Homily: Mass of the Holy Spirit August 29, 2018

Homily of the Mass of the Holy Spirit, August 29, 2018. Rom 8:8-17 / Ps 104 / Jn 20:19-23


   In starting off this academic year, I find myself both a bit hopeful for the possibilities, and also a bit cautious and fearful.  At least there is comfort in knowing that the Lasallian tradition was founded on a history of that tension between faith and fear.

On November 21, 1691, St. John De La Salle and two of his companion brothers professed what is known as the “Heroic Vow.”  They promised to remain together even if it would be just the three of them and even if they had to resolve to begging alms and living on bread alone.  

De La Salle could have easily given up in the face of so much opposition against his philosophy towards education.  He could have walked away when confronted with the fear of rejection or the fear of disapproval. And yet, he did not retreat into fear.  Rather, he made the heroic choice to standfast, not out of fear, but out of great love and deep faith in something greater. In fact, it was a love and faith in Someone greater.

As we start off this academic year, and kick-off the 300th anniversary of the death of De La Salle in 1719, we invoke the Spirit of God to help us discern our true calling.  That is, a calling to have love and faith, not to have fear.  

As St. Paul says in our first reading today, brothers and sisters, “you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear…”  Do not fall back into fear! Fear is like our default in which we react to situations that are challenging or confrontational or different.  And that fear can be to the extremes. We have a fear of strangers or fear of the mundane; fear of change or fear change not happening quick enough; fear of insecurity or fear of being comfortable; fear of disappointment or fear of approval; fear of failure or fear of success; fear of being isolated or fear of being intimate; fear of losing control or fear of being in control.  

Our fears are manifested in many ways.  What’s worse, at times it hides itself under the guise of courage, as if courage puffs us up and masks all our fears.  But courage is not the absence of fear. Remember that when De La Salle made that heroic vow, it wasn’t as if he fearless.  But rather, he had a belief in something greater than the fear. And that something greater is Love. This love is that which the Spirit of God gives to us.

St. Paul exclaims that the Spirit of God dwells in us.  And thus, we can cry out cry out to God as “Abba!” We become children of God, and as children of God, brothers and sisters.  And as brothers and sisters we are truly a family of God, which is where we all yearn to belong, in a family. All because the Spirit of God’s love, not because of fear.  

If there is anything that you can do this academic year, do not be afraid.  Have no fear!  Do not make decisions based on fear, but based love.  That’s the kind of love that impels us to place our unwavering trust in a God who is greater than our greatest fears.  As scripture says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear…” (1 Jn 4:18).

While fear is debilitating, love brings greater freedom, faith, hope, joy, peace…

A number of students whom I’ve met this past week have told me that they are feeling a variety of different things as they are meeting new people, registering for class, figuring out financial aid and pressing that restart button to get back into the rhythm of college life.  I know that the staff, faculty and administration are continually trying to discern better ways of serving the campus community. And moving beyond the borders of our campus, there is certainly unrest. As a country and as a Church, we seek wholeness, healing, justice, reconciliation and concrete action for effective change in the midst of so much anger, scandal, pain, abuse and hurt.

So in response to all that we are going through, I invite you as Lasallians to choose love.  Be heroic in your choice to love, and do not fear! Just as Jesus showed his disciples the wounds in his hands and side, enter into those wounds of the world around you and choose to love.  Over all these things, put on love, and then the peace of Christ will be with you (cf. Col 3:14-15).