May 19, 2017
I delivered the following homily at last night’s Baccalaureate Mass at Bishop Chatard High School. The homily speaks to the readings chosen for this event: Philippians 4:4-9 and John 15:5-12
A few years back, I was scheduled to give a talk at a parish and was sitting at our dining room table working on it. My son, Robby, came up behind me, put his hand on my shoulder and asked what I was working on. When I told him a had a presentation I was preparing for, he asked, “What’s the topic?”
I told him, “It’s a talk on effective parenting.”
Any one of my other three children would have said something like, “That’s great!” or “You’d be good at that!”
Not Robby. He laughed. And laughing apparently wasn’t enough. He added, “And they want you to talk about that?”
Despite the fact that he was being a smart aleck, he had a valid point. The fact is, in our role as parents, we were just hanging in there, doing the best we could, hoping we didn’t mess up too badly.
Kids don’t come with instruction manuals.
When raising our kids, we relied on friends and family around us, and learned from life experience and trial and error.
These were all important, but what we relied on most was our faith – it was our foundation, our support. God was the vine and we were the branches. We stayed connected to that vine, and it produced fruit for us.
Because of our faith, we were able to meet the challenges of parenting — just as your parents did when they were trying to figure out how to raise you.
Likewise, you came into Bishop Chatard four years ago facing challenges. You’d never been to high school before. You put on a brave face and acted like you knew everything, but the fact is, you were just like me as a parent — you were probably just hanging in there, doing the best you could, trying not to mess up too badly.
There was a student handbook telling you important things like no backpacks and no hoodies, but there was no high school survival manual.
You relied on others around you — your parents, teachers, upperclassmen, and classmates to help you.
However, if you were smart, you relied on your faith to be your foundation, your anchor. God was the vine and you were the branches — you stayed connected to that vine, and it produced fruit for you. It brought you to graduation.
Your next stage of your life is going to offer new challenges. I’m sure that you will have people and resources available to you to help manage those challenges. But that help is only a small part of what you will need.
In my Commencement remarks tomorrow night, I will encourage you to pack your faith and take it with you when you go to college. Your faith will always be your foundation. God is the vine and you are the branches. He will never abandon you, so don’t abandon Him.
Listen again to the beautiful words we heard in our readings. In St. Paul’s letter, he encouraged the Philippians to rely on God. He wrote: The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Isn’t it comforting to know that as you navigate life’s challenges God can offer you peace? Have no anxiety at all…the peace of God will guard your hearts…
And in John’s gospel we heard these words: Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit…if you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
Those are compelling words and should provide you with incredible confidence moving forward.
God is the vine, you are the branches.
I pray that you will choose to stay connected to The Vine…and that you will bear much fruit because of it.