The Catholic University of America

Baccalaureate Mass Homily
Rev. Jude DeAngelo, O.F.M. Conv., University chaplain and director of Campus Ministry
Great Upper Church, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
May 15, 2015

   
  Rev. Jude DeAngelo, O.F.M. Conv.

In the time you have spent at The Catholic University of America, you have been encouraged to wrestle with many of life’s important questions. Now, you may not have discovered the answers to the important questions of life but over these years you have been instructed by brilliant scholars who have given you the intellectual capability to seek the path of enlightenment. And, you have been encouraged to never stop seeking the answers.

But, today I admit to you that your 4 years of education cannot give you the answer to one of the most pressing questions of our time. No one in the administration, the faculty, or the staff – not even Miss Willie, one of the most gifted and respected theologians you will have the privilege of knowing - can give you the answer to the following important life question: “How can you secure tickets to see the Pope on September 23 rd?” So I beg you please forget all of the advice you received about intellectual pursuit as a life-long vocation and stop asking, calling, e-mailing and texting us and just wait for the latest up- to-date information that will appear on the CUA web-site.

However, I do ask you to consider the exciting historical moment in which we live as you graduate from The Catholic University of America. It is a moment shaped by the vast network of information sharing that can be accessed at your finger-tips or as we have seen over the past two months at your wrist. And, I am told that we should prepare for a day in the not so distant future when information sharing by iPhones, wrist phones, computers and tablets will be obsolete and that brain chip technology will be so advanced we will be able to have unspoken sharing of endless information – a frightening thought when you consider how much useless and erroneous information we receive every day.

Our ability to access information almost instantaneously is both a blessing and a curse. There is great blessing when aid can be rushed to Nepal because it takes minutes not days to get the information that
an earthquake has struck the region. This information technology helps medical teams to know a heart patient’s medical history almost immediately; thus, speeding up the process for emergency diagnosis and treatment. This technology enables colleagues, friends, the people of businesses and families to connect over vast distances through Skype, Facebook, e-mails, twitter, texting and the newest forms of information sharing – names of technologies I would only mangle if I attempted to say them.

But, there is also a downside to this ever advancing technology. One of the down sides is that this technology enables colleagues, friends, businesses and family members to reach you over vast distances through Skype, Facebook, e-mails, twitter, texting etc…

On a more serious note, this technology is also used to recruit disaffected teenagers to join a terrorist group; it allows ISIS to post intimidating messages to families of our armed forces members; or, it can be used to wipe out life savings in seconds. Technology is used to publish embarrassing photos by vengeful ex-lovers; the web is a place to spread gossip, racism, intolerance and hateful statements. Like any other human invention the choices for good or for evil are made by the user of the technology.

One of the more wonderful outcomes of this technology is the vast array of information sharing vehicles created by the people of God. Christian men and women use this technology to create great mission web-sites, the downloads of the dreaded praise and worship music and Gregorian Chant, the daily tweets of Pope Francis and the great catechetical sites – all of which can be easily accessed. In other words, the Church has been competing well in the technological age in order to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But, we should never forget that information sharing is the first step in a three-fold process of evangelization. The second step in the development of the Christian person is the formation of her conscience and the formation of his character. Formation of the whole person, our enfleshed spirit, can be aided by technology but Christian formation cannot be replaced by it. Evangelization – that is the encounter with the living God, is not an event but a person, Jesus Christ - as the popes reminded us. You and I – for better or for worse – have been chosen by Jesus to be the midwives of others’ encounter with Christ and that demands not the anonymity of an impersonal internet connection. Rather, Christian formation demands face-to-face human interactions and relationships. Technology is helpful but it cannot replace the formative experience of physically feeding the homeless men and women on the streets of DC and coming to know each person as a brother or sister equal in dignity before God. The habitat or mission trip is formative when in the experience we are challenged by the joy of people who have no material wealth but rejoice in the hope of each new day. We experience the melting away of anger when reconciliation is freely offered to us by a former girlfriend or boyfriend.

The Lord never stops forming us as His disciples. Someday you may be that mother teaching her 4 year old daughter how to make the Sign of the Cross and you suddenly feel the hands of your own recently deceased mother lifting the grief from your heart. Or, you may be that self-proclaimed agnostic, husband holding your new born son for the first time – overpowered in that sacred moment by the realization that the psalmist was correct - “only a fool says in his heart there is no God.” Formation in the Gospel happens when there is the embrace of reconciliation, the pouring of water, the breaking of bread or the anointing with oil. In other words, evangelization takes place when the personal and communal encounters with Christ are birthed by the community of faith and the individual’s humble acceptance of Christ’s presence in human life.

Information – that is, proclaiming the Word of God, and formation – that is, the experience of encounter with Christ, sets the stage for the transformation of all creation. It is crucial for you and me as members of the household of God, not to forget our responsibility as disciples of Jesus to proclaim His life, death and resurrection as the transformative moment of human history and of our personal lives. You will proclaim the Paschal Mystery when you spend a future Christmas Eve delivering meals on wheels with your children. You will be invited to proclaim the Paschal Mystery when no matter how tired you are you turn off Netflix, or ESPN because your friend, your spouse or your child needs to talk. It can be a transformative moment for your children when they see you reject the notion of a “man cave” as an inalienable right so you can provide them with a play room instead.

Your invitation to others to enter the mystery of sacrifice, of real love, of humble faith has the power to transform lives. The People of God’s example of joining with people of other faiths or no faith in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, visiting those in prison, protecting the unborn and vulnerable, building our institutions in the most neglected neighborhoods of our cities, educating for justice, promoting the dignity of women and children – doing all this without counting the cost - can truly transform the life of a brother or sister, a community and a world whose heart has grown cold by fear, intolerance, neglect and indifference.

We cannot let the problems of our age discourage us from engaging the world’s brokenness. Christians and especially Catholics do not have the right to wall ourselves off from the world in physical or intellectual gated communities of self-righteous indignation and fear. We cannot afford priests or people quote chapter and verse from the catechism with a smugness that betrays a haughty disregard for social justice and the true happiness of others.

We must abandon our safe little havens that allow us to stay above the fray of problems in our cities, our communities and our homes. If the world’s transformation is to happen then we must get our hands dirty. Each Christian has the responsibility to share the joy of the Gospel with every other person they encounter. As you look back on all the information you have received and all the formative experiences of these past four years and if you still do not understand your that it is your responsibility as a human being and as a Catholic Christian to cooperate with Christ in the transformation of this world, then someone has wasted almost $200,000.

However, even if that were true, the beauty of the human life is that as long as we have breath God is never finished inviting us to share in His mission of love and salvation for all humanity. Today may be the day when you commit or recommit your heart and mind and spirit to living to the joy of the Gospel. Nations rise and fall, many philosophies do not stand the test of time, careers come and go, but the invitation to encounter the living God is ever present, ever new. Will you be satisfied with only gaining information about Christ? Will you be closed to being formed by Him through your life experiences? Will you take your responsibility seriously to be agents of change – making all things new in your encounter with the crucified and risen Lord? The Catholic University of America Community has shared the wisdom of the ages with you. She has prepared you to be nurses, architects, engineers, psychologists, economists, and scientists- and the list goes on and on... And most importantly The Catholic University of America has provided you with the opportunities for formation in Christ. Now, as co-creators of the Kingdom it is your responsibility to join Him in transforming the world.
Christ asks you, 7 billion brothers and sisters need you, Holy Mother Church pleads with you, indeed, all creation cries out to you to evangelize with great joy. It is our hope that The Catholic University of America has prepared you to go “and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.”

 

 

 

 

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