Homily at the 2017 Baccalaureate Mass

On Thursday, June 1, the Class of 2017 gathered with their families in the Church of Saint Ignatius Loyola to celebrate Regis High School's 2017 Baccalaureate Mass. Click here for a recap of the Mass and to view photos from the Mass. Below is a reprint of the homily delivered by Rev. Daniel K. Lahart, SJ, President of Regis.

Members of the Class of 2017: This weekend is a great moment in your life. You celebrate the completion of four years of hard work; we document the many awards and honors you have achieved; and you prepare to begin something new. Tonight and Saturday are days you will remember for the rest of your life. They are truly momentous.

To mark this time, we celebrate with the Eucharist tonight, and with graduation exercises on Saturday. You are surrounded with family and friends, teachers and coaches, neighbors and classmates. And as we gather here, we know that our God is in our midst. And that is very good.

Tonight, we celebrate mass with readings that members of your class picked out. Micah, Paul and John. The readings, not your classmates. I have to admit that Micah, just that single verse, is one of my favorites. The prophet Micah writes earlier here in chapter six – before our single verse – a dialogue between the Lord and the people in the form of a trial with God questioning the leaders of the people. As God charges them with infidelity, they ask what they can do to repair the broken relationship. What sacrifices can they make? Shall they offer burnt offerings of calves, thousands of rams, even offer their first-born son? The Lord’s response is simple, direct, but deceptively difficult.

What does the Lord require of you? Simply that you:
Do justice.
Love goodness.
And walk humbly with your God.

I think we can assume that these words of a prophet from the eighth century BC apply to us as well. It seems pretty clear that these are three requirements that the Lord has laid out for us, for each of us. How has Regis prepared you for these three? If there were a test today, would you be getting an HH? Just an S? Would you do better in one than the other two? Do you leave here prepared to do justice, to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God? I hope so. I've certainly seen evidence of it in my time here with you.

Through your yearlong Christian service, I think you have come to a profound respect for justice, you work for it. You DO justice. In addition to your yearlong Tuesday morning requirements, about 40% of you even took the entire third trimester to dedicate your week to full-time Christian service. Many of you also have been very active in Catalyst where you do justice without getting any credit for it. You all have seen areas where we as a society, as a country, as individuals might fail to act justly towards all. Undoubtedly, this has shaped you in powerful ways.

Of course justice isn't just about caring for the poor or disadvantaged. It is also about dealing with others in just ways in business, in politics, in relationships. In this big city, I've heard too many stories where people act in unscrupulous ways to get ahead or to get an advantage. Are you committed to acting justly? What does that mean as you leave this enclave in the Upper East Side? I've been delighted to see that while you are each competitive, it is generally focused on competing against yourself, not competing against a classmate. I hope you continue that attitude as you go on to colleges, some of which may be far more “cut throat” than was Regis. Continue to do justice in all your years ahead.

The second requirement is more than simply a separate, second command. It builds on the first. Love goodness is about a relationship with God. Some commentators indicate that this requirement to love goodness or kindness refers to a devotion to loyalty, to the practice of steadfast love – describing a depth, an intimacy of the love between God and his people. It’s all about relationship. You will sometimes see this line translated as: “Love tenderly” which could be construed as something beyond the relationship between God and us.

Do you love tenderly? I’m not talking about loving passionately in a romantic way. It’s about tenderness. And it’s still about relationships. Is there a tenderness in your relationship with your parents? With your siblings? As you grow into an adult – and looking to enjoy the privileges that may be bestowed with Saturday’s graduation – can you think about your relationships with your family in terms of goodness and kindness and tenderness? I find it a great image for my relationships – is there an element of tenderness to them?

And finally, Micah quotes God as asking for us to “walk humbly with your God.” Now, any Jesuit who says anything about humility is probably not speaking from personal experience, but I hope you can get the idea. Another great image. And perhaps the most important.

After four years of hard work at Regis. Four years of commuting, of writing papers, taking tests, winning speech and debate contests and a large variety of athletic games (and congratulations on yesterday’s Volleyball City Championship!), after all this, and after running the gauntlet of the college admissions process, you leave here ready to conquer the world. In fact, in Jesuit circles we often quote St. Ignatius who ended his letters to Jesuits in the missions with “go, set the world on fire!” And I hope you do! I also hope you realize that what you do, you don’t do on your own. Certainly, you worked hard to get here. Certainly, you have talents and gifts. Certainly, you have been and are likely to be successful. But remember Micah. Walk humbly with your God.

Remember that you start with gift. And Paul’s letter to the Corinthians reminds us that we all have different gifts. Gifts not deserved, gifts freely given, to be used in your lives as Men for Others. To walk humbly with our God is to realize where our talents come from, and there is role that we each are invited to be part of. Walk humbly with your God. And the rest follows.

Finally, the Gospel tonight is actually the reading for today, Thursday of the 7th week of Easter. It’s the 17th chapter of John. It’s Jesus’ last discourse at the Last Supper. And Jesus is at prayer. And his prayer for his disciples, is my prayer for you as we get ready to send you off. Put into my words, mimicking His: I pray not only for these (graduates), but also for those who will believe in our God through their word.

I pray for you, but also for all that you will do as you go forth from Regis High School. You will make us proud.

Remember to be a Man for Others. Remember to:
Do justice.
To love goodness, kindness, tenderness.
To always walk humbly with your God.

May others come to know our God by what you say and do.

Thank you, and God bless you tonight, on Saturday, this summer, next year, and all the days of your lives. Amen.

June 1, 2017
St. Ignatius Church
New York, New York

Micah 6:8
You have been told, O mortal, what is good,
and what the LORD requires of you:
Only to do justice and to love goodness,
and to walk humbly with your God.

1 Cor 12:4-13
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.
To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit;
to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit;
to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues.
But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.
As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

John 17: 20- 26
“I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.
And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one,
I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.
Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me.
I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”

Posted: 6/2/17