Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit

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Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit

Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel

Thomas Aquinas College

Northfield, MA

May 18, 2024

Is 11, 1-4

Acts 8, 1. 3. 14-17

Jn 7, 37-39


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 It is most fitting to offer the Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit at the beginning of the Commencement for the New England Class of 2024 of Thomas Aquinas College. The studies which the members of the Class of 2024 have undertaken here have been, at their root, an expression of the “thirst” for the “living water” of the Holy Spirit which flows in “rivers,” immeasurably and unceasingly, from the glorious-pierced Heart of Jesus into our hearts. At the same time, the Commencement which they celebrate today is, at its root, an expression of confidence in the Holy Spirit to guide them unfailingly and unstintingly in the future for which their studies have prepared them. Our fruitful life in Christ in the Catholic Church, in virtue of the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our souls, is not something external to a Catholic university education but is, rather, as Thomas Aquinas College has understood from its founding, both its inspiration and its fulfillment.

During the course of His Public Ministry which had its consummation in His Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, Our Lord Jesus invited all men to quench their thirst for divine Truth and Love in Him, in His Most Sacred Heart:

If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.”[1]

God the Son, in fact, had taken our human nature in the womb of the Virgin Mary through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, to provide for us the “rivers of living water,” the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which sustains us all along the way of our earthly pilgrimage and brings us securely to the heavenly destiny of our earthly days, be they many or few.

Our destiny is not some mundane and therefore passing achievement but rather Eternal Life with God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – in the company of the angels and all the saints. Regarding Our Lord’s words of invitation, the Gospel tells us: “Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”[2] The goal of today’s beginning, today’s Commencement, is Eternal Life.

Our Lord consummated His saving work by ascending to the right hand of God the Father and sending forth from the Father the Holy Spirit to dwell faithfully within our hearts. In His Final Discourse with the Apostles before entering upon His Passion and Death, Our Lord assured them:

I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you… When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.[3]

It is from the same Farewell Discourse that the New England Class of 2024 has taken their Class Quote,[4] words of Our Lord to reassure us of the victory of Eternal Life which He has won for us, if only we, guided by the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, entrust ourselves to Him as His faithful, generous, and pure “fellow workers in the truth.”[5] He, the “shoot from the stump of Jesse” upon whom the sevenfold “Spirit of the Lord” rests – “the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, and the spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord” – , shares the same sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit with those are alive in Him in the Church.[6] 

In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we have heard how the Apostles, consecrated at the Last Supper to act in the person of Our Lord and Master, Head and Shepherd of the flock, at every time and in every place, courageously – in the face of “a great persecution [which] arose against the Church in Jerusalem”[7] – went to all the neighboring people to baptize and confirm those who had received the gift of faith in Our Lord. With the pastoral charity of Christ, they fulfilled the desire of the people to become in Christ, the only-begotten God the Son, adopted children of God the Father through the Holy Spirit dwelling within their souls. The Apostles Peter and John went down from Jerusalem to Samaria where they “prayed for” and “laid their hands on” those who “had received the word of God.”[8] By the Apostles’ prayer and by their laying-on of hands, the people “received the Holy Spirit.”[9] What the Apostles did in Samaria at the beginning of the life of the Church continues today through the same Apostolic ministry.

Priests and Bishops, conformed to the person of Christ, Head and Shepherd, through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, administer the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation to those who have received the gift of faith, bringing them to life in Christ in the Church through the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit. What is more, Christ’s priests and Bishops offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to nourish the faithful spiritually with His true Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Our Lord brings us to life by the outpouring of the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism and strengthens and increases the same outpouring in Confirmation. Through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, He makes sacramentally present His Sacrifice on Calvary, by which He has saved us from sin and its fruit, eternal death, to nourish the life of the Holy Spirit within us until it reaches its full maturity in eternal life.

The world and Satan try in every way possible to tell us that it is not possible to live in the Truth and Love of Christ, to follow His command: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”[10] On the contrary, by the grace of the Holy Spirit at work in us, even the weakest and poorest soul is capable of knowing Divine Truth and practicing Divine Love, and of attaining its reward: Eternal Life. Rightly, we pray in the words of Psalm 117:

Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us; and the faithfulness of the Lord endures for ever. Praise the Lord![11]

Certainly, the challenges in following Christ are many, as are the temptations to leave Him and His Way, but God is ever ready to shower upon the humble and contrite heart an abundance of the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit.

As we are blessed to take part in today’s Commencement, let us pray for the graduates of the New England Class of 2024 of Thomas Aquinas College that the life of Christ in them, the life of true sons and daughters of God, through the dwelling of the Holy Spirit in their souls, may continue to flourish, inspiring and strengthening them to serve God faithfully, generously, and purely, and bringing them each day securely along the way to their true destiny, their true home, in Heaven. Let us pray for Thomas Aquinas College that she may continue to be a School of Christ, that she may continue to be the vehicle by which the Holy Mother of God, drawing our hearts to her Immaculate Heart, takes us to her Divine Son, especially in times of trial and temptation, exhorting us as she exhorted the wine stewards at the Wedding Feast of Cana: “Do whatever he tells you.”[12] Thus may the students of Thomas Aquinas College receive the grace to be always alive in Christ, to be, with Our Lord, “fellow workers in the truth.”[13]

God the Son Incarnate will now descend to the altar to make sacramentally present His Sacrifice on Calvary, God’s Supreme Act of Love for all mankind. Seated at the right hand of God the Father in glory, He will pour forth from His glorious-pierced Heart His Life – His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – to sustain the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Let us, together with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Purest Heart of Saint Joseph, and the Priestly Heart of Saint Thomas Aquinas, give our hearts completely to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus for the glory of God, for our eternal salvation, and for the salvation of the world.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Raymond Leo Cardinal BURKE

[1] Jn 7, 37-38.

[2] Jn 7, 39.

[3] Jn 16, 7. 13-15.

[4] Cf. Jn 16, 33.

[5] 3 Jn 8.

[6] Is 11, 2.

[7] Acts 8, 1.

[8] Acts 8, 14-15. 17.

[9] Acts 8, 17.

[10] Lk 9, 23.

[11] Ps 117 [116], 1-2.

[12] Jn 2, 5.

[13] 3 Jn 8.