This past week we celebrated the one month anniversary of what
the press has come to call the Massacre at Virginia Tech. This
event has been described as the single most horrible day in the
world of education. It was indeed a day of darkness. Yet, even
from this horrific tragedy we can learn.
I am going to make a statement that to many of you may seem
nonsensical and to others just simply a contradiction. However,
I ask you to give me a moment of your time to explain myself and
I think you will come to agree with the veracity of what I say.
The statement is this: The massacre at Virginia Tech took place
because love exists in the world. I say it again: The massacre
at Virginia Tech took place because love exists in the world.
For this statement to make any sense, the first thing we need
to do is understand Love. Love, in its most basic form, is freedom.
There is no Love without freedom. You cannot demand that someone
love you. If there is an obligation to love, it breeds resentment.
The freer the Love, the more profound it is. Since Love is freedom
this means that we are also free not to choose it.
In all the world there is no better description of love than
the one that exists in the Bible. The classic definition of love
is found in St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: Love is
patient, love is kind, it is not self-seeking, it does not put
on airs. It does not brood over injuries. It does not rejoice
over wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. This description is
recognized the world over as inspired and divine. The sacred scriptures
also tell us that God is love. The more we love, the more we know
God; the more we become like God. Love is the closest we can come
to knowing the mind of God.
Thirdly, Love is also about sacrifice. Because we love someone
we do things for that person that we would not do for another.
There is no love without sacrifice; in fact, sacrifice renews
love. In a relationship, be it a marriage or a friendship, when
one will not sacrifice for the other, the love is at an end. That
love requires sacrifice is true not only of people, but also of
ideas. If we love freedom, we fight for it. If we love our faith,
we take time out of weekly routine to attend Church. If we love
the earth we do without luxuries that might otherwise harm the
environment. When we love, we sacrifice.
Lastly, we need to realize that if we love it does not make us
immune to the workings of the world. Because we love God, because
we pray it does not mean that bad things will never happen to
us. In fact, it seems almost that the exact opposite is true.
In the Gospel we read where Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do
you love me?” Peter responds, “Yes, Lord, you know
that I love you.” Peter is questioned because Jesus knows
that Peter’s love of Jesus will mean that Peter will suffer
persecution, prosecution, imprisonment, beatings and death. All
this happened because Peter loved.
It is this comprehension of love that helps understand what
happened at Virginia Tech. What the killer did is he chose not
to love. The killings at Virginia Tech took place because love
exists and the gunman freely chose not to accept it and in doing
so he turned away from God. What was true for him is also true
for us. When we choose not to forgive we become less like God
and more like the killer at Virginia Tech. When we refuse to heal
and to reconcile we turn away from God and therefore away from
love and become more like the assassin. When we become jealous
and self-seeking we are less like God and more like the lone gunman.
There is much to be learned here. We must love. We must forgive.
We must heal and reconcile and maybe we should start by forgiving
the campus killer. If we don’t forgive we become like him
and not like God. We have much to learn from the Amish in Pennsylvania
who forgave the killer of their school children.
You, the members of the Class of 2007, have learned about and
been the beneficiaries of the power of love. When you freely sacrificed
you accomplished great things. Who will ever forget the achievements
of this past winter? In awarding our swim team the rank of number
one in the state, the Newark Star Ledger said that the Hermits
were motivated by revenge. I beg to differ. If you know our men
and what they did, it was not revenge, but love. Mike Joyce was
quoted as saying, “Last year, St. Joe swam with more heart
and this year that was the ingredient for us.” The championship
was not about revenge, but about heart and we had that in spades
this year. The swimmers and the hockey players acted out of love
for the school, out of love for the team, out of love for their
families, out of love for honor. Revenge could never have accomplished
what love did. The accomplishments of revenge are transitory;
those of love last forever. When you look back on what was great
and good in all that you have done in these four years, you will
see love. The Brotherhood is built upon only one thing and that
is love. I think you will come to see as I have that the accomplishments
of your class are not many, but one and only one. Yours is the
accomplishment of brotherhood. Everything that you have done,
everything that you accomplished that has meaning was done for
others, with others and because of others. You are a shining example
to all of us of the power of the bond of unity. The prayer that
Jesus utters in today’s Gospel, “I pray that they
may be one? that their unity may be complete;” these words
are more than just a prayer among you; you have made it into a
living, breathing reality.
In our world, the headlines are stolen by people like the campus
killer at Virginia Tech or the man who killed the Amish children.
The stories that deserve our attention, however, are not these,
but the ones that weave the fabric of our lives; these are the
stories about brotherhood and unity; the stories about people
in action doing good for each other. These are the stories that
heal our world and make the lives of others better. While people
may be inclined to be titillated by stories of death and destruction,
they are most at home with the accounts of brotherhood and bravery,
friends and companions, volunteers and victors. The ones who deserve
our attention are those who live the life of service, the life
of friendship and the life of brotherhood. As you drove onto the
campus today you saw the sign you have read everyday this year:
Enter as boys to learn. When you leave here today be sure to read
the other sign one more time: Exit as men to serve. Heed what
The power of love helps to appreciate the great sacrifice of
both Fr. Steve LaRosa and Deacon Rocky Mangino who sacrificed
for us; they loved us and we them.
Love is the most powerful force at work among human beings.
When we reject it and deny it we sew unthinkable destruction and
loss. When we choose love we bring profound healing and goodness
to our world. The scriptures tell us that we are made in God’s
image. When we love, we become like God.
Gentlemen, remember these days; cherish them. You have something
great here; something that others can only imagine or hope for.
You have love. In the not-too-distant future, you will be talking
to others about your days here in Richland’s proud and peaceful
glen and when they ask you, “What did you learn in high
school?”; the greatest, the best and the most complete answer
is to say: I learned how to love. God bless you.