When Father Andrzej asked me to celebrate today’s opening liturgy, he asked what readings I would like for this mass. I replied that I thought the readings of the day were perfectly appropriate.
The first reading celebrates the return to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile. You have returned too, perhaps not from exile but rather from home visits and summer activities, but this wonderful text can fill us with the right spirit as we return to another year of studies and formation at STS. The exiles are returning to build a house for the Lord in Jerusalem and we too return to continue this ongoing building project, building up the Church by forming ourselves. Indeed, it is good to remember that theology studies here at STS are not an individual project, depending on personal desire, capacity and inclination, but rather the project of building up the Church, a Church that can bring all men and women to God. For this purpose, we must constantly study the Word of God and the world of humanity created by God in order to find our place at where the Word and world converge. This convergence depends on our fidelity to the Word and our love and knowledge of the world, a convergence that Cyrus, king of Persia, points to in his epistle that permits the return of the exiles. May this year be a year of inspiration, a return to even more energetic pursuit of knowledge that brings a deepening of faith and a love for God and humanity.
The psalm echoes the theme of return. Indeed, the Lord has brought us back as captives of Zion, like those dreaming. We can and must repeat with the Psalmist: “The Lord has done marvels for us!” We come to learn how to praise and thank Him. Our studies must indeed be a deepening of our thanksgiving for our lives and for the mission entrusted to us. This mission is to speak rightly about God – theology – so that others can believe too. The labor is great but the promise is clear: Although we go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown. We shall come back rejoicing, carrying our sheaves.
The Gospel too seems particularly appropriate to our project of building as we return to STS. Jesus says to us at the beginning of this academic year: “Take care, then, how you hear. To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.” Undoubtedly this is not the promotion of an economic principle of the market place of capitalism: the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer. Rather, it is a crystal- clear reference to our faith and our reason applied to deepening our faith. Let us listen with care so that what we have grows and expands, fills us and deepens our groundedness in the divine life. Let us not miss out on this opportunity.
To conclude, I want to cite from the writings of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon. Today we remember the Korean martyrs, him and his companions, who died for the faith. They were called to one form of martyrdom, we to another – the witness of study. We ask them to intercede for us, as we begin a new year of study and deepening of our faith. Saint Andrew wrote: “In this world of perils and hardship, if we did not recognize the Lord as our Creator, there would be no benefit either in being born or in our continued existence. We have come into the world by God’s grace; by that same grace we have received baptism, entrance into the Church, and the honor of being called Christians. Yet what good will this do us if we are Christians in name alone and not in fact?”
- Rev. Fr. Prof. David Neuhaus, SJ.
September 20, 2021