2012 Baccalaureate Mass Homily

Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J.

May 24, 2012

Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J.

Over the past 4 months I have spent a significant amount of time on the road and I have addressed 17 different alumni gatherings. As you might imagine, Holy Cross alums universally cherish the education they have received: the quality of the faculty and care of the staff, the important perspectives of the Liberal Arts, the values the College promoted, the Faith that was celebrated, and the life-long friendships that began here. Alums are more than happy to tell you about the graced and unexpected turns in their professional and personal lives, the opportunities that the Holy Cross network enabled, and the blessing of their Jesuit education. Alums from particular eras also comment on how difficult it was to find their first job when the economy was, like it is now, so radically challenged.

Tomorrow, you will all become alums of the College of the Holy Cross. Your four years here began, when at the Mass of the Holy Spirit, Fr. McFarland, S.J. challenged and inspired you by saying in his homily: "I hope that you get captured, captured by an idea, an activity, a community, an ideal, something that draws you out of your own familiar world, challenges your assumptions, expands your mind and your heart and becomes a focus of your energy and passion." After talking with many of you over the past several months, I know that you have been captured by an idea or ideal, but I also know that most of you are still wondering how your passions and interests will be developed in the years ahead. You wonder, sometimes with a bit of fear, how you will embody and define your professional lives through the unique truths and values which have given your lives so much meaning here. As you prepare to leave Mt. St. James many of you have more questions than answers, and you carry a hope that you will grow more comfortable with the ambiguity of life.

In light of this, a group of seniors met with me last week to talk about this liturgy and to select the scriptural passages that you have just heard. They chose these readings specifically to address issues which they believe are foremost in your minds. Let me explain.

Our Gospel comes from a section of John which is called the "Last Discourse." Here, Jesus is gathered with his disciples at the Last Supper and is articulating his deepest desires for them. Knowing that he is about to leave them and this world, what he reminds them, is also what he reminds you today:

  • Jesus loves you and he wants you to remain in his love by living an ordered and principled life.
  • Secondly, he wants you to be joyful, and to love one another as he has loved you. Consequently, if you love like Jesus does, you are challenged in all things to be merciful, generous, and self-sacrificing.
  • As Jesus tells his companions, he also tells you that you are his friends; more than disciples, you have become apostles who have been chosen by God to reveal God's love in the world.
  • And so, like his disciples, you are missioned to go out into the world and bear fruit; that is, you are to actively give witness to the love Jesus has given you.

Jesus knew at that Last Discourse that his friends would be devastated and disillusioned by his death; that they would be afraid for their future, and that difficulties within their young community would disorient them. But he called them to an adult faith which is marked by courage, hope and generosity.

And that is what this gospel says to you today, as well. Whether you have that first job, the graduate program of your dreams, a position through the JVC or Teach for America, or not; whether you are moving to Boston, New York, DC or Missoula, or returning home for awhile as you continue searching for your first job; whether you are excited, confident, scared, or all three; Jesus will remain with you. Just as he has walked with you during these four years, just as he has given you hope when you were overcome with darkness, just as he has been your companion in your successes, your doubts, your friendships and your suffering; he will be with you now in your joys, your separations and your challenges.

Our first reading from the Book of Kings, tells the story of the prophet Elijah at a difficult moment in his life, as well. Just after he confronted the false prophets of his day and uncovered their fraudulence, he runs for his life for 40 days and nights to Mount Horeb. He is looking for dramatic proof of God's power to save him and to right the wrongs he has experienced. But God teaches him, as God teaches us over and over again, that God's presence and strength are not only revealed in times of great upheaval or through dramatic signs or miraculous interventions. More often, God is present to us in times of quiet, faithful devotion, and even routine. Some of the most powerful encounters we will have with God come as a consequence of waiting, silence, and surrender. Finding God's will for us often is the consequence of faithful endurance, patience, discipline, and determined hope. God's time is not always our time; and, as Elijah discovered, God frequently surprises us through the revelatory power of the ordinary. Often we can only see God's hand at work by looking backward rather than ahead; but he reminds us that love breeds trust, and trust brings hope.

At that Mass of the Holy Spirit in August of 2008 which welcomed you to Holy Cross, and in this Baccalaureate Mass which brings your four years to a close and welcomes you into the ranks of the alumni, and at every Mass in between, the liturgy ends with a dismissal which in our recent liturgical revisions declares:

  • Go in peace
  • Go forth the Mass has ended
  • Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord
  • Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.

In other words, "Go" you are told; don't be afraid, you can't stay here any longer, the world needs your talent, your skill, your passion, your commitment. Go, you have a new call now, to live an adult faith which makes a difference. "Go, give the gift you have been given."


Readings:   1 Kings 19: 9-13a
Gospel:       John 15: 9-17