The annual Mass of the Holy Spirit began the 2015-2016 academic year on Friday, September 11. Below is the homily delivered by Fr. Jim Croghan, Interim President.
I would like to begin with a quote from one of my favorite poets which I think appropriate for this Mass of the Holy Spirit and then a brief autobiographical note.
“For the time being He is the way. Follow Him through the land of unlikeness; you will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.” W.H. Auden
Autobiographical statement: I am old enough to remember school dances where the chaperones would go up to any couple who were dancing too close together and tell them to separate a bit so as to “leave room for the Holy Spirit.” I will leave the Auden quote as is and return to leaving room for the Holy Spirit in a moment.
Our gospel is all about talents, money. A talent is equivalent to about 6,000 days or about 20 years worth of wages. And that’s one talent and two of the characters in the story are given 5 and two. And even the third individual, that poor schmuck who only gets one, has a vast fortune at his disposal. We know what each of them did with the talents they were given. What do we do with the “talents” we have?
How we answer that question, what our expectations are are influenced by our families, our cultures, the society in which we live. It is often influenced by the generation with which we are identified.
I am smack in the middle of the baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. You can do the math.
My generation was followed by Generation X, Millennials (Generation Y) and that makes you Generation Z
But other names have been suggested as well: iGeneration, the Lost Generation (though you don’t look it to me.)
Another descriptor making the rounds is that you are the “App generation.”
We all know apps. Second autobiographical note: I took the job of interim president because it came with an iPhone.
Apps are quick, on-demand highly structured shortcuts for discrete tasks. And I have Uber, Twitter, FB, AccuWeather, Waze, and a few more. But my guess is that the apps on your phones greatly outnumber what I have downloaded.
We can go through life using one app after another because they make our lives more efficient and productive. So much so that we can begin to think of life itself as a super app. Highly structured discrete tasks that provide a shortcut to a desired goal. Life as a super app means going to the right high school to get into a selective college with a certain major and do the right kind of internship and then move on to those places that are symbolic of prosperity and success. And this view of life is one of seemingly effortless perfection.
The problem with this view, of course, is that life is seldom like this. It rarely plays out as we plan. A real and present shadow side to this view is that we can justify to ourselves ethical shortcuts to enhance our chances of making it to the next step, but sacrificing our integrity along the way. Saying to ourselves once I achieve the next step I’ll be the ethical person I know I am. But it raises the question: Is it enough to intend to be ethical at some future time? A conversation for another day, but a question worth your time and reflection. Life as super app does not leave room for the Holy Spirit.
To return to our earlier question: What do you do with the talents you have been given?
We do want you to use them, and increase them and even be a little risky with them.
Your talent of creativity and imagination; Courage and intelligence and your passion for learning.
Your talent of integrity; desire to do good, to make a difference; to be of service to others.
Your talent for science and math; for history and English and theology; for art and music, for singing and dare we hope for dancing as well (but leave room for the Holy Spirit); for writing, and speaking; for wonder and curiosity and awe.
Your talent of prayer and relationship with God.
Your talent of fair play and justice, respect and generosity and compassion; your talent of love, and love and love.
But it’s not just “us” the adult members of our community asking this of you the students. You as students must ask the same of us.
That we take the talents we have been given and use them, and increase them and even be a little risky with them.
Our talent of creativity and imagination; courage and intelligence; our passion for learning, and teaching and doing all the different things which constitute the life of a school.
Our talent of integrity and desire to do good, to make a difference; to be of service to others, to be of service to you.
Our talent for the disciplines we teach and the work we do; for art and music, for singing and dare you hope for dancing as well (we may not leave room for the Holy Spirit.)
Out talent of writing, and speaking; for wonder and curiosity and awe.
Our talent of prayer and relationship with God
Our talent of fair play and justice; of respect and generosity and compassion.
Of experience and wisdom; and our talent of love, and love and love.
We want all of you and you want all of us to take the talents given, increase them, and even be a little risky with them.
Our talents are who we are in our truest, deepest selves. "If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze." - St. Catherine of Genoa Mystic (1447-1510)
So don’t settle for the super app life of seemingly effortless perfection. There is so much more to be done that is good and interesting and so very much needed. And we need no more reminder of that than remembering the events that happened on this day fourteen years ago.
Leave room for the Holy Spirit.
Ignatius Loyola tells us, “Few people understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to God and if they were to allow God’s grace to mold them accordingly.”
Let us conclude with the prophet Joel:
God will pour out God’s Spirit upon all humankind. Our sons and daughters shall prophesy, our elders shall dream dreams, our young shall see visions; God will pour out God’s Spirit. And God will work wonders in the heavens and on the earth.
Leave room for the Holy Spirit. Amen.