RED MASS. This is the full text of the homily of incoming Xavier Ateneo president Fr Mars P Tan SJ during the annual Mass of the Holy Spirit, also known as “Red Mass”, on July 16 at the University Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. All photos by the Communication and Promotions Office.
My brothers and sisters in Christ and especially our dear students who together with their parents and other family members are attending our Mass online, let me put our Mass of the Holy Spirit today in two relevant contexts. The first context is the world and the second context is student life here at Xavier Ateneo.
The first context is the world, specifically what is going on in the world today. One word captures how I want to describe the present world – the world is in crisis! More so now with the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected all the people in the world, killed hundreds of thousands and made millions of people sick. The crisis of the world is primarily spiritual but this has affected the other aspects of human life. Spiritual because this is first and foremost about the absence of God and of the Gospel values in how we live our lives, how we conduct our business and work, and how we relate with and treat one another. This crisis is manifested in the many problems we are facing as a human community, the massive problems that have overburdened many of our brothers and sisters, like poverty, social injustices, corruption, sufferings of many people, unemployment, war and violence, the proliferation of fake news, discriminations in different forms, and moral bankruptcy.
SAFETY FIRST. Breaking tradition, this year’s celebration of the Red Mass was attended by only a few members of the XU community. The high mass followed proper COVID-19 safety measures and was broadcast live through the official social media accounts of the university.
But a crisis is also a challenge to grow. When we are in crisis we are challenged to do something to face and hopefully overcome some of these problems we are facing. This is where the Holy Spirit comes in and we badly need Him. In fact, many wise people say, the world today does not necessarily need new laws, new plans, new strategies, new government systems, and new structures. We have enough of them already yet we remain wallowing in our problems. Instead, the world needs people imbued and charged with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works through people, through us. The Holy Spirit does not come down upon laws or structures or plans but upon each of us. It is we whom the Holy Spirit anoints. It is we who will be changed to become agents of change in the society; the Psalm today beautifully says it, it is we who together as one will renew the face of the earth!
In sum, the world is in crisis and we need the Holy Spirit to come upon each of us especially on our leaders to work together to effect the much-needed change in our society. There is no real change without the Holy Spirit. Those who say change is coming by hurting people and even killing them is telling a big lie and lies are of the devil.
BLESSED. Fr Mars during the consecration of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
In the second context, what I want to say is that a school year is always a period of various challenges especially during this time of the pandemic for all of us, students, faculty, staff, administrators, and parents. And we also believe that challenges are opportunities to grow and to become better persons and children of God. But as I said no real change will happen in us if the Holy Spirit does not come upon us. So we need the Holy Spirit to work through us to surmount these challenges by transforming us into spirit-filled people.
At the beginning of the school year, you might wonder what to ask from the Holy Spirit to help you in your studies. You may ask for good grades, kind teachers, easy exams, less homework, new friends, stable internet connectivity, and no classes (not always!). All these are good but I am sure that for many students these may not be enough to get by throughout the year. So I suggest that you beg for just one – the Holy Spirit himself! The Holy Spirit is God and is a person. You treat Him like a friend, a dearest friend. Just like in your relationship with your friends, you do not wish only for the gifts or things your friend can give you but you want him or her as persons to be your friends. That is how you should be with the Holy Spirit, it is He you should beg to come to your life. Once the Holy Spirit is in you then He will give you whatever you need even those things that have not come across your mind. Every day you beg the Lord Jesus to send forth the Spirit in you like what he did to the apostles.
BODY OF CHRIST. Fr Mars administering the distribution of the Host to the lay people who attended the Red Mass.
To live your life in the Spirit is your distinct mark as an Atenean, a Xavierian. Life in the Spirit also means to live up to the important Ignatian ideals that are expected of every student in Xavier Ateneo. Firstly, as an Atenean, you are constantly called to strive for the better in your studies, your prayer, your activities, your use of your talents, and your relationships. This is the Ignatian Magis, seeking always to do the more, the better, and the greater…for God. Without the Spirit, you cannot do the Magis. It is the Spirit, ever active, ever fresh, and ever new that will make you always seeking to change your life for the better towards God. Secondly, life in the Spirit is not an inward journey but a giving and sharing of one’s life with others. To walk in the Spirit is to walk and accompany others in their problems and needs. As an Atenean, a Xavierian, you are slowly formed to become “men and women for others” to use your knowledge and skills in helping renew the world for Christ. St Paul says to the Romans, without the Spirit, we remain, people of the flesh, concerned only with the self and with our selfish interests. With the Spirit, He who is pure love and pure service, then we learn to turn to others and share our lives with them as well.
ALL PRESENT. The few participants of the XU community pose after the mass.
Let me end with this short story. The story is told about a little boy who was flying a kite. It was a windy day, and the kite kept going higher and higher. Finally, it got so high that it was out of sight. A man passed by and saw the little boy holding onto the string. The man could not see the kite, and he asked the boy, “How do you even know you have a kite up there?” The boy replied, “Because I can feel it.”
Although we cannot see the Holy Spirit, we should be able to sense His work in our lives changing us into the image of Christ, day by day doing more for God, day by day sharing a bit of ourselves with other. Amen.