Homily of Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory
Archbishop of Washington and Chancellor of The Catholic University of America
Mass of the Holy Spirit
Upper Church, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Aug. 29, 2019
Envía tu Espiritu, Senor, y renueva la faz de la tierra. Today the face of the earth undeniably needs the renewal that we have just implored in our Psalm Response for this Mass of the Holy Spirit celebrated at the beginning of this new academic year. Renewal is the work of the Holy Spirit for all times, but today let us focus on that ongoing work at this particular moment as we inaugurate a new year of learning and growth as a university community.
The newness of another academic year should permeate all our hearts with hope and with trust in God’s promise. Moreover, this moment ought to inspire us to work for the revitalization of the face of the earth well beyond our own personal academic pursuits and individual scholarly accomplishments. The call to renew the face of the earth is so much more inclusive than any specific ecological challenge or the mere responding to the distressing issues of justice and peace in our own society and throughout humanity. We are tasked to renew the face of the earth with a spirit of hope and confidence in God’s presence within this community of learning and study. This spirit of hope and confidence should then spill over from your pursuit of knowledge and wisdom into the world that awaits and needs the gifts that God’s Spirit offers to those who invoke His assistance.
Within this university community we have many distinguished scholars, newly arrived freshmen students beginning their pursuit of higher education, research professors, and of course our returning students. The Administrators, Staff personnel, and workers of all types at the Catholic University of America must be engaged in the renewal of the earth that requires each one of us to participate in that activity that belongs uniquely to the Holy Spirit but also requires our involvement and engagement. All of us who are dedicated to and directly engaged in higher education are called to use the wisdom that we seek to discover within this community of learning and to share with all who are our neighbors and colleagues are also summoned to improve the face of the earth that we also share. That undertaking will be as revolutionary as the religious and moral vision proposed by the Beatitudes that we just heard proclaimed.
Ours is a Catholic University grounded in and nourished by the legacy of faith that is the treasured heritage of our Church. Whether we ourselves are Catholic students or professors from other religious traditions, we must allow our studies and research to be touched with the wisdom and by the legacy of the Church that this university claims as its own with pride. This conversation does not seek to compromise genuine scholarship or academic research but becomes a vehicle to allow authenticate scholarship to enter into dialogue with the heritage and faith of Catholicism. The Church is no stranger to university life as many of the world’s great academic institutions began within the womb of Catholicism.
Together, students and scholars at Catholic University of America are summoned to demonstrate how wisdom and faith can harmoniously coexist. That witness will be renewing for a world that has increasingly grown suspicious of faith and hesitant about scholarship.
As the Beatitudes reveal that meekness, generosity, simplicity, even suffering can be transformative so can the union of learning and faith be a source of renewal for our world today. In spite of the great talents that exist within this body of teachers and learners, we all need the Holy Spirit to realize both our gifts and our potential. Therefore, we begin this new academic year on our knees imploring God’s own Holy Spirit to complete His work of regeneration within us and then using us as He will for the renewal of our world.