2022 Baccalaureate Mass Homily for John Paul II Prep

This afternoon, as we gather to close out another academic year and celebrate the graduation of the class of 2022, it only seems appropriate that we thank God for bringing us to this point. And so, it is appropriate that we begin our graduation exercises with this great act of thanksgiving, the holy sacrifice of the Mass. Having just heard God’s word in the scripture readings and understanding the Mass to be the representation of Christ’s one perfect sacrifice on Calvary, it becomes obvious that we are not mere spectators to the story of salvation history which culminates, God willing in citizenship in the kingdom that the author of our second reading gives us a vision of. Jesus invites each of us into the great work of salvation, as participants, to cooperate with God’s grace to attain eternal life and to assist others on that journey towards the promised land of heaven.

While so many people wander through life without a purpose, as people of faith, we know life has a purpose; to know, love and serve God in this life and to be happy with him forever in the next.[1] While the culture often encourages us to wander through life without a plan, distracted by whatever fad is popular in the moment (which by the way if you wait long enough will no longer be popular and if you wait even longer will be popular again), we who know that we have a purpose must step up and dedicate our lives to living out that purpose. The belief that we can do whatever we want or that our choices don’t really matter are symptomatic statements of the lie that we are mere spectators in this world. But we who have come to know Jesus Christ, know that we are not mere spectators; no we are privileged to be participants in the great story of salvation history.

Yes, that is right, you and I have a purpose and thus our choices matter. And our choices do not just affect us. No all of us are interconnected. The choices we make will not only dictate our eternal destiny; it will have an effect on how others live their lives. Imagine what would have happened if the Blessed Virgin Mary had told the angel Gabriel no. Or on a more personal level, stop and think for a moment about all of those people, your parents, loved ones, teachers, and even classmates who have helped you arrive at this point. Can you not see, how if they had come up short, you may not be here today?

So let me ask you a question. How are you living?  Are you wandering through life without a care in the world? Are you focused on just skating by? Or are you pursuing excellence, cooperating with God’s grace to reach the full potential of who God calls you to be so that you can truly know love and serve God in this life and thus be happy forever with Him in the next? Every day that God gives us on this earth is another privileged opportunity to participate in the great work of salvation history. Look, the choice to do nothing is a choice in and of itself. Either you are pursuing excellence, striving to use the gifts God has given you and cooperating with His grace to build up the kingdom of God or you are choosing to be an antagonist to God’s great story. 

The good news for us from today’s gospel is that we are not left alone in this life long pilgrimage. No Jesus tells us in today’s gospel, that He will send us the advocate. If you learned nothing else in your religion classes here at John Paul II, I think we would all have to agree that Jesus makes good on His promises. So, we are never alone on this pilgrimage of life, the Advocate the Holy Spirit is with us and thus is no need to have troubled hearts. No, we can have the confidence that no matter what lies ahead if we cooperate with God’s grace striving for the excellence God has created us for, the advocate will be there to make up for what is lacking. Yet, if we are going to journey with the advocate, we have to do our part. Only that which is perfect is worthy of God, so taking Jesus’ promise that the advocate will be with us demands that we too strive for that perfection. You see, just as the Holy Spirit intervened to keep the early church in Antioch from being burdened, so when we invite the Holy Spirit to join us in our pursuit of excellence we too are not burdened. No, the pursuit of excellence, which requires sacrifice and hard work, leads ultimately to freedom, peace, and joy that can only come from God.  

So, class of 2022, as you approach this milestone in your life, it is time to commit yourself to being an active participant in the story of salvation history. You have been given the foundation you need to pursue excellence, now it is up to you to decide if you are going to cooperate in building up the kingdom by keeping God’s word. The world is filled with mediocrity, it’s up to us to allow the light of Christ to shine through our excellence. My academic hero Pope Benedict XVI once rightly said “the world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” You were made for greatness so be great. 

When we recall that we are not spectators, but rather active participants in the story of salvation history, it demands that we pursue that excellence. While probably none of us will ever be written up in worldly textbooks, don’t forget that the great history of the world will be shared at the final judgment, so how will you be remembered at the final judgment?

[1] (Baltimore catechism question 4).

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