"We impose nothing, yet we propose ceaselessly," according to Pope Benedict. And what do we propose? Jesus as Lord and Christ.
I was so pleased last night at the Baccalaureate Mass for Pope John Paul II High School here in Nashville that Deacon Brian Edwards did exactly that in preaching to the graduates. Just before Mass I had been talking to Chris Findley, a friend of mine who is the head of the theology department at the school, and had asked him if the students loved the Lord Jesus. He answered honestly that generally speaking not so much, of course with wonderful exceptions. We were discussing as the procession was beginning for the Mass the need to propose Jesus at the heart of the school, to the heart of every person in the school, as the mission for all that we do there. Catechesis is a part of that but only a part. I was so pleased to hear the proclamation of Jesus Christ as the Truth at this Mass.
I had earlier in the day been at graduation here at Vanderbilt. It is really an impressive event for an impressive institution. Vanderbilt strives to be "national" and even "international," but on graduation day VU is all Southern graciousness and hospitality. Strawberries and champagne! Anyhow, I did notice one change in the program: no prayer during Commencement. I am not sure how big a matter this is practically. The "prayers" at the last few commencements that I have attended were so generic as to be almost self-parodying. But Commencement was an entirely secular event. Perhaps that is not so bad. God loves the saecula. Grace builds on nature and so we should embrace natural excellence. But let us also propose Jesus Christ!
Chancellor Zeppos offered the insight that of all of Commodore Vanderbilt's accomplishments, this university is the one that still lasts and bears fruit. The Chancellor stated his confidence that the university would continue to do so. I fully agree, and yet there will come a day, by and by, when VU will be in ruins. May that day be long in coming, yet it is coming. There is a quirky poem about my own alma mater called Sewanee in Ruins that imagines such a day. (After all, the University of the South has already lain in ruins once in its short history, and a half-million dollar endowment [half of what the Commodore would donate a few years later to found Vanderbilt] lost.) I hope that it is not impossible to imagine such a day for Vanderbilt -- and for ourselves. It is the thought of that day that keeps our accomplishments in perspective.
So let us celebrate human accomplishment! But let us remember the also human weakness and find our ultimate hope elsewhere. Let us propose Jesus as Lord and Christ.