Ask not: “What do I want to do with my life?” Rather, ask God: “What do you want me to do for you?”
This was Anchorage Archbishop Paul Etienne’s message as he celebrated Mass for the graduates of Holy Rosary Academy on May 16 at Holy Family Cathedral in downtown Anchorage.
Holy Rosary’s four graduating seniors, along with about 50 friends, teachers and family members, were in attendance for the baccalaureate liturgy, as were Dominican priests from the cathedral — Father Steven Maekawa, Father Dominic Maichrowicz and Father Mark Francis Manzano — who helped concelebrate the Mass.
Archbishop Etienne congratulated the seniors, and his homily reflected upon the unknown future — and related anxieties — that he encountered as a graduate years ago.
“I’m sure there’s a little bit of anxiousness, if not impatience, at work in your life as well,” he said. “And the one thing I give thanks for in my entire life is my faith. Particularly in those moments when I got frustrated with where I was, or I was impatient because I wasn’t yet where I wanted to be. And I would even get impatient with God. But it’s my faith that keeps me anchored.”
The archbishop noted that he was 33 years old when he was finally ordained a priest.
“And I am convinced that God used every part of the journey there as a preparation for when I got there,” he said.
CAUSE FOR HOPE
The theological virtue of hope is what “allows us to wait and persevere with endurance for God to reveal things, day by day, throughout our lives,” Archbishop Etienne told the graduates.
Drawing from the Liturgy of the Hours readings of the day, he cited Psalm 23 and Psalm 32 as oft-neglected reminders of the omnipotence and love of God as the creator.
“The basic reality that God created all things: we can pass over those simple statements so quickly,” he said. “But that simple truth is such a remarkable and hopeful statement. It tells us that God is in charge.”
He then commended the graduates for their choice of readings at the Mass.
“That’s why I love the second reading that you chose for our celebration tonight,” he said. “Saint Paul reminds us that ‘it is in hope that we were saved.’” (Rom 8:24)
Reflecting on Saint Paul’s statement that “hope does not see what is hoped for,” Archbishop Etienne admitted that this is difficult to accept at times.
“Just earlier this week, I was speaking with a young man trying to figure what he wants to do,” he related. “And I was remembering what it was like to be that young person again. It took me awhile to give my plans over to a better plan, to God’s plan.”
“My mom used to say, ‘God’s in charge,’” he added. “She’d say it so much I got tired of hearing her say it. But it’s so true. And it’s in hope that we’re saved. Saint Paul knew that well.”
THE SUBTLE, MOST POWERFUL, INFLUENCE
“Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink.” Meditating on this passage from John’s Gospel, Archbishop Etienne stressed the analogy between physical thirst and the human person’s desire to be united to God.
“All the longings and desires that we experience in our human lives are, at their deepest level, a desire for the Lord,” he said. “But because we are human and limited in our vision, and, at times, sinful in the cravings and desires that we have, we fail to see that. That’s why it’s important to keep going to Jesus. He created each of us, he knows the gifts that he has bestowed upon you, he knows the path that he has laid out for you, he knows you’re going to stray from that path, he knows how to get you back on that path.”
“That’s the best advice I can give you graduates tonight,” he said. “Every morning, throughout the day, and every night: Go to the Lord.”
Archbishop Etienne reminded the congregation that the “rivers of living waters” prescribed by Jesus in the Gospel to quench human desire is nothing less than the Holy Spirit.
He noted that the Holy Spirit is “a very subtle, but perhaps the most powerful, influence in our lives.”
“I guarantee you, graduates, if you root your lives in and open your minds to the Holy Spirit, you will discover God’s path,” he continued. “You will grow in great friendship and intimacy with Jesus. In that relationship, your deepest desires will be fulfilled. And all of the other desires that are less than that will be rightly ordered.”
LIVE IN SERVICE TO GOD AND OTHERS
Archbishop Etienne closed his homily with a challenge for the seniors.
“Don’t settle for the simple question as you look to your future, ‘What do I want to do with my life?’ Ask the much broader, and prayerful, question, ‘God, what do you want me to do with my life for you?’ That is ultimately going to lead you in the right direction,” he said.
He added that the Christian life will certainly involve the cross and other people.
“So, if you can pray each day that simple prayer, ‘God, what do you want me to do with my life for you,’ all the faith that your family has given to you, the good name your family has given to you, the good training and education your teachers have given to you, will bear great fruit,” he said.