Fr. Roger J. Landry
Bishop Connolly High School, Fall River, MA
Ring Mass for Junior Class
October 11, 2002
1Kings3:4-13; Col 3; Mt 13:25-28
1) When I was in seminary, the third theologians were the leaders. The first theologians were trying to figure out the place. The second theologians were now somewhat comfortable in the surroundings, but they were still establishing themselves and getting ready to lead. The fourth theologians were beginning to think more and more about returning home for ordination. The third theologians were the ones who knew the place well, had the energy, enthusiasm and focus to try to make the seminary a better place and each year the whole seminary benefitted from a new class of third theologians taking over the helm. And the Spirit of the seminary depended to a large degree on what type of tone, and what type of leadership, the third theology class demonstrated.
2) After two years here as chaplain, it looks like the same dynamics are at work here at Connolly. The freshmen are still getting used to the place. The seniors are a little preoccupied with graduation, college applications, etc. The sophomores are coming into their own and getting ready to lead, but it’s the junior class that sets, to a large degree, the tone in this school. It’s the junior class to which the rest of the students look to lead.
3) And so it’s a very good idea that we come together each year to pray for the juniors, to ask God’s help for them as persons, as students, and as the leaders. We stand together before the word of God and ask that God fill them with his wisdom so that they may lead well. In the first reading, which was suggested by members of the junior class, we see what Solomon asked for when he knew that God was asking him to lead his people. Solomon prayed to God, saying that he was a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act. God was pleased to give him anything he asked for. Solomon asked for the gift of wisdom, an understanding heart to judge God’s people, distinguish right from wrong and govern God’s people. I’m very proud of the junior class that, at the beginning of this year when they’re called to lead, they would have suggested that we reflect together on this reading and through it, ask God for the gift of wisdom, to know right from wrong, to know how to judge situations and events in the light of God, to lead others.
4) How are the juniors called to lead here? They’re called to lead not by bossing others around — because, frankly, that wouldn’t be all that effective! — but by serving others. Jesus tells them that very pointedly in the Gospel today. Jesus called the apostles, those whom he had chosen to lead, to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus says the real type of leadership he calls us to, he calls our juniors to, is a leadership of service, making yourself the servant of others, just as he did, giving everything to serve others out of love.
5) This is a big task, but the task is fulfilled by doing the little things. There’s a story of a man who had a place by the beach. Every morning he saw an old timer going out to throw the starfish that had washed up on shore over night back in the ocean. The beach each morning would have a tremendous amount of washed up starfish. The man with the house next to the beach thought it was odd that this old man would be going out every day just to watch them all come back the next day. So one morning he went to ask him why he would do this. He greeted the man and the oldtimer stopped. “I’ve been watching you do this every morning for a while. Come out here early and toss the starfish back in the ocean. Why are you doing this?” The old man replied, “Because if I don’t do this, when the sun comes out, they’ll die.” “But there are so many starfish here. Do you really think you’re going to make a difference?” At that moment, the old man paused, and looked his younger interlocutor in the eyes, as if he were contemplating his answer. Then he bent down and picked up a starfish in his hand. He looked at the starfish, then he looked at the man asking him. He tossed the starfish back into the ocean. “Well, I sure made a difference to that one!”
6) The point of the story is sometimes we can’t solve all the problems that surround us, we can’t do all the things we might want to do. But if we start in the little things, we can make a huge difference in the lives of one, two, three maybe more. And if we all do this in loving service of others, we can make a huge difference. Bishop Connolly isn’t perfect, as all of us know. There is definitely room for improvement in certain areas. Some people could look at that as a problem. But it’s really a blessing, because God’s giving each one of us a chance to make it better. He’s especially counting on the juniors to lead all of us in making it better, by setting a tone of service inside this building and therefore building up a much greater spirit, a much deeper community. What are the little things we could do that could make a huge difference? Trying to help others out in little ways. If someone drops something, to pick it up. To greet people in the halls. If there’s a chance to sign up for something, sign up. Make the first move in re-establishing a relationship if it’s gone sour. Volunteer for things. Stop yourself from complaining. When you’re being tempted to give up, to throw in the towel on something, keep going. Your perseverance might inspire several others to do the same. In the classroom, sportfield, theater, artroom, help others when you have a talent they’re trying to obtain. Teach him how to do something better. Be patient with them. These are all little things, but if each of us does them, this whole community will be the beneficiary.
7) St. Paul has shown up today to give you some special advice, just as he gave it to the young people in Colossia about 1950 years ago. It’s almost as if he’s whispering it into your ear. Listen to him again and ask God to give you the strength to put these things into practice. Because you are God’s chosen ones — and you are! — holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Bear with one another. Forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you. Over all these virtues put on love, which binds the rest together and makes them perfect. Christ’s peace must reign in your hearts, since as members of the one body you have been called to that peace. Dedicate yourself to thankfulness. Let the word of Christ, rich as it is, dwell in you. Sing gratefully to God from your hearts in psalms, hymns and inspired songs. Whatever you do, whether in speech or in action, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus. Give thanks to God the Father through him.” Every virtue we listed is applicable to Christ, who was merciful, kind humble, meek, patience, always ready to forgive, thankful and did everything in the name of His Father. If we really want to make a difference this year and with the great gift of life and all the talents God’s given us, we’ll do the same.
8 ) Later on this Mass, I’ll bless the rings and various religious objects that the juniors have brought today. Many will have class rings blessed. Others rosary rings. Some others, crosses. None of these is just a mere piece of jewelry, but stands for something. Just like a wedding ring, which many of you God willing will have put on your finger by someone you love, and will put on someone you love, it’s a sign of fidelity, a sign of commitment, a sign of a willingness to serve another out of love. Today when you come forward to receive your blessed class ring, or a rosary ring, or a Cross, may you find in this symbol a means to recommit yourselves to fidelity to God and to the others here out of love. Today you’ll bring them at the offertory to be blessed along with the bread and the wine. The Lord starts with bread and wine, the gifts we bring, and then completely tranforms them into His own body and blood. In the same way, you bring these metal objects signs of your willingness to commit yourselves to the ideals they symbolize, and he will bless them — and through them, you — and give them back to you as a sign of his willingness to be with you all the way in your journey here at Connolly and through the rest of your life. Each time you put on this blessed symbol, call to mind his presence, and his commitment to you. Then renew the commitment you make today, to lead by serving Him and others out of love. The whole rest of the Connolly community stands around you to pray for you. So many of your family members have come here to do the same. May God, who has begun this good work in you, bring it to completion. Amen.