaders among you have witnessed to the call
for greater unity on Mount St. James, even as others cling
onto attitudes that perpetuate classism and racism.
Men and women of the Cross, surely, you have known something
of your calling during your undergraduate years. And now
as you ready yourselves for that wider world, do you recognize
your mission? Can you stand apart from the crowd, unafraid
to declare your allegiance? In a culture of narcissism and
materialism, can you witness to the Cross of self-giving
love and compassion for the least of your brothers and sisters?
Members of the Class of 2002, you come to this day with
a sense of great achievement and accomplishment. You have
so many talents, so much to offer, so much potential. Why
not seize the day! Make the most of the opportunities that
come your way. Become the very best in your field. Surely,
this is the path to true success. And who could argue with
such common sense?
But let us dwell with this a little more. Let us move beyond
the cheerleading and open ourselves to the truth of our calling
as men and women of the Cross. Jesus has words for us who
want to listen from the depths of our hearts. If you want
to become my followers, he tells us, then lose your life
for my sake and for the Gospel. Then you shall save it. Let
go of the need to gain the whole world. Be not ashamed of
me and my words. Rather, take up your Cross and follow me.
The invitation is placed before you. How then shall you
live? How shall you seize the day? You are men and women
of the Cross. Men and women called to the greater, the Magis as
we like to say in Jesuit circles.
You are called to travel with Abraham and Sarah from the
safety of your homeland to that unknown territory where you
will witness to the faiththe faith that places trust
in God above the security of human power and control. You
are called to walk the journey of the Cross in all of its
mystery, for you are men and women of the Cross and may you
never forget this.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great Lutheran theologian who was
martyred by the Nazis in 1945, was a man of the Cross. In
his classic work, The Cost of Discipleship, he reminds
us that the first cross everyone must experience is the call
to abandon the attachments of the world. It may be an experience
similar to the first disciples who are called to leave their
security and risk for the unknown future. It may be an experience
like the rich man in the Gospels who needs to let go of his
self-will so as to find the freedom of discipleship. It may
be the call to let go of prestige in the eyes of our peers
so as to embrace a passion for justice that flows from a
heart of compassion. And within our contemporary Church yearning
for reform, it may well be the choice to abandon the cloak
of secrecy so as to allow the light of truth and integrity
to shine forth.
As men and women of the Cross, your success finally cannot
be measured by worldly honors. For you, to be the very best
in the field is to move from personal achievement toward
the grace of service. In this shall you find lasting fulfillment
as you join with all men and women of good will in that noble
task of building up the civilization of love.
Your greatness is your care and concern for those brothers
and sisters who have failed to recognize their own dignity
as Gods beloved. You seize the day by helping to make
the world a more just place, a more loving place, a more
forgiving and reconciling place. Surely, this is a noble
calling at a time when the dignity of humanity is being threatened
by forces of violence, greed and lust.
As graduates of the Cross, you leave the security of Mount
Saint James to travel along the journey that invites you
to ever greater generosity. Many of you have already discovered
the joy of this path. Perhaps the words of theologian, Jon
Sobrino, can encourage you and challenge you to persevere
along this pilgrimage of service and compassion: In his classic
work, Christology at the Crossroads, he says the following: The
privileged mediation of God continues to be the real Cross
of the oppressed. Oppressed persons are the mediation of
God because they break down the normal self-interest with
which human persons approach others. Merely by being there,
the oppressed call into question those who approachquestioning
what it means to be a human being.
Perhaps Sobrinos reflections speak to your own experiences
of service through the SPUD program. Through your encounters
with the marginalized in our wider Worcester community, perhaps
God has spoken to you in ways you never expected. Perhaps
your trips to Appalachia and Mexico have opened your eyes
to a deeper understanding of Gods revelation. Perhaps
the suffering and oppression of the poor and marginalized
have shaken your own beliefs about how you want to live in
this world; about your understanding of success; about your
calling in life.
You are educated men and women of the Cross who are not
ignorant of the economic injustices that lead to an ever
widening gap between the rich and poor in this land and throughout
the world. You have learned about how the developing world
cries out for justice and equity. And you know that the oppressed
are prevented from experiencing the fullness of their dignity
as Gods beloved children. Your minds have been engaged,
and your hearts have been touched.
Now as you set forth on your new journey, do not forget
the values of loving service and compassion which you have
learned at the Cross. Do not close your hearts to the injustices
that perpetuate poverty for the majority of our brothers
and sisters. As you continue along, allow the Cross of selfless
love to deepen within you. Personal success and worldly prestige
will tempt you toward complacency and shallowness of vision.
But the Cross will lift you up to that place of holy restlessness.
The Cross will lead you forward to that sweet place of freedom.
Freedom from self-promotion, and freedom for loving service
in solidarity with all who struggle for dignity and fulfillment.
My brothers and sisters of the Cross, go forth with the
name that places you at the forefront of contradiction among
so many graduates throughout this land. Do not settle for
mediocrity. Do not settle for greatness in the eyes of the
world. For what will it profit to gain the whole world
and forfeit your life?
Carpe Diem. Seize the day and lift high the Cross.
Continue your mission as men and women for others and with
others. Let the goodness of God shine through you. And as
you lift high that glorious Cross of love, may you discover
again and again what our loving Savior desires for all of
us when he says, I have come that you may have life,
and have it to the full.