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Mass of the Holy Spirit Homily by Fr Rene Tacastacas SJ

Ateneo de Zamboanga University Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
September 8, 2020

At the beginning of each new school year, we always gather together to celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit to usher us in a new academic year as we also welcome our students, faculty, and staff.  This is an opportune time to ask God’s blessings on us and the work we do together. 

We are a Jesuit university and we are also a community of faith.  We seek to study and become very proficient in the many disciplines of Liberal Arts, of Sciences and Engineering, of Business and Management, of Nursing, and of Education, through a Catholic lens that views the totality of the human family and of the full spectrum of human identities and experiences.  In other words, we do not only have deep desires to accomplish many things academically and competently, but we also have great yearnings to find God as we learn from each other and engage holistically with our disturbed world.  During this time of the pandemic, our aspirations have become even loftier as our university and church are so radically challenged at this moment of our history when we all fight together and overcome the various difficulties imposed on us by the covid19.  More than ever, we need the help of the Holy Spirit to realize our mission and dreams.

We remember the gifts of the Holy of the Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.  Wisdom is right judgment about divine things and the ability to direct human affairs according to divine truth. Understanding means penetrating insight into the very heart of things, especially those higher truths that are necessary for the good life. Counsel allows us to be directed by God in matters necessary for love. Fortitude denotes a firmness of mind in doing good particularly when it is difficult or dangerous to do so. Knowledge is the ability to judge correctly in matters of faith and right action. Piety is principally loving and revering God with the affection of a daughter or son. Fear of God is not servile trembling whereby we ward off punishment but rather reverence for God and the desire never to separate ourselves from God.

We ardently pray that we can find creative ways to celebrate these unique gifts of the Holy Spirit with which we each bring to Ateneo and that we will be open to the diverse experiences and face up to challenges of the present situation.  We ask God to help us to recognize that we have more than what we need to succeed in Ateneo if we approach this year with imagination, diligence, initiative, and generosity.  However, this school year feels very different because of the pandemic.  This year we do not simply need the Holy Spirit’s inspiration to help us study, teach, and create new knowledge.  We need the Spirit’s inspiration to sustain us in this most difficult of moments. We realize that it is not that easy to move into the online mode of instructional delivery for both faculty and students.  Many are suffering from online fatigue.  Some of us are stressed out because of poor internet connections.  Others are desperate for digital devices which are difficult to possess at the moment.  Still others desire for better mental health.  Hence, we beseech the Holy Spirit to empower us to overcome all these difficulties.  We ask the Holy Spirit that we can reach out to one another with love and respect as we overcome together the challenges this pandemic has brought to all of us.  We ask God for the grace of humility and understanding as we listen carefully and understand each other and put the best possible interpretation of the situation on proper perspectives. We need the Holy Spirit’s inspiration to help us seek and find a possible and plausible direction for ourselves, for our Ateneo university and for our church. 

This year’s celebration of the Holy Spirit coincides with the celebration of the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  This is to emphasize that the same Holy Spirit has been at work with the Virgin Mary throughout all her life.  Through all the good times and the bad, the Holy Spirit has been with our Lady, providing care, comfort, support, and inspiration.  These are the same graces which we plead from the Holy Spirit in the midst of the pandemic and so we ask for the intercession of the Blessed Mother.  She herself has experienced in a tremendous way the guidance of the Holy Spirit in her life.  We are thus deeply assured that our Blessed Mother will also assist us during these trying times.

In conclusion, this school year is a new moment in the life of Ateneo and of the Church, a new moment for us as we begin the new academic year, and a new personal Pentecost as we renew the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Many changes to make.  Many challenges to face.  Many chances to better ourselves.  So, let us go forward then into this new season of life, this new school year, in confidence and hope, knowing that we are all under the care of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.