Homily for Mass of the Holy Spirit 2018

Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J.
August 25, 2018

Each year as August draws to a close, we gather to celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit where we usher in a new academic year; welcome our incoming students, faculty and staff; and ask God’s blessing on us and the work we do together.  In addition to being an educational institution, we are a community of Faith, and we not only have deep desires for what we hope to accomplish this year academically, but also how we might find God as we learn from each other and engage our needy world.  Because our aspirations are incredibly lofty and our Church, our country, and our world are so radically challenged at this moment in history, we know that we will need God’s help to realize our dreams. 

With the Prophet Ezekiel, then, we pray for a new heart and new energy this year.  In our fractured world, we ask for hope and excitement as we study, live and work together. We beseech the Holy Spirit to empower us to reach out to one another with love and respect as we create anew our identity as a community.  We ask God for the grace of humility and understanding as we listen carefully to each other and put the best possible interpretation on perspectives that challenge us.

With Saint Paul, we pray that we will find creative ways to celebrate the unique gifts we each bring to the College which serve the common good and that we will be open to the diverse experiences and needs present at the College and in our local community.  We ask God to help us to recognize that we have more than we need to thrive on Mount St. James if we approach this year with imagination and generosity.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus connects his mission and ministry with his ancestor in faith, the Prophet Isaiah.  Jesus surprises his friends and neighbors when he tells them that he sees his life’s work as bringing hope and freedom to the poor, the excluded, and the imprisoned.  And in the few years that follow, Jesus’ community will struggle, and most will fail to believe, how one of their own could envision such possibilities.

Our readings today remind us that with God’s help, a new heart and spirit, combined with a deep commitment to serve the common good, have the capacity to transform our world.  At this Mass of the Holy Spirit, we recognize that Jesus’ mission is our mission.  As his disciples, we are called to reach beyond our campus community and use our education to realize God’s hopes for our Church, the human family and for the earth, our common home.

Therefore, in this context of living Faith, I encourage our new students, faculty and staff to feel confident that it is the Holy Spirit who has brought you to this place and to this community.  You will enrich us and challenge us and, we hope, with our support you will discover who you are called to be. All of us here who have come before you know that this moment of arrival is both exciting and intimidating.  So, please trust that the God who called you here will continue to walk with you in the days and years ahead.  Hopefully, you will experience God’s presence in our common work, in worship and prayer, in moments of insight, in experiences of generous compassion, and in acts for justice which so typify this community.  Know that in a variety of ways and often through unexpected experiences and encounters, God will care for you, comfort you and inspire you.  With God’s help even your struggles and your losses can help you to know yourself better and eventually lead you to your own unique vocation.  But, be patient.  This important growth takes time, ongoing reflection, thoughtful guidance, and prayerful discernment.

In the midst of the endless activity of a college campus, I hope that you will find a quiet place for reflectivity in the chapels and gardens of the campus, that you will join a community for prayer and liturgy, that you will make a retreat at our beautiful Joyce Contemplative Center, and that you will step out of your comfort zone to serve and learn from our local community.

Similarly, to the parents and siblings of our new students, this Eucharist marks the beginning of a new season of life for you, as well.  When this liturgy ends, you will say “good-bye for now” to your daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, as you head home. While parents have had 18 years to prepare for this day, and I know that you are filled with pride in the hard work which has brought your children to the College of the Holy Cross, this moment of transition requires a letting go.  Whether this is your first, your last or your one and only, when a beloved child leaves home, the graces of one way of living as a family are surrendered for new graces yet to be revealed.  Consequently, you too must rely on the Holy Spirit, in time, to reveal those new graces to you and, with the Spirit’s help, to discern how to parent your children in increasingly less direct but no less important ways as they transition into adulthood.

Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your children as they make important life choices and encourage them to take their concerns to God in prayer seeking wisdom and the courage to do what is right.  Trust that God loves your children at least as much as you do, and that God will help your sons and daughters assume greater responsibility for their own lives.  And please believe that your role as parent is changing, not ending.  If you let your children go well, in time they will re-enter your lives as even more mature, grateful and self-sustaining women and men.

In 1915, Jesuit philosopher and paleontologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin,S.J. wrote the following note to his 25 year old cousin who was seeking direction for her life.  His words to her are most appropriate for our new students facing the beginning of this four year adventure on Mount Saint James, but I suspect, that they are also pertinent for their parents, adjusting to a new life at home, and any others of us among of the faculty or staff who are also in transition.  Chardin wrote:

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

We are quite naturally impatient in everything

to reach the end without delay.

 We should like to skip the intermediate stages.

We are impatient of being on the way to something

unknown, something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress

that it is made by passing through

some stages of instability—

and that it may take a very long time.


And so I think it is with you.

your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,

let them shape themselves, without undue haste.

Don’t try to force them on,

as though you could be today what time

(that is to say, grace and circumstances

acting on your own good will)

will make of you tomorrow.


Only God could say what this new spirit

gradually forming within you will be.

Give Our Lord the benefit of believing

that His hand is leading you,

and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself

in suspense and incomplete.

Aren’t we all!  Let us go forward into this new season of life, this new semester, in confidence and hope.   Amen.



Ezekiel 36: 24-28
I will take you away from among the nations, gather you from all the lands, and bring you back to your own soil. I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them. You will live in the land I gave to your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.
1 Corinthians 12: 4-13
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes. As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.
Luke 4: 16-22
He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”