Class of 2013: Live Joyfully and Take Jesus with You!
Farewell Mass; May 15, 2013
Acts 20:28-38 Ps 68 Jn 17:11b-19
Deacon Jim McFadden; St. Francis High School
As the St. Francis community temporarily disbands as we venture into Summer Vacation, we pay special attention to the graduating class of 2013. We can sense their bubbling joy. After nearly four years, the finish line is clearly in view. All the challenges in the classroom, sports domain, Fine Arts, clubs, and Christian Service have been encountered, embraced, and their labor is nearly completed at this stage of their life. No wonder they feel a justified sense of pride for a ministry well done which resonates in joy.
As the Class of 2013 prepares to leave St. Francis High School as a student, but will always be connected to the community as an alum, I would invite them, as well as all of us, to be open to a deeper joy, which doesn’t abrogate the joy we’re feeling now, but integrates it to a richer level. This deeper joy is what Jesus wills for you; in today’s gospel reading, our Lord said that the whole purpose of his ministry and proclamation of the Good News “was so that they may share my joy completely” (Jn 17:13).
But, what is this joy Jesus is speaking of? Every action that we do, no matter how mundane or sublime, holds within itself this deep, natural intention: I want to be happy. Your parents, friends, school community, want so much for you to realize this desire for joy. What is joy but the experience of having attained the true good, which is not a doctrine or system of beliefs; the True Good is a Person whose name is Jesus: he is Immanuel, God among us. When we surrender our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole being to Him, when we do that by loving and serving our neighbor, we will be happy.
We sense within ourselves a hunger for God. But, all to often we attempt to satisfy that desire with some created good that is less than God. In our first reading, Paul graphically describes this danger as “savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock” (Acts 20:29). The “wolves” do so by tempting us to shift our will from being in loving communio with God to the having of God-substitutes, which are typically wealth, prestige, power, and pleasure. Sensing this void within, we can spend a lifetime trying to attain a combination of all four obsessions, which leads to frustration, unhappiness, and spiritual panic. But, it is only by emptying out our self in love can we make a space for God to fill us. And, in that surrender, we become joyful.
I hope that as you prepare to depart St. Francis which has offered you four years of formation, that you have committed yourself to saying “Yes” to God as your sacred story unfolds. We pray that you surrender your entire being to our Father’s will and purposes as you prepare to enter college, which will lead to a career, and marriage, the single, or the consecrated life. If you do, we have great trust that your life will be happy and fulfilled.
It all comes down to choice– the appropriate use of your freedom. Earlier in the Gospel of John, Jesus asks his disciples, “What are you looking for?” (Jn 1:38). Troubies, the Gospel is written in the present tense; this question reaches beyond time and space; it challenges every person who is open to life and in search of the right path. This question is being asked by Jesus and He is asking you today at this moment and in this sacred space, “What are you looking for?” Jesus is speaking to you today through the Gospel and Holy Spirit. If you can say that Jesus is Lord, you can only do so through the Spirit. It’s that same Spirit that Jesus is communicating to you here and now. Jesus is your contemporary! He seeks you before you seek Him! While respecting your freedom, he approaches each and everyone of you in your uniqueness and offers himself as the authentic and decisive response to the Holy Longing deep within your hearts, to your desire of a significant life, a life worth living, a joyful life.
As you leave St. Francis as a student, let Jesus take you by the hand as you move into summer, prepare for college, and beyond. Let him be your friend and companion on your life’s journey. Put your trust in him and he’ll never disappoint you! He’ll always be there loving you unconditionally and offering his Life that is eternal. It is through Jesus, the Word of God made Flesh, that enables you to know at first hand the love of the Father; he helps you realize that your happiness comes from his friendship with him.
Dear Class of 2013, we hope that you have found what you are looking for: live joyfully and take Jesus with you!