Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily May 23 for the closing Mass of St. Edward School in Little Rock.
Today is a day of transition for us. For you students, teachers and staff it is the end of your time at St. Edward School and you will transition to the next stage of your life. For alumni, this is the end of an era stretching back 134 years to 1885. For the first 33 years of its existence, the language of instruction was German until Bishop Morris ordered the school to start teaching in English in 1918 as a demonstration of patriotism after World War I.
We love this school and feel real grief in our loss. Indeed, we have gone through all the stages of grief that accompanies any loss. We are also a bit apprehensive because next year you students will be in a different school and it is natural to fear the unknown. How do we deal with this reality as people of faith? Scripture has a lot to say to us right now, which is why I chose special readings for this Mass.
Our first reading from Romans Chapter 8 means a lot to me. In fact, it was the quote I had printed on my ordination card almost 39 years ago and it still speaks to me today, especially when dealing with something that is difficult.
Here Paul says that that he is “convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
And isn’t that true? No matter what the adversity we have to face, God will always be right there with us to carry us through. That is the meaning of the cross, which with the resurrection is the central mystery of our faith. God is especially with us in our moments when we have to bear a cross and face the unknown.
Today’s Gospel reminds us that if we bring the burdens of our hearts to Jesus, he will make them light, freeing us up to move beyond our grief and so move forward in our lives. Jesus is right there with us, but it is up to us to not let our sadness distract us and thus fail to notice his presence as we journey forward. In some ways, you children might be better at this than some of us adults — indeed in today’s Gospel Jesus says, “for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”
You students at St. Edward School have experienced this. I am especially touched by the gentleness and kindness you students show each other and how you support each other in your studies and as friends. Helping each other with your lessons. Welcoming newcomers of every sort to the school and helping them fit in. You are beautiful in your diversity. And your enthusiasm — this is the kind of wisdom Jesus is talking about. And I am comforted to know that you will bring these human qualities that were developed here with you to whatever school you will be attending next year.
You will find Jesus there, just as you found him here. And you will have opportunities to be Jesus for others there, just as you tried to be Jesus for others here. You have known that “nothing separates us from the love of God,” and today we send you forth to make sure others know the same.
When we live our lives knowing that God is right there with us no matter what, then the ultimate feeling we have is one of gratitude despite whatever sadness we feel. Gratitude for your time at St. Edward and for the blessing that your teachers have been for you. Gratitude for your friends and for your parents and other adult volunteers who have invested so much of their time and love for your benefit. And all the efforts to try to keep the school open and all those who gave money in the hope of turning things around.
Today we are gathered for the Eucharist, which is actually a Greek word meaning “to give thanks.” Even though we are sad today, we give thanks to God because he is always with us.
St. Paul reminds us in our first reading today that, regardless of any adversity we will ever have to face, “we conquer overwhelmingly through Jesus who loved us.”
And so we can end by saying, “Thanks be to God” confident that that the same God who brought us so many blessings in this place will continue to bless us in the future, wherever life will take us next.
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