Do Not Be Afraid

Baccalaureate Mass; May 23, 2017

Deacon Jim McFadden; SFHS

 

Class of 2017, you first gathered at SFHS four years ago for the Frosh Overnight Retreat. It just seems like it was yesterday, but underneath the excitement of that charmed weekend was the reality that you just didn’t arrive here by chance. You were chosen to be at SF. For what purpose? To nurture your baptismal promises of being priest, prophet, and king as you share in the Mission of the Church, which is to give witness that Jesus is Risen and to proclaim the Good News!

Once here, you embarked on a journey, not only to prepare you for college, but to be formed as a young Christian woman who will make a radical difference in the world. So, you pursued Excellence, Leadership, Service, and, most of all, Faith to an awesome degree, which we witnessed and celebrated at our Awards Ceremony.

Now, your parents, grandparents, and other family members who have been your constant support and best cheerleaders, your administrators, faculty, and staff gather for our last liturgy to celebrate the sacred mysteries and to send you forth.

I not only have a lump in my throat, but I must concede that I have fear that you are being sent into a world that is rife with political, social, and economic conflicts. Pope Francis has said that we are engaged in a Third World War that is being conducted piecemeal. We see an environment that is increasingly being degraded. As God reveals to us through the Psalmist, “I made the earth to be lived in, not to be a wasteland.” We hang our heads in shame. We witness a political landscape in which Americans are divided and in which we’ve lost sight of our inherent dignity and of the Common Good.

Not to be a Debbie Downer, I do have fear, but then I hear the words of today’s Gospel: “Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life span?” (Lk 12: 25) Jesus reassures us that our Father knows what we need. So, “instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given to you besides” (v.31). Therefore, Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom” (v. 32).

That’s the key, isn’t it? “DO NOT BE AFRAID!”   How can we be the best versions of ourselves, how can we bear joyful witness that the Lord is risen and is in our midst, how can we continue his mission if we are afraid? We can look to the very early Church to see what was the source of their joy and of their courage to preach the Good News despite the obstacles and violence that they encountered. And, keep in mind, that the apostles were ordinary folks just as we are.

What’s true for them is true for us: it’s only the presence of the Risen Lord and the action of the Holy Spirit can energize us. The Lord Jesus was with them and He is with us, and the Holy Spirit impels us to give witness to the extraordinary fact that Jesus is alive: that Jesus is our destiny and he is the Way home. To say that Jesus is alive means to show our enthusiasm in following him and to keep alive our passionate desire to be his disciples.          There’s no better way than to nurture our friendship with Jesus than to continue to build our friendships among ourselves. For four years, you have experienced an incredible sisterhood. Keep nurturing genuine friendships, and as you do, you will at the same time experience the contagious joy of the Gospel, which will strengthen you to bring the Good News to all kinds of painful and difficult situations. Troubies, your faith based on a strong personal experience of the Risen Christ will give you courage to follow in Jesus’ footsteps in all aspects of your life. As you come closer to Jesus, you will be conformed to his Mind and his Heart: you will be like him—you will be Christ to others, witnessing with your very life.

Though I am beyond retirement years, I keep coming back to SFHS because there is nothing more remarkable than seeing the enthusiasm dedication, zeal, and energy of SF Troubadours! WE GOT SPIRIT, HOW ABOUT YOU! And, I ask myself: from where does that spirit come? When Jesus touches a young person’s heart, it’s like dynamite going off! Infused with Jesus’ love, you are capable of truly great things.

Troubies, the Church looks to you to be positive instruments of change. You are the future of the Church and your time is coming. I give thanks that many of you want to make a difference in the world. Yes, you’re restless because there is so much to be done. We need your enthusiasm; we need your faith-inspired optimism; we need to learn from you as you become conduits of God’s grace to a troubled world.

Your parents, teachers, staff, and administrators appreciate how you step up to meet life’s challenges. We appreciate how you live your life with gratitude. You only have one life. And, we have great confidence that you will not waste your life by looking for temporary thrills or taking dark paths to acquire hedonistic pleasure and then having to pay the consequences. You won’t give into the seductions of the world because you’ve experienced what is really Real. You’ve experienced that genuine Life is based on communion and community; it’s based on generous self-giving.

Beloved Class of ’17, in your pursuit of Excellence, deeper Faith, Leadership, and Service, you are experiencing at your young age what a full life is like. You know that there is a way of immersing yourself in a life that is rich, full, and meaningful. And, you know that this way cannot be purchased; it cannot be obtained via an app. You know that this way to happiness is not an idea, it’s not a thing. The way to a life that is fully human comes by way of a person. And, what is his name? Yes, JESUS!

Jesus is a gift from the Father and is the most perfect gift of Love. All the Father asks is for you to deepen always your relationship with Jesus and to share Him with others. AMEN.