Bishop Frank J. Dewane of the Diocese of Venice, Florida celebrated the Opening of the School Year Mass at Ave Maria University on the first day of classes, Monday, August 31, 2015. The opening Mass, in which the University dedicated the new academic year to Christ, was held in the Ave Maria Oratory.
“Beginnings are always a good thing,” the Bishop said in his homily, “for all of us. We need new beginnings, we need new…chances in life to come to know ourselves…and to come to know the Lord also.”
The Gospel reading for the Mass was Luke 4:16-30, in which Jesus reveals himself and begins his public ministry. “Just as it is the beginning,” Bishop Dewane said to the faculty and students gathered, “…of a new [academic] year.”
“Christ was beginning with a real punch,” the bishop went on. “He started his ministry in this Gospel of Luke, stood up and said…that he was the Messiah.” In the Gospel passage, quoting the prophet Isaiah, Jesus says he comes with a specific purpose:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Bishope Dewane addressed each aspect of the Lord’s messianic mission in his homily, but he focused on the fifth and final purpose: “to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”
“Today’s the [day] to begin the year where we can liberate ourselves… Christ will help you, but there has to be an intention on your part…to become more than you are, to become more the man or woman of God that you are called to be. Don’t let Christ pass away from you. The choice is yours.”
Speaking to the students specifically, Bishop Dewane said, besides a new school year, “Let’s begin a few other things this year. … [Scripture is] telling you and I what it is we need to focus on in our life, and how we need to make a year that is acceptable to the Lord.” Practically, the Bishop mentioned a few things:
- Go to confession: “I doubt anybody here is going to get through the year without using one of these confessionals… Whatever it is that may hold you captive, let’s begin to avoid it.” [Students can find information on Mass & Confession schedules from Campus Ministry.]
- Share your talents: “We see a lot of people around us that could use our help… and it isn’t always money… There are many, many other talents among…the students of Ave Maria to be given to others.”
- Love your neighbor: “If we are going to set about this acceptable year, a component of what we do for others has got to be in our life. It isn’t about “me”…yes, you need to study…and yes, you need to be here, here in the church, and in the chapel, and in prayer.” But, the bishop pointed out, when asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus responded love of God, “and he didn’t miss a beat and said ‘and your neighbor as your self.’ Let’s not get too closed in on ourselves,” the bishop urged.
- Do service: “Let it be a successful year academically; don’t anybody misunderstand me, you’ve got to get your studying done. But sometimes you can overdo that… Get out, mix with the rest of humanity. Go to Immokalee; it’s not far away… It’s not going to happen naturally, so you’re going to have to make it a year acceptable to the Lord.” [The Mother Teresa Project is a great way for students to get involved in service work, both local and abroad.]
The bishop concluded by asking the students a question that will guide them through this new academic year: “What are you going to do to make this a year acceptable to the Lord?”