Alumni Weekend Mass
Kennedy Catholic High School, Hermitage, PA
30th April, 2017
The days are becoming longer. The sun seems to shine more often. The temperatures are on the rise. Spring is, indeed, in the air. For those of us who teach – or are affiliated with schools in other ways – the air is also filled with a lot of anxious anticipation. All of our school children are becoming more and more eager for the start of summer vacation. Eighth graders are anticipating their move to high school, while an epidemic of “senioritis” is breaking out among twelfth graders. For many of our college graduates, the end of the academic careers is nearing and a new beginning in the professional world is fast approaching.
It was around this time of year, when my own high school graduation was approaching, that we were invited to draw up a mock “Last Will and Testament,” bequeathing whatever we wanted to student-beneficiaries who were younger than us. Many of our athletes, for examples, willed their jersey numbers to younger, fellow teammates. Some of my classmates willed better grades to individual underclassmen who were struggling with their grades. Other simply willed best wishes and happiness to their younger friends or siblings. It was a fun and lighthearted activity that provided many fond memories to conclude my senior year of high school.
The older I get, however, the more meaningful the memory of this lighthearted activity becomes. There will come a time in my life – in all of our lives – when we will graduate, not from eighth grade or high school or college, but from life.
There will come a day when, for one last time, we will dawn our graduation garment of our faith. The white funeral pall, reminiscent of the white garb we wore on the day of our baptism, will one day clothe our bodies – our caskets – during the funeral mass that celebrates our transition – our graduation – from this world to the next. The thought often makes we wonder: When that day comes, what is it that I will leave behind for those who come after me?
There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus must have pondered this same question, time and again, as the very real possibility of his own death increased and loomed over him. As opposition and hostility toward his teaching, his ministry, and his life intensified, Jesus would have known that his death was fast approaching. In fact, there are several instances in the Gospels, when the hostility toward Jesus begins to heighten, that he explicitly acknowledges his awareness that he would soon be crucified and die. How often must he have wondered: What will I leave behind for my followers?
Clearly, Luke has the Eucharist in mind as he recounts this story of the “Journey to Emmaus,” in today’s Gospel. The conclusion of the story makes it unmistakable: Jesus “took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them” – the very same words used in the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper, when Jesus first instituted the Eucharist; the very same words that have been repeated at every celebration of the Eucharist since then, as we fulfill Jesus’ command to “do this in his memory.”
What is it that Jesus chose to leave behind for his followers after his death: nothing less than his very self. This, too, Luke makes clear in this Gospel story. Having discussed the scriptures as they walked along the way, Jesus then reenacts the Last Supper with these two disciples. Jesus “took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread, and gave it to his disciples,” and with that, Luke tells us, “their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.” These two disciples recognized Jesus, not in his person, but in this reenactment. Jesus no longer needed to be visibly present to his disciples; he was now equally present to them in the bread that was blessed and broken. Luke seems to be at pains to drive this point home by concluding this Emmaus story with the insistence that Jesus was made known to the disciples – not in himself – but “in the breaking of bread.”
So, what did Jesus leave behind for his followers? He left us his very self – his very presence in the breaking of bread, in the Eucharist. For over two thousand years, we have been the fortunate beneficiaries of this gift of Jesus’ very self and all that it involves: his spirit of love, his legacy of self-sacrificing service, his example of profound faith in God – all of which are inexhaustible are imperishable, and have benefited centuries of Christians followers.
Such a personal, important, and profound decision could not have been as a mere afterthought, any more than our “Last Will and Testament” would be crafted haphazardly. No. Both cases involve a conscious decision arrived at only after a lot of thought and reflection on the part of the one who draws up the Last Will.
So, what is it that we will leave behind for those who come after us? Football jerseys? Good grades? Stock portfolios? Houses? Cars? Money? All of which will benefit a few for a relatively short period of time. Or will we, like Christ, make the conscious decision – here and now – to leave behind the greatest and most lasting gift we can possibly give: our very self – our spirit of love, our legacy of selfless service, our example of faith?
– Fr. Jason Glover, KCFS President