Rev. Gerard J. McGlone: “Welcome, Breath, and Shalom”

Rev. Gerard J. McGlone delivered a homily for the Mass of the Holy Spirit to welcome the incoming Class of 2023 in Gaston Hall on August 26, 2019. Attached below is the transcription. 

Good Morning!

President DeGoia, Esteemed Administrators and Faculty, my brother Jesuits and Fr. Mark Bosco. I am honored and humbled to give this homily.

Welcome, Bienvenidos, Bienvenue, Salaam, Welkom, Wilkommen, Bru-chim haba im, Khush Aamdeed, Namaste

There are three images, words or movements that I would like us to reflect and upon which we might focus.

WELCOME, BREATH AND SHALOM – Each has a context, each word has a place.
Welcome-is in this unique place upon which we sit welcoming new students and
faculty and the New ACADEMIC Year; secondly, BREATH -the image of God’s spirit
hovering over the chaos in Jerusalem in the first Pentecost as God’s breath once
hovered over the chaos of creation; and SHALOM – the third is this place in the
Gospel reading- the Upper Room.

First this space, this ground: Let me echo with the words of Mary Oliver, the poet “Let me keep company with those who say ‘look!’ And laugh in astonishment and bow their heads.” Is that not a students’ dream and a professors’ delight? We see in ACTS, our first reading the description of the FIRST SFS and DEPT of Foreign Languages and Linguistics.

A very special welcome – to all of you here who are from so many different faith traditions. You honor us deeply by your support and presence. For those of you unaware, in 1788 John Carroll wrote this in the Charter for the “academy” which would become Georgetown. Carroll knew of religious intolerance and stated clearly that in this place, in this institution every person of any religious background would be accepted and that the practice of his or her faith would be honored. Welcome to a campus that “in any given week, more than 50 different religious services are taking place across our campuses, including Catholic Masses, Muslim prayer services, Orthodox Christian services, Jewish Shabbat services, and Protestant services and Bible studies.” Welcome to a new sacredness!

Welcome …to this sacred ground. This place is a place of great tradition but great
tragedy. In this place, especially in these times of racial, religious and political divisions, we come together in our unique tradition and in our unique diversity as one –united under the same roof of the one loving God. The seats in which you sit, 1000’s of students have before you; in this very Hall leaders from all over the globe have spoken!

But it is on this ground, were tragedy dwells, I would be remise in this month of 2019, when some 400 years ago slaves landed not too far from here — this very ground…if I did not mention the horror of what transpired on this place when we- and my Jesuit brothers- sold our sisters and brothers into more bondage. Any history of America must always be told from this perspective as the New York Times Series 1619 illustrated so well about the truths and untruths of our common story as a nation… These centuries of enslavement bring and brought forth our country, prosperity and our freedom. We can never forget that sacred ground upon which we walk every moment of every day… We are also very aware that we live in the divided nature of our nation and our faith communities. The abuse of so many beckons us to listen again and again to the stories of the survivors to yet again never forget.

Welcome… to the school year knowing that in the 471 years of Jesuit education, the Mass of the Holy Spirit has been among the first steps in a new year’s journey, a time to ask for the grace to approach the new year ready to rise to its challenges and opportunities, and open to God’s presence.

The Second word of BREATH – “God’s Breath” – acts in consistent ways. This rhythm here is very similar to the first reading from Acts and in Genesis 2. The image of God’s spirit hovering over the chaos in Jerusalem … as well as God’s breath once hovered over all of the chaos that created life… In a sense, we are invited to see again as God’s sees our light and darkness, triumphs and tragedies of this present age and our past times, we can see the tensions of our day as so unique that we loose any sense of history. They might not be so unique at all. God “gets” our chaos better than we do; he sees life where we often see only hatred, confusion, division and anger. We can see the image of God’s spirit hovering over the chaos in Jerusalem in the first Pentecost and as God’s breath once hovering all of the chaos that created life in abundance. God did not run from this reality but entered it, so too he invites us to do the same. In doing so we too co-labor in God’s work of creation, that continual breathing life into our chaos, our tragedies and triumphs. As the Amazon burns this very moment, we need to care for creation as never before. As injustice rages at our borders, we are summoned to care even more. This surely can and needs to unite us. God’s breath summons you and I to act courageously… now!

Finally, Shalom and the Upper Room.

This place has it all – Eucharistic service in washing each other’s feet, called in service to one another, being sent, but –it also is a place of betrayal, being locked in fear, and utter confusion and embarrassment after all that happened on Calvary.

For us to grasp this – let’s imagine something that most surely happened in this Upper Room… Interestingly, the male authors left it out… Mary was there for sure, the women who with her too and they came from Calvary with only the beloved disciple. Then one by one, each of the other disciples –the men- who ran and fled in fear and in the chaos who betrayed and hid, each of them had to be greeted and held in that same bloodied mantle in which Mary held the bloodied body of her Son.

She was a good Jewish mother- they were not going to get off the hook so easily with her. BUT, she loved and forgave. So too today in our times of FEAR, vitriolic debates, black and white thinking, scapegoating of the stranger, foreigner in our midst all with mind-numbing and exhausting chaos—hear her words that she surely had said and taught to Jesus — hear the words of Jesus He learned from her – SHALOM!!! FEEL THAT PEACE! THAT FORGIVENESS THAT can set the world ablaze in LOVE NOT HATRED or GREED; IN HOPE NOT FEAR or ANXIETY; IN PEACE and NOT more war and MASS SHOOTINGS! Is it not time in light of this to see women differently and cede authority more fully in this faith community and in all faith communities?

Then, at last perhaps as another famous Jesuit once proclaimed, “The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.” (Teihard de Chardin) So I end, as I began,

Welcome, Bienvenidos, Bienvenue, Salaam, Welkom, Wilkommen, Bru-chim haba im, Khush Aamdeed, Namaste!

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