My dear friends in college . . . and beyond,
What did Jesus leave behind?
The answer is a community, a Church, a group of disciples.
And He also left us the Holy Spirit.
The Church . . . and the Holy Spirit. These two sacred realities have occupied my thoughts these past few weeks as we consider two important post-Resurrection milestones: the Ascension and Pentecost.
All of you studied Church History, so I don’t have to tell you that Jesus did not leave us a document to be read. Eventually, Jesus’ followers would indeed compose a set of Scriptures – four Gospels; a history of the early Church (the Acts of the Apostles); twenty-one letters; and a book of Revelation about the end times, about the persecutions that the Church would face, and about the ultimate triumph of Christ and His followers. But notice that each of these Scriptures came from the followers of Christ, from the community of believers who were “of one heart and one mind” (Acts 4:32).
If we recall our freshman Scripture studies, we will remember that, as the very first act of His public ministry, right after He was baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist, Christ gathered twelve Apostles to Himself. “Come, follow me” (Mt. 4:19, Mk. 1:17). And from that point onward, the Apostles played an integral role in every aspect of Christ’s earthly life and post-Resurrection appearances.
What did Christ leave us? A Church . . . and the Holy Spirit.
Why are my thoughts centering on the Church today, and the Holy Spirit?
Because we need them both. We need them badly. We need them now more than ever in an age that prizes individualism. And in a quarter century that has seen remarkable advances in social media and instant communication, we may, quite ironically, find ourselves more isolated and more alone than ever before.
Let me explain. In early February of this year, I attended the wake and funeral of a graduate who died of a drug overdose. Afterwards, I was deeply troubled. I had attended too many wakes and funerals of young men who had died from a drug overdose. I have been reading too many newspaper reports of similar deaths. Further, from speaking with a number of you on a very personal level, I know that you sometimes face difficulties – even spiritual demons – that threaten to overwhelm you.
Thankfully, some of you have reached out for help. Sadly, too many have not.
Christ didn’t establish a community of believers for nothing! He did so precisely because these believers are a channel of His love, His peace, His strength, and His support. I am firmly convinced that the Holy Spirit – God’s abiding presence among us – acts through the community, through our friends, through our mentors and trusted elders. In a word, through the Church.
And I can hear a lot of you objecting right now to yourselves: “Well, my Church doesn’t look anything like that! It’s ‘come in for Sunday Mass, and then get out as fast as you can.’ The priests are cold fish; the parishioners aren’t interested in one another in the least.”
Then find a parish that’s different. Find a Catholic community that is welcoming and caring and supportive. Or, better yet, be the agent of change in your parish that makes your local Church look just like the Church that Jesus had in mind when He said, “I call you my friends” (John 15:15).
Please, I beg of you, do one of the two. Why? Because we were not meant to go it alone. And, as life becomes increasingly complex, so too it is becoming increasingly difficult to handle life’s hurdles on our own. We need a community of godly people who will be there to support us, guide us, silently stand beside us, welcome us home, cry with us, rejoice with us, and pray for us – in good times and in bad.
Guys famously think that they can handle every situation on their own. But there will come a time – several times – in all of our lives when we won’t be able to handle things on our own. We will inevitably face times when we will need help, when we will desperately need help.
And we’ve got to reach out and get that help.
Hopefully, your Chaminade Family, your Kellenberg Family, and the broader Marianist Family will always be the kinds of communities that will be there for you not only when things are going great, but when things are going poorly too. To be anything less would be to fall far short of what Christ had in mind when He called His Apostles, formed the first Christian community, and established His Church.
We are not meant to go it alone. So, you gotta reach out, you gotta pick up the phone and call, or take out your iPhone and email someone. Because sometimes we need help. We all need help.
I think that’s what Jesus had in mind when He established the Church and gave us His Holy Spirit.
That’s why no matter the trouble, no matter cause of the difficulty, in good times and in bad – in both, not just the good times – you are always part of the Marianist Family. You are always welcome back home.
So please, always reach out, always come home, always remember that there is someone who wants to help you – probably because he or she has been in the same situation you have been. Whether it’s trouble in school, or trouble at home, struggling with alcohol or drugs, or dealing with sexual issues, no one is alone. Believe me. No one is alone.
Jesus promised, “I will not leave you orphans.” (John 14:18)
Neither will we. Neither will any Church worthy of the name.
On behalf of all my Marianist Brothers,