JSTB Baccalaureate Mass

“To live,” said John Henry Cardinal Newman, “is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often.” Don’t you just hate him! Change, whether welcomed or dreaded, is always disturbing, always stirs us up, always sends us stepping over the edge into the unknown.
Here we are on the brink of great changes: something finished and something about to be begun; some things to celebrate and others to mourn … but all to remember. Here we are in a time between times, gathered around one table to eat the body of a broken bread and be sent, scattering, to the ends of the earth. We welcome that and we dread it.
A time between times. John, in his gospel, promises that the breaking of Jesus will gather the scattered children of God. But, in no time, as the Acts of Apostles relates, the gathering is broken up and the children scattered. Now for some the scattering was just geographical—their bodies moved but their hearts stood still—and they only took the word to their own. But others—no better—were moved by their movement to hand the word humbly to outsiders, to atheists, to enemies—to anyone who would listen. It’s in this scattering that they are called, for the first time, Christians. Christianity is born in this breaking and scattering of both body and soul.
But what lies between these two times? Between the promise of gathering and the reality of dispersal? The hinge turns freely on an axis of love hanging from a tree. Here is the pivot of an arc of renewal that will stretch to embrace the whole world. Here, at the focus of that movement of gathering and scattering, is the body of one human being—friend, lover, brother, … son—dying for life’s sake, dying for a change. And what lies at this burning point of focus? A moment of passion. A passionate end to a passionate life. A passionate prelude to a risen life of even greater passion—A time between times.
It’s the passion of Jesus—that openness to life and death in its fullness—to joy and sorrow in their depth—it’s his passion that brought everyone who knew him to discover their own. And, discovering, to change—one way or another—to reject and betray life, as some did, or to live life with intensity and care, ready to be moved by the passion of others to com-passion—ready—like a mother, like a lover—to share joy and even pain—to bear the life of Jesus into to the world.
We too—most of us—are in a time between times, poised to take new steps. Whatever this experience at Berkeley has been—a time of change, of renewal, of love, of learning, of unlearning—whether it has been a time of rest or a time of frenzy, whether it has been work or play—one thing we pray for. At this burning point of our lives may we have experienced here passion—depth, richness, energy. May we have learned a little better how to really live—vulnerable to suffering, unafraid of joy, and capable of care.
This is our call—as we scatter to the ends of the earth—the call to care with passionate intensity for all that is broken, to carry gently the healing burden of life, … to be the compassion of God for a wounded world.