Saturday, June 6, 2009

To the Fordham Class of 1984: "Thank God! Before all the living, acknowledge the many good things He has done."

Dear Fordham Class of '84,

"Thank God! Give him the praise and the glory. Before all the living, acknowledge the many good things he has done for you, by blessing and extolling his name in song. Honor and proclaim God's deeds, and do not be slack in praising him.”

Today we, members of the Fordham University class of 1984,celebrate our 25th anniversary. While we gladly join in the fun of seeing one another again and recounting the events and people that have filled our lives in these intervening years, we also come to this point in time with mixed emotions. Marking 25 years since our graduation together from this wonderful place of grace, learning and growth can bring to mind many events, some pleasant and others not so. Some of our class members have died and we will pray for them together here this morning. Others have not found time so kind a companion as perhaps others among us. We see then that time is not always a welcome guest in our lives.

Are there not some who see time merely in terms of loss: loss of youth, beauty, choices and blissful ignorance as well? Are we not tempted also sometimes to see our lives in these mere worldly terms and to experience a sense of loss as we look back over the years? Time has also brought tragedy to some, as parents, spouses or children suffer illness and are sometimes, tragically, taken from us far too soon. Is it not true that sometimes we find ourselves wishing we could turn back the clock so we could be exactly as we were in 1984, young and carefree, full of energy and facing a world and future seemingly filled with endless opportunities?

What does it mean for us to mark this Jubilee? Should it not somehow be for us more than simply one year among many which happens to bring with it the excuse to return to Fordham and reminisce? How must we, as people of faith gathered in Christ this morning to worship Him, the Lord of history, engage in this exercise of looking back? Can we do so for a higher purpose of more than merely counting the years that have passed?

In these days of Pentecost, in which the Church celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit, our Holy Father Benedict has invited us to see ourselves as more than the sum of a number of activities the age brought by passing years. In his homily for the Sunday of Pentecost he said,

“If we do not want Pentecost to be reduced to a mere ritual or to a suggestive commemoration, but that it be a real event of salvation, through a humble and silent listening to God's Word we must predispose ourselves to God's gift in religious openness. So that Pentecost renew itself in our time, perhaps there is need -- without taking anything away from God's freedom [to do as he pleases] -- for the Church to be less "preoccupied" with activities and more dedicated to prayer.”

I think the same might be said about our 25th anniversary of graduation from Fordham. If we want our lives and the lives of those we love to be more than a mere commemoration on this anniversary, we must see ourselves and our lives less in terms of mere activity and more through the grace of Faith, as God’s people dedicated to prayer and praise. That is, we must see ourselves as spiritual as well as physical. We are spiritual beings created by God and therefore with a need to be profoundly open to His Spirit by means of prayer and praise. Our holy Mass this morning provides the most excellent means of doing this.

In the Scriptures proclaimed today we are invited by Raphael, who speaks for the living God, to “acknowledge the many good things he has done for you.” In order to do this, we must look back upon our lives and we must choose to see the intervention of God. We have blessed by a Fordham education and formation, some have sought further education, we hope that all have found meaningful and productive work, some have gotten married or ordained, and in the most beautiful work of cooperation with God, some have brought children, both spiritually as priests and naturally as parents, into the world.

As men and women of faith we are able to see all that is good in our lives as a gift from a loving God. This too is how we can mark the years that have gone by and we can respond by giving God “the praise and the glory”.

Is this not what we have been given to do by Christ as we have celebrated and prayed by means of our faith at Sunday Mass and on other occasions in our parish and family life? In Christ, the Lord of history and king of creation, risen from the dead, all time and all beings are recreated. All things each day are made new, but never more so than when we, dedicated to prayer as our Holy Father urges, experience the new Pentecost of Faith. In Christ what we do becomes more than merely activities that fill our days and years but nothing less than a foretaste of future glory with He who has gone before us and prepared a place for us.

The real intervention of Christ in our lives as incarnate God who shared with us everything but sin, brings out of our faithful experience of worship and prayer the new creation of the Spirit as we cry out “Abba”, Father. We do this only in Christ, only in the Spirit and thus always in the love of God the heavenly Father. In Christ, then, the days and years become for us much more than merely sand passing through the hourglass, as it were, but a foretaste of heavenly glory itself. In Christ, all time and all history are redeemed, made new, and we ourselves as well. Therefore, “do not be slack in praising Him” – use all that you have and are in doing so!

Perhaps more important than any other way we could celebrate 25 years as Fordham grads is this holy Mass in which we include God in our lives, acknowledging His role in all that the years have brought, pray for ourselves and our families, intercede for the dead and look forward to eternal life. It is Christ in word and Sacrament, truly ours in this liturgy, who never fails to bring joy into all of our lives, for it is Christ whom we here invite, for whom we make room, who has been present with us all of these years and will accompany us as we go forward in hope and love.

“Give God the praise and the glory.Before all the living,acknowledge the many good things he has done for you,by blessing and extolling his name in song.Honor and proclaim God's deeds,and do not be slack in praising him.”

Happy 25th anniversary, Fordham Class of 1984!

(This morning at ten o'clock I will deliver these remarks as I celebrate holy Mass with members of the Fordham University Class of 1984.)

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