James A. Wenzel, O.S.A.Baccalaureate Liturgy
James A. Wenzel, O.S.A.

Class of 2007
Merrimack College
May 19, 2007

Almost four years ago, in fact, it was on June 21, 2003 to be exact, most of you arrived on this campus for your Orientation to Merrimack College, your home away from home for the next four years. After checking in, President Santagati and other members of the college welcomed you and told you that “The Journey Starts here.” During that day, you listened to some advice about “Unfolding Your Map”, “Navigating your Course”, “Searching for Treasure” and “Finding your Way”.

Tomorrow, when you walk across the stage in the Volpe Athletic Center, that journey, your college career, comes to an end. Or does it? Often referred to as Graduation, perhaps it is more accurate to speak of tomorrow as COMMENCEMENT. In fact, you are actually beginning yet another chapter as your continue your journey of life.

Hopefully, the chapter you complete tomorrow has taught you many things about your God, yourself and the gift of life, and has prepared you for your next step.

At this time in the Church’s Liturgical year, we are remembering and celebrating another journey, the journey of the Son of God into our world but especially, His journey home to His Father. We recall our belief that God’s Son took on human flesh, became our brother, lived among us and finally died for us so that we might come to everlasting life. Today, we profess our Christian belief that forty days after Jesus rose from the dead, he returned to His heavenly Father. In today’s Gospel passage from St. John, we hear Jesus praying “that the world may believe that you sent me, . . .” He had been sent to our world so that by His life, He could show women and men the meaning of human life as well as the path to eternal life. Recall one of the ways in which Jesus described Himself:: “ I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”

Last Thursday, we celebrated Christ’s Ascension into heaven; in today’s Liturgy, remembering His presence with His Father, we look forward to our belief that Jesus promised to send us His Spirit to be with us forever. Next week, on Pentecost Sunday, we will celebrate the presence of that Spirit in our lives, a presence that will direct, challenge, comfort and guide us if we choose to accept and respond to the Spirit’s presence in our lives. As Jesus concluded his prayer, the prayer we heard in the Gospel passage, Jesus prayed for us --- “ . . . that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.” You and I are asked to live the love that God has had for us from the very beginning of our lives. Again, as Jesus challenges us:“Live on in my love.”

The word, BACCALAUREATE, is defined in Webster’s dictionary as a farewell address delivered to a graduating class. The word is derived from two Latin words: bacca,, meaning berry, and laureatus meaning, a crown or wreath of laurel. It is comparable to the crown given to the first place winners of the Boston Marathon each April. I do not have a laurel wreath for each one of you for having completed this part of your journey; I do have something that is far more enduring.

As you continue your life’s journey, I remind you of the legacy which is now yours as you receive your degrees from this Catholic and Augustinian College of higher education. I use words and thoughts that are expressed so beautifully and concisely in the Merrimack College Anthem, a song of loyalty and celebration. Your legacy is to remember that with the assistance of your parents and the faculty, your minds and hearts have been awakened to the truth. Never forget that during your four years at Merrimack, you have been challenged to build God’s city in yourselves and in your world. Throughout your lives, I invite you, with your hearts afire with love, to reach out in service to those in need. With gratitude and love, never forget the company of friends that you have made during your college years. Supporting each other, as you have done so here, continue your quest for genuine wisdom, with faith and reason to guide you on the path that will gradually unfold. Finally, be loyal daughters and sons of Merrimack College which has played a significant role in your formation for life.

Jesus was sent by his Father to a world that had forgotten how to love. Your parents, and now members of the Merrimack College community, send you into our world, in our time and place, where so many fail to love as God has loved us.

May you go with confidence that the love of your family and friends and most importantly, know that the Spirit of God will be with you every step of the way.

On a personal note, I congratulate each one of you. For so many of you with whom I have been associated during these past four years, I say thank you for your friendship. I met you in the classroom; I met you on a M.O.R.E. retreat. I was with you on the playing field or in Italy on one of the A.S.P.A. experiences, our annual Pellegrinaggio in Italia. I was present at your formals or sat beside you at a game, in the cafeteria or at a meeting. I chatted with you when something was troubling you. I simply want you to know that having come to know you has been a privilege for me. As you go forward I have great hope for the future of our world and for our Church. May God keep each one of you in the palm of God’s hands.