Reflections at the Baccalaureate Mass 2014

Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

Healy Lawn
Georgetown University
May 18, 2014

These days of “commencement” are often bittersweet. The nicest compliment we receive from our graduating students: “We just wish it wasn’t ending….” In moments like this, when faced with uncertainty and feeling some anxiety about the unfamiliar, about what might unfold next, I often find myself in need of consolation. It never fails that just when I need it most, I find words like those we hear this morning: “Do not let your hearts be troubled…” (John 14:1)

And isn’t it so reassuring to know that in our Father’s House there is a place for each of us, and that it is God’s own Son, who is not only going ahead to “prepare a place” for us, he is going to come back for us: “I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” (John 14:3)

In these words we find the bedrock—the faith on which the tradition of this community is built. But this bedrock—this faith is not fixed or static—we are “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5). The tradition upon which our community is built is always unfolding, always disclosing, always revealing: enabling us to experience in any moment, the presence of God.

Here, for more than two centuries we seek to share this living tradition—this way of life.
This is a way of life that begins in gratitude—we have someone who has gone ahead and he has promised to come back for us.

This is a way of life that asks us to always “presuppose” the best in one another.

This is a way of life that calls us out into the world asking us “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6).

This is a way of life captured in the banners that line our walkways—the Spirit of Georgetown.

  • Community in Diversity
  • Interreligious Understanding
  • Contemplation in Action
  • Academic Excellence

This is a way of life that begins within our own interior freedom—we seek to find our most authentic selves, our truest selves, the selves we are called to be, the selves we are meant to be.

The most fundamental choice we face in each of our lives is that of our “way of life.” This is the question that shapes our work and days here on this Hilltop. When we refer to “formation” we seek to capture this dynamic of forging one’s “way of life.”

And again, we are not alone. We have each other and we have the example of the one who came before us—the one who announced: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

“I am the way…”

We have lived our lives in a community shaped by this faith. We are reassured, consoled, in the knowledge that in our time together on this Hilltop, as we engaged in the work of our own formation, we did so, together, in a community, shaped by the conviction that we are not alone, that we should not be “troubled.” There is one who has gone before us, to “prepare a place” for us, who is coming back for us.

In the lives we live here, and in moments when we come together like this, we “let [ourselves] be built into a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5). We are the living stones that together construct this spiritual house.

This spiritual house is the gift of our faith.

Wherever we go…wherever our journeys take us…wherever we are meant to be, we bring this with us: by virtue of our faith, we are “built into a spiritual house.”

A spiritual house that will be as alive wherever you are, wherever you may find yourselves, as it has been alive for you here on this Hilltop, as it is alive right here in this moment.

And if at times you are troubled, if at times you may lose your way, in those moments, you just have to close your eyes, and you will be back here, right here on this lawn, right here in front of this building, right here on this Hilltop, knowing that we are forever connected in this “spiritual house.”