The following homily was given by Bishop Paul S. Loverde at
the Opening Mass of the Holy Spirit at each of the four Colleges/Universities
and at the four diocesan high schools this fall.
World Youth Day, the Summer Olympics and the Year of Mercy. Why
am I projecting before you these three events as we begin our reflection on
today’s Scripture readings during this Mass of the Holy Spirit, early in this
academic year? Why? Because from each of these events, we can discern several
instructive and encouraging elements which assist us in our journey of faith
with one another and with the Lord Jesus.
World Youth Day. Pope
Francis’ counsel to the young people there and to young people worldwide, to us
right here, right now, clearly pointed to courage, strength and involvement as
faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.
The Summer Olympics.
The participants practiced long and hard prior to the Games; they displayed
relentless efforts as they played. And their entire attention was focused on
the goal: winning the gold medal, or silver or bronze, but the gold was the ultimate goal.
Year of Mercy. The
Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, the Community of His Disciples — and you
and I are united to Christ as His disciples, the Church is, “called, above all,
to be a credible witness to mercy.” (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, n. 25).
Whose mercy? God the Father’s mercy revealed in the Face of Jesus Christ (cf. Ibid,
n.1). As we know, Pope Francis has proclaimed this Year of Mercy, which
began on Dec. 8, 2015, and will end in November. The Year will end, but God’s
mercy endures forever!
So, then, taking these several elements from the three events I
referenced, we conclude: we are called to be credible witnesses to God’s mercy, witnesses who are courageous, strong and involved, witnesses keeping our eyes on the goal: experiencing God’s mercy ourselves
and sharing it with others, because His mercy can lead us all to life
However, to be such witnesses, you and I need to be transformed,
that is, changed inwardly, because on our own, we cannot be the witnesses Jesus
desires us to be. We need Him every moment of every day! We absolutely need
Jesus Christ, Who gives us His transforming grace!
The Lord Jesus does come to our aid, especially by sending us the
Holy Spirit to transform us more into His image and to make us courageous,
strong and involved. I repeat, this is precisely why early in every academic
year; we invoke God the Holy Spirit’s presence and assistance.
So, then, we must be courageous, strong and involved witnesses
and disciples. But, honestly, so often we fail! We are like the Apostles before
Pentecost. Yes, we have been mandated, from Baptism on, to be witnesses. To us
too, Jesus speaks as He did to the Apostles: “You will receive power when the
Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the
But, let us face reality. We live in a society and are immersed
in a culture whose values and behaviors — patterns are contrary to what the
Lord Jesus teaches us. We need all the more to be courageous, strong and
involved. We need new hearts and new spirits, which, Ezekiel prophesied, would
be given to us, as we heard in today’s first reading.
So often though, as I said, we are like the Apostles before
Pentecost: fearful and paralyzed. But then, Pentecost happened! The Holy Spirit
came and they were radically changed. At World Youth Day, Pope Francis referred
to Pentecost and to this profound change. “Then in that situation [Pentecost]
something spectacular, something grandiose, occurred. The Holy Spirit and
tongues as of fire came to rest upon each of them, propelling them towards an
undreamed-of adventure. This brings about a total change!” (cf. Prayer Vigil,
World Youth Day, Krakow, 2016).
Pope Francis went on to say to the youth in Krakow — now to us: “The
times we live in do not call for young ‘couch potatoes,’ but for young people
with shoes, or better, with boots laced. The times we live in require only
active players on the field, and there is no room for those who sit on the
bench. Today’s world demands that you be a protagonist of history because life
is always beautiful when we choose to live it fully, when we choose to leave a
mark.” (cf. Ibid.).
Moreover, we too have a goal to achieve: the gold medal of living
as a credible witness to God’s mercy. We too are running in a race: it is the
race of deepening our personal relationship with Jesus Christ within the
Community of His Disciples, the Church. The more we try to live, united with
Jesus, His hand in ours, the more we begin to be more like Him, to reflect Him
in our thinking, our speaking and our actions. Closely living with Him, we
become credible witnesses to God’s mercy. Why? Because Jesus Christ is the face
of God’s mercy. So, the more we are like Him, the more His mercy shines through
us as we try to be patient, understanding, helpful to others, forgiving.
Of course, we do not resemble Jesus perfectly. We cannot because
we are not perfect, Of course we have our struggles; at times, we turn away
from Jesus and do not hold on to His hand. We sin.
However, even if we turn away and sin, Jesus never gives up on
us! He calls us back to Him. In the Sacrament of Penance, He forgives us,
flooding us with His mercy! He strengthens us in the Holy Eucharist, both
Sacrament and Sacrifice.
What did He just tell us in the Gospel account? “Remember the
word I spoke to you: ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted
me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep
yours.” So, then, we ought not to be surprised when we encounter personal
struggle, or resistance, rejection and persecution from others. In fact, expect
As He promised, Jesus sends us God the Holy Spirit, our Advocate,
that is, the Holy Spirit stands on one side of us to support and to sustain us
while Jesus Himself stands on the opposite side. Together they will strengthen
us to testify, to witness!
World Youth Day 2016 has ended, the Summer Olympics are over, but
God’s mercy endures! This year, here at school and at home, reach out in prayer
to God the Holy Spirit. Be courageous, strong and involved as you keep
witnessing to God’s mercy while running the race that leads you and others to
achieve the gold medal of a close relationship with Jesus now and one day in
heaven. Remember, God’s Mercy endures forever!