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BISHOP’S HOMILY AUG. 23
Christendom College: A contemporary ‘Upper Room’
Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde at the Mass of the Holy Spirit at Christendom College in Front Royal.
Once again, we are assembled for the Mass of the Holy Spirit at the very beginning of a new academic year. The Living Word of God, proclaimed in our hearing through the three Scripture readings of today’s sacred liturgy, clearly places before us the Third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, God the Holy Spirit. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we learn that the disciples were all in one place together as Pentecost dawned. In the third reading, the Gospel account, the disciples were together behind locked doors in that same place but the time was Easter night, not Pentecost morning. Where, in fact, were they assembled? In the Upper Room. Pope Benedict XVI described the place: “This ‘place’ was the Cenacle, the ‘Upper Room’ where Jesus had eaten the Last Supper with his Apostles, where he had appeared to them risen; that room which had become, so to speak, the ‘headquarters’ of the nascent Church (cf. Acts 1:13)” (cf. Homily on the Solemnity of Pentecost, May 31, 2009).
I invite us to focus on that Upper Room. Why? Because it was in that Upper Room wherein those first disciples prepared for the coming of the Holy Spirit in obedience to Jesus’ instructions: “While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak: for John baptized with water, but in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit….when they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying….” (Acts 1:4-5, 10). It was in that Upper Room from which Peter with the Eleven proclaimed Jesus Christ as the Risen Lord, so that those who heard them responded: “…we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.” Yes, the Upper Room was the locus, the place of preparation for the mission of the disciples and the place of departure for their mission. It was in that Upper Room where the disciples, “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts 1:14). It was in that Upper Room that the disciples allowed the Holy Spirit to form them for their mission to proclaim to all the world that Jesus Christ is Lord and “to restore all things in Christ.” It was in that Upper Room that the Holy Spirit was truly active in the minds and hearts of those first disciples, in their very beings.
What God the Holy Spirit did at the very beginning of the Church’s life He continues to do, sent as He is by the Father and the Son. He is still forming disciples for their mission to proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord and to restore all things in Christ. He is still at work in the Upper Room.
Christendom College is the Upper Room where each one of you is being formed for your mission as baptized and confirmed disciples of Jesus Christ. Yes, Christendom College is an academic institution whose excellence is well-known and applauded. Each one of you students — whether newly-arrived freshmen or continuing upper classmen — will be offered again this year the opportunity to be educated in an outstanding manner. If you respond wholeheartedly to the instruction offered here in the arts and sciences, you will be more than adequately prepared for a successful career in the wider society.
However, Christendom College is more than an academic institution of the highest caliber. It is a Catholic academic institution — Catholic in its fullest and deepest meaning and purpose; it is authentically Catholic. Here, the students are formed in the totality of their beings: body, mind, will and soul. Yes, here is an Upper Room, your Upper Room where God the Holy Spirit desires to form you and to mold you into ardent disciples of Jesus Christ and articulate committed members of Christ’s Body the Church. Here is your Upper Room where God the Holy Spirit desires to prepare you in body, mind, will and soul for carrying out the mission He gave you first at Baptism and then renewed at Confirmation: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” (Mt 28:19-20).
Here is your Upper Room where God the Holy Spirit desires to prepare you so that, upon completing your formation and education, you can go forth into society where by the witness of your life you will proclaim Jesus Christ is Lord and fulfill the very purpose for Christendom’s existence: “to restore all things in Christ.”
Yes, this is your Upper Room where each one of you, like those first disciples, will be united in prayer, assisted by the intercession of the Mother of God who is our Mother too. Your daily prayer — that is, the time you take to be open to the Lord in quiet reflection on His Word, your active participation in the sacred liturgy, especially in the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice and in the reception of Penance, the Sacrament of Divine Mercy; your uniting yourself with others in devotional practices, your prayerful reflection on the Mysteries of the Rosary — all these will draw you into deeper union with the Lord Jesus, Who is your very life.
This is your Upper Room where you will deepen your understanding of the arts and sciences in a unique way because the context for your studies here is thoroughly Christo-centric. The goal set before you is not merely to become equipped for a successful career and the benefits flowing from it, but also the ability to put at the service of both the Church and society in specific ways the talents and gifts given you precisely to promote the common good and to expand the Kingdom of God on earth. As Pope Benedict XVI reminds you, “The future is in the hands of those who know how to seek and find sound reasons for life and hope. If you are willing, the future lies in your hands, because the talents and gifts that the Lord has placed in your hearts, shaped by an encounter with Christ, can bring real hope to the world! It is faith in his love that, by making you stronger and more generous, will give you courage to face serenely the path of life and to take on family and professional responsibilities. Try hard to build your future by paying serious attention to your personal development and your studies, so that you will be able to serve the common good competently and generously” (Message of the Holy Father On the Occasion of the Twenty-Fifth World Youth Day, March 28, 2010). Our Holy Father echoes what we heard in the second reading: “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”
This is your Upper Room where you can continue to discern, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and with the motherly intercession of Our Blessed Lady, the specific way which the Lord intends for you to live out your primary Baptismal consecration and the Universal Call to Holiness. This is the counsel which our Holy Father gives you: “In order to discover the life-project that will make you completely happy, listen to God. He has a loving plan for each one of you. You can confidently ask him: ‘Lord, what is your plan, as Creator and Father, for my life? What is your will? I want to carry it out’. You can be certain that he will answer you. Do not be afraid of his answer! ‘For God is greater than our hearts and knows everything’ (1 Jn 3:20)” (Ibid.).
Yes, Christendom College is the Upper Room where you are being prepared for your mission as baptized and confirmed disciples of the Lord Jesus and from which you will be sent forth in the power of the Holy Spirit, like those first disciples at Easter and Pentecost, to renew the face of the earth by proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord and by restoring all things in Christ. Jesus is now telling you: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
I entrust each one of you, President O’Donnell, the members of the administration and staff, the faculty and especially the students, to God the Holy Spirit and to His Spouse Mary ever-virgin, asking that this year you will be continually and more deeply molded and formed in the Upper Room which Christendom College is — for the glory of God and for the salvation of the world.