His Excellency J. Michael Miller, CSB
Archbishop of Vancouver, British Columbia
Homily from the 2009 Convocation Mass of the Holy Spirit
In the Gospel (Jn. 7:37-39), Jesus invites His listeners who are thirsty to come to Him and drink. The water of Jesus is the Holy Spirit. On the feast of Tabernacles Jesus promised to quench humanity's spiritual thirst with this Spirit: "Rivers of living water will flow from within him who believes in me" (Jn. 7:38). The Creator Spirit transforms our stony hearts, emptying them of darkness and filling them with divine light and life, wisdom and joy.
The Holy Spirit's presence in the Church and in individual souls in the state of grace is a permanent indwelling, dynamic and creative. Those who have drunk the Water of Jesus will have within themselves "a fountain of water that leaps up to provide eternal life" (Jn. 4:14).
The Holy Spirit changes the lives of those who welcome Him, renewing the face of the earth and transforming all creation. The Font of Life is our inner teacher and, at the same time, the strong wind that blows the sails of the bark of Peter to the shore of the heavenly Jerusalem.
St. Paul and Christian Wisdom
I would like to remind you of what the Apostle wrote about wisdom, that wisdom which is the gift of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul speaks of the "wisdom of the Cross," a wisdom opposed to the so-called wisdom of this world. He contrasts these two wisdoms, with only the former being true, while the latter is "foolishness." This contrast of the two wisdoms is not the difference between theology, on the one hand, and philosophy or science on the other. Rather, for Paul, it is a matter of two fundamental attitudes. The "wisdom of this world" is a way of living and of viewing things apart from God, the following of dominant opinions, according to the criteria of success and power. "Divine wisdom," on the other hand, consists in following the mind of Christ; it is Christ and His life-giving Spirit who open to us the path of truth.
Dear students, you are at Thomas Aquinas College because you are resolved to put your minds and hearts at the service of the sacred cause of truth. But your undertaking will be fruitful only if you attend assiduously to your spiritual formation according to the mind of Christ: "Have in you the mind that is in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5). In order to know and understand spiritual things, it is necessary to be spiritual men and women.
If you are of the flesh, with a stony heart, inevitably you will fall into foolishness, even if you study a great deal, acquire scholarly habits, and become what St. Paul calls a "master of worldly argument" (1 Cor. 1:20). For such people, the Cross is only a scandal and folly. The Apostle says so with impressive force: "The message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing" (1 Cor. 1:18).
So Paul invites you - the faculty and students of Thomas Aquinas College - to go beyond the wisdom of this world to the deeper wisdom of the Cross. It reveals "the full power of God's boundless love, for the Cross is an expression of love, and love is the true power that is revealed precisely in this seeming weakness" (Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience; October 29, 2008). Learn then, dear friends in Christ, from the Spirit you have received, that the highest wisdom is that of the Cross. Paul's teaching confirms Jesus' own words when He blessed the Father and affirmed: "You have hidden these things from the wise and clever and revealed them to babes" (Mt. 11:25). The "wise" of whom Jesus speaks are those whom Paul calls the "wise of this world." Only the "babes," those who accept "the message of the Cross" (1 Cor. 1:18), can become truly wise.
The wisdom of the Cross is a light that illumines the whole meaning of human life. For this reason, St. Augustine rightly speaks of the Cross as the chair of the Divine Teacher. It is from this chair that we receive the sublime revelation of God's plan and of His love for us. The limits of merely human wisdom are expanded by faith in the God-Man nailed to the Cross and raised to life in the glory of the Resurrection. Embrace, therefore, this cathedra of true wisdom, the Cross, from which Christ draws all things to Himself. He who was Himself thirsty on Golgotha quenches the thirst of those who contemplate His face and offers them the "rivers of living water," of true wisdom, as a gift of His Spirit.
This is not an anti-intellectual attitude, a turning away from reason and toward a facile fideism. St. Paul does not denigrate the use of reason. Nor does he undervalue the human effort necessary for the pursuit of knowledge. What St. Paul denounces is a worldly wisdom steeped in human pride. Following Jesus, the Apostle opposes the type of arrogant intellectualism in which a person, even if he knows a great deal, loses sensitivity to truth and the freedom to open himself to the wonder of the divine plan of salvation.
On Mary's lap sits the Wisdom of the Father, that is, Jesus the Christ. He continues to send us the Spirit, transforming this college into what St. Augustine might call a "societas Spiritus," a community of the Holy Spirit, where you gather together to study, ponder, and contemplate the wonders of God, the human person, and the good and holy life. Remaining faithful to the Lord Jesus (whom Mary presents to us) you are being interiorly prepared to commit yourselves intensely to intellectual work, to the pursuit of truth, illumined by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
As we continue this Eucharistic sacrifice, let us once again implore the Lord that He will guide the beginning of your work this academic year, direct its progress, and bring it to a fruitful conclusion. Gathered under the maternal protection of Our Lady, let us pray: "Veni, Sancte Spiritus! Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful at this college of yours, and kindle in them the fire of your love!" Amen.
His Excellency J. Michael Miller, CSB, the Archbishop of Vancouver, British Columbia, was the principal celebrant at the Thomas Aquinas College 2009 Convocation Mass of the Holy Spirit.
“When you’re undergoing an education like this, it teaches you how to think, and forms your intellect, so that you will be able to make well-formed choices once you get out into the world.”
– Sean Wood (’13)