Tom Lucas, S.J., rector of the Arrupe Jesuit Community at Seattle University, delivered the following homily at the university's 2014 Mass of the Holy Spirit on Thursday, Oct. 2, at Immaculate Conception Church. The Mass of the Holy Spirit is the annual prayer for God's spirit to bless the university's endeavors.
School's been in session a week now. Time for your first quiz.
Show of hands. How many of you are from less than 50 miles of here?
How many of you are from Washington State?
How many of you are from West Coast touching the Pacific Ocean?
How many of you are from east of Mississippi?
How many of you are another country?
How many of you are Freshmen? Sophs? Juniors? Seniors?
Is this your first time in a Catholic Church?
Is this the first time you've been quizzed during a sermon?
OK, Next set of questions: a little more personal. Don't put up your hands, just answer honestly to yourself.
Do you wonder what you're doing here, in this funky building called The Immaculate, on a Thursday morning?
Do you wonder what you're doing in college?
Do you wonder what you're doing at this college, at Seattle University?
OK. Here are the extra credit questions:
What are you doing here?
What are you looking for?
I suspect that the people we heard about in the first reading (Acts 1:14) had as many different responses as you just had. They'd come from all over: From Dayton, Parthia, and Vancouver; from Chula Vista, Pamphylia, and Ballard; from Yakima, Mesopotamia, and even Spokane. They came to a new place, not knowing exactly what to expect except that it was a festival day, and there'd be food after the ceremony (yes, then as now food is a great bribe).
They were looking for a break in the routine, for something different, for some kind of connection. Some of them wanted to pray, some wanted to learn something. A lot of them didn't know exactly what they were looking for.
Some were just along for the ride.
And they were all powerfully surprised when The Spirit descended upon them, and gave them gifts of understanding, joy, and vision.
For some, the regular scoffers who gather around the edge of every new thing, there was only usual cynicism: "all these people are drunk on new wine." Which as anyone can tell you who's experienced it, has its charms but gives you a nasty headache.
But no. This good book tells us that the words they heard in their own languages coming out of the mouths of uneducated yokels from Judea rang with truth because they rang with promise: promise that young men and women can and will see visions, that the old can dream dreams; that hearts as well as ears and minds can be changed when the Spirit is poured out upon them.
The Spirit moved in those diverse peoples who began to see visions and dream dreams. The spirit that moved through the disciples was, we believe, the same spirit that empowered Jesus of Nazareth to begin his public work with a daring, preposterous proclamation: "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim a year of favor."
We come here, today, as a community, as a University, as this little universe, to ask for that same spirit to be poured into our minds and hearts as well, so we can make those same preposterous proclamations.
If you came to Seattle University and your primary goal is finding a good job when you graduate, or finding a partner or a hookup, or finding a fun way to pass four or five or six years and a lot of your parents' money, you might just succeed. But at the deepest level, that's not what this Spirit-filled place and time and experience is about, or ought to be about.
This time, this place, this experience, I suggest, is about giving the Spirit room in your crowded mind and heart: room to see a vision of liberty for captives, recovery of sight for the blind, to dream of and work for freedom for those enslaved and oppressed.
If you let it, the Spirit who is alive in this time and place and experience can and will invite you to work to free yourself and others from the lies that our consumer culture have captivated and have fed you with since the first time you watched the ads during Saturday morning cartoon shows.
If you let it, that spirit, a spirit of recovery of sight, will help you to open your eyes to the fragile beauty of our imperiled planet, but more: if you let it, the Spirit will open your eyes to the tender, fragile beauty of the human heart with all its longings, nobility, and sorrows.
If you let it, that spirit will rouse in you righteous anger when you encounter oppression of the weak and the vulnerable, and give you courage to dare to do something about it. If you let it.
For almost 125 years, people just like us have come here, young and old, students, teachers, guides and supporting workers of every sort. They have often gathered in this very building, at the beginning of the academic year, to ask for the gifts of the Spirit: gifts of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, gifts of strength, good counsel and humility enough to know that these are gifts we do not possess, but deeply need and deeply desire.
They have asked to see visions, and dream dreams, and then to have the mind, the heart, the spirit, the animo, to bring those visions and dreams into reality.
No doubt about it, that reality is difficult to attain: difficult but not impossible. It is a reality of We, not I; of giving, not getting; a reality we instinctively feel and know is true and beautiful and good.
What are you doing here? What do you want?
If you invite it,
If you let it,
The Spirit will stir in the deepest corners of your mind and heart and show you, teach you, guide you, transform you. Will make of you, as it made of Jesus, a visionary, a dreamer, a liberator, a proclaimer of good news.
That is the gift we pray for today. Come, Holy Spirit, open our minds and hearts.
Help us let you in.