Life on the Chrism Trail

Baccalaureate Mass for Cristo Rey Catholic High School

June 3, 2022
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, TX

Acts 25:13b-21
Psalm 103:1-2, 11-12, 19-20ab
John 21:15-19

In our Gospel reading just proclaimed, Jesus asks Peter three times if Peter loves Him. After each one of Peter’s answers, Jesus asks him to do something — to feed His shape, to care for the members of His flock. After the third time, Peter finally grows frustrated at what he takes to be redundant questioning and with distress he responds to Jesus, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus says to him again, “Feed my sheep.” Jesus then tells Peter the type of death he will undergo out of martyrdom for his faith and belief in God, that “another will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”

Jesus is not being redundant; He is teaching Peter through repetition. There is a distinction to be made between redundancy and repetition. Redundancy in the intellectual spiritual life is akin to a popular definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again with the intention of manipulating a different result each time one does the same thing. On the contrary, repetition in the intellectual and spiritual life develops our incorporation into the mystery of God, freely offered and fully revealed in Jesus Christ, the fullness of the truth. Repetition fosters the formation of our character with every full human virtue exemplified in Jesus Christ.

Es importante de distinguir entre dos palabras muy apropiadas para la vida cristiana: la redundancia y la repetición. La redundancia en la vida espiritual es semejante a la definición popular de la locura: hacer la misma acción constantemente con la intención de producir un resultado diferente. Por cambio, la repetición en la vida intelectual y la vida espiritual desarrolla nuestra incorporación en el misterio de Dios, la plenitud de la verdad, libremente ofrecida y completamente revelada en Jesucristo. La repetición fomenta la formación de nuestro carácter moral con toda virtud humana ejemplificada en Jesucristo.

Redundancy has to do with vicious circularity (doing the same thing again and again without making progress or learning anything except preoccupation with oneself). Repetition has to do with the spiral: there is always forward growth and momentum in a spiral even as it circles again and again over similar words, patterns, ideas, and themes. When Peter denied Jesus three times in the late darkness of Holy Thursday, he was afraid and redundant; when Jesus asked Peter three times to repeat his belief and love for Jesus in the light of the Resurrection, He was guiding him into freedom through repetition. Redundancy enslaves us; repetition in the truth liberates us. The bitter fruits of redundancy are isolation, complacency, entitlement, and misery. The sweet fruits of repetition are gratitude, humility, joy, and service. The essential difference between redundancy and repetition for the life of any human being is the centrality of God in one’s life; for Catholics it is the centrality of Jesus Christ, true God and true man.

Your education these past four years has strictly involved the spirit of repetition: repetition of reading and writing; the repetition of an academic schedule and a work schedule, and the repetition of prayer and study. God has led you to this freedom through the love of your fathers and mothers, through the guidance of your teachers, and through the example of your supervisors in your employment at the workplace. Your presence in the workplace as employees and students of Cristo Rey Fort Worth Catholic High School has reminded your fellow workers that God is present in the culture of corporations and that businesses have obligations beyond the financial bottom line or those dictated by today’s oligarchs. The fact of your authentic freedom requires gratitude on your part to almighty God. Without thanking God, you will fast fall into the insane misery of redundancy.

¡Viva Cristo Rey! These are the last words spoken by Blessed Miguel Pro, a Mexican Jesuit priest who was martyred almost 100 years ago. He repeated them throughout his life, his education, and his ministry. Father Pro was tied up and led to his execution, and he stretched out his hands and arms in the shape of Jesus on the cross. Immediately before the firing squad killed him, he shouted out the words, “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” Father Pro was not only known for his education and intelligence but also for his humble dedication to his belief in God and his service to other people and members of the Church. This life and service of Father Pro threatened the regime of the atheist Plutarco Calles whose government was engaged in what the author Graham Greene called, the “fiercest persecution of religion seen anywhere” in many years. The name of your school draws its significance from the courageous witness of this Jesuit priest in the face of the powerful oligarchs who coerced many into a way of life without God. ¡Viva Cristo Rey!

Tonight, we thank God for your education, and we pray for those who have accompanied you in making this possible. As you prepare to enter into collegiate life at the universities where you will go and for which you have been prepared to study, it will be your courageous responsibility in true freedom to keep your focus fixed on God and to make Him known amidst a current society and culture of education that has closed itself to God, replacing Him with the idolatry of narcissism in a godless and redundant religion of anarchy and rage. If you exclude God from your life or only offer Him a secondary place, you will soon find your life to be redundant to the point that even if you enjoy material success, you will be miserable and not flourish as a human being created in the diverse beauty of God’s image and likeness. You cannot be indifferent to the truth. Jesus says also to you tonight in this Mass, what He said to Peter in the Gospel — “feed my sheep.”

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