To restore society by witnessing to truth

Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde during the Baccalaureate Mass at Christ the King Chapel of Christendom College in Front Royal.

In the midst of this weekend's commencement exercises, you undoubtedly find yourselves experiencing emotions that invariably accompany the ending of one segment of life's journey and the beginning of a new one. Each one of you is in that unique position of leaving behind a place that holds a special meaning for you: Christendom College and of going forward into a new setting that will hold out a future bright with promise yet veiled by the unknown. This weekend enables you to look back with gratitude and to look ahead with hope: gratitude to Our Lord Jesus Christ and hope in His enduring presence and power. This weekend also proclaims that you have been formed and prepared to weave into your future life and to make your own the raison d'etre of Christendom College: "To restore all things in Christ" and her expectation of your living the mission given you at Baptism: "To restore all things in Christ" by proclaiming the Truth.

Gathered in this beautiful chapel, you are reflecting with gratitude on the blessings you have received here at Christendom, such as the life-giving friendships you have formed during your time on campus; your growth in wisdom and understanding obtained through the disciplines you have pursued; and your authentic outreach to those in need, near and far, enabling you to practice and to perfect your charity. In particular, we all give thanks for the spiritual deepening that has taken place in each of your personal relationships with Jesus Christ through the fuller realization of who you are as His friends sent forth to be His missionary disciples. During your time on this beautiful campus, through prayer, study, and reception of the sacraments, you have acquired a clearer insight into God's call to you to belong to Him, into the favor in which He sees you, and into the privileged mission He is giving you to be sent forth to witness to His Truth.

Yes, as you reflect on the ending of your time at Christendom College, no doubt you find so much for which to be grateful. But, as you do, you also look forward to a new segment, a new beginning, apart from this idyllic setting nestled among the Shenandoah and the Blue Ridge Mountains. No doubt there is a strong nostalgia for what you leave behind, but as Christian disciples, you realize that your citizenship within this world is accompanied with change and unpredictability. It is your citizenship within the Kingdom of God where you find stability, as well as hope, peace and joy.

In our first reading, Saint Paul offered a message to encourage and to strengthen the hearts of the disciples at Colossae, and to encourage and strengthen our hearts as well, who hear it 2,000 years later. Saint Paul proclaims that Our Heavenly Father has "delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his Beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Col 1:13-14). The Apostle Paul uses the Greek verb methistemi - which we have translated as "transferred" - to describe what happens to everyone who places their faith in Jesus Christ. He chose this verb carefully, because it had a specific military significance to the people of his time. The Greeks used this word to describe how citizens of a defeated kingdom were taken from their land and transferred with all their possessions to the homeland of the victor. Historically speaking, it was tragic to be removed from one's home and carried off with the enemy, such as happened to the people of Jerusalem during the Babylonian captivity. Let us now place this action within the context of the victory of Jesus Christ, in which we are not suffering a defeat, but instead, are swept up in the glory of the Resurrection and taken into the Kingdom of the Beloved Son! As such, we no longer live as citizens of our current culture, but instead are citizens of the Kingdom of God, with Jesus Christ as our Savior King. He has rescued us, transferring us from darkness to light, from slavery to freedom, from condemnation to forgiveness, from the power of Satan to the omnipotence of God! To be actually transferred and rescued from the grip of a culture and society that substantially denies its fundamental rootedness in God in order to belong to Christ's Kingdom of Truth and Light and Life: This is both encouraging and strengthening.

As you prepare to enter the next segment of your lives, this new beginning that lies ahead, hold fast to the Lord Jesus and to His Kingdom to which you belong. Be heralds and protagonists of the New Evangelization as you proclaim Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King, to everyone you encounter, wherever God takes you.

At the end of our Gospel passage today, Jesus tells Pontius Pilate, "For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice" (Jn 18:37). Saint John records that Pilate responds to Our Lord with a very philosophical question: "What is truth?" This dialogue between Jesus and Pilate is perennial - a dialogue that takes place between God and every individual that seeks ultimate fulfillment and purpose in living life. This dialogue encompasses and offers the answers to the questions of who we are, why we are here, how can we live with purpose and meaning? Where are we going?

Throughout your lives, as you remain united through Word and Sacrament with our Risen Lord, you will increasingly perceive how the mission of this college - Instaurare Omnia in Christo, "to restore all things in Christ" - continues to be your mission as well. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us: "All Christians by the example of their lives and the witness of their word, wherever they live, have an obligation to manifest the new man which they have put on in Baptism and to reveal the power of the Holy Spirit by whom they were strengthened at Confirmation" (No. 2472). It is the role of God the Holy Spirit to energize us "to restore all things in Christ." It is not just coincidence that you end one segment and begin a new one in your journey of faith during these nine days that lead up to Pentecost. Every day, seek the transforming strength of the Holy Spirit as you witness to the Truth in the many challenging issues we shall all confront now and in the future. Witness to the truth about life, marriage and family, religious freedom and the presence of the Living God and our radical dependence on Him.

It is both appropriate and instructive that we gather in this chapel dedicated to Christ the King, for He is the One to Whom we entrust our lives at this time of transition, as well as every other time in our lives as men and women of faith. As each of you prepares to enter the next segment of your lives, facing the new beginning that lies ahead, I repeat: Take hold of the encouraging and strengthening reality rooted in the Kingdom of Christ to which you belong. Be heralds and protagonists of the New Evangelization as you proclaim Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King, to everyone you encounter, wherever God takes you. As missionary disciples, seek to live authentically by offering the life-giving truth of Jesus to a world that so desperately hungers for what is right, good, and beautiful, for the truth! And the Truth is a Person, Christ Jesus, Savior, Lord, and King!

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015