Providence College Commencement Homily
May 19, 2012 : By Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P.
How fitting it is that our Gospel this evening is taken from Jesus’s Farewell Discourse in the Gospel of John. It is the night before he is to die and at this momentous hour Jesus turns to his Father in prayer, not for himself, but for us. This high priestly prayer sums up Jesus own understanding of the deepest purpose of his life and his heart’s desire for us. His farewell prayer is the perfect farewell Gospel for you.
There are three related aspects of this prayer that are important for you to reflect upon.
1. Jesus prays “that they may be one just as we are one.” Jesus prays that we might share in the same unity he has with the Father. The fundamental goal of the Christian life is to share in the unity of Jesus with the Father through the Spirit. We are called to share in the intimate oneness that is the very life of our triune God. It is precisely in this unity that we are a community. As long as we live in union with God we are in communion with each other in a bond that time, distance, and even death cannot break. As we go our separate ways, we are never going to truly be apart from one another as long as we are united to God. We will try our best to keep you together through reunions, mailings, the internet, social media, etc. But what will truly and irrevocably make you one is your unity with God. Never forget that.
2. “As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.” Just as Jesus sent his original disciples into the world, so now he sends you into the world. It was he who gathered you here for four years in order to send you forth now. You are being commissioned to go forth into the world and bear witness to Christ. Each of you has a unique role to play in God’s divine providence in the proclamation of the gospel. As Jesus makes plain, the world is not always a friendly place for those who believe in Christ. Your faith and your values will surely be tested in the time that lies ahead of you. But when those moments of testing come, remember that you are guarded and protected by Christ because you belong to him.
3. Finally, Jesus prays that we might “be consecrated in the truth.” He sums up the meaning of his own sacrifice thus: “I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.” You have spent the last four years of your life at a college whose motto is veritas, truth. This gospel passage tells you why it is the motto of the order and the college. The entire goal of our efforts in four years at Providence College has been to get you to know, love, and live in Truth. Truth comes in many forms. There is scientific truth, mathematical truth, philosophical truth, the truth of the arts, etc. But it all points to the truth who is not a proposition but rather a person: Jesus Christ. The world that we are sending you forth into does not always value truth; sadly, it sometimes values lies, distortions, evasions, and lazy thinking. Truth is sometimes inconvenient and hard to arrive at. It is a peculiar form of holiness to love and seek the truth in all things. It is my fervent hope and prayer that this love of truth will mark the rest of your lives. This is what Christ is sending you forth to do, and in this also lies our unity. You been liberally educated precisely because you have learned to love it and live it.
So farewell Class of 2012. Jesus prays for you. Jesus sends you forth united you in a common vocation to know, love, and live the Truth. Know always that we Dominicans join our prayer to his for you. So do not be afraid. The truth will always make you free, and one, and happy forever. It is God’s great gift to you.