Over 450 members of the Georgetown Prep community attended the annual President's Mass and Reception on Sunday, August 26. The record crowd gathered in Prep's Chapel of Our Lady for the first school Mass of the 2018-2019 academic year.
The Mass was also the Installation Mass for Georgetown Prep's new president, Rev. James R. Van Dyke, S.J. Fr. Van Dyke assumed the position of president effective July 1.
The Very Rev. Robert Hussey, S.J., the Provincial of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, missioned Fr. Van Dyke to be Prep's Director of the Work.
At the conclusion of Mass, Fr. Hussey renewed Georgetown Prep's Sponsorship Agreement with the Society of Jesus in which is recognized the School's value and centrality as a Jesuit Apostolate of the Catholic Church.
Below is Fr. Van Dyke's homily from his Installation Mass.
You know there is an old saying: "You are what you eat." I'll come back to that, but for the moment I want to talk about another saying: "You become what you love."
As some of you know, one of the best things I ever did as a kid was to row crew. I think about it now—how much it has shaped my personality—how much I love the wide open spaces and vistas you only get out on the water—how much I pay attention to the sky and the weather—my fascination with engineering and bridges—my love of boats—and my love of those moments when everything works together, when everything syncs and the boat sets up and eight guys pull together and the world is right and we slice through the water in one swift smooth efficient sweep. And, everything is quiet, serene, except for the murmur of the water under the keel. And as I think about my life rowing, and my years of coaching, my years of teaching, my life as a Jesuit, I realize how that remains—after all these years—my perfect moment, literally and metaphorically. It's how I feel when a class goes brilliantly, when a meeting works, when a conversation with an old friend flows. And, I suspect that each of you here has a similar moment—a similar metaphor—for what it is that you love. It may that moment when as a parent you held your son for the first time, or when you as a student knew that you really knew something, or maybe when as an athlete you watched the puck skim through a forest of sticks and skates into the net, or watched a pitch come slow-mo to your bat, or on stage hearing the lines come out of your mouth as though you yourself were speaking them for the first time in the history of the world, or as a musician when you no longer see notes but music and it flows from the tips of your fingers into the air not as a composition but as the very expression of your soul. That moment when we know that the world is indeed right.
I found myself thinking about all this the other day when I was reflecting on today's readings and how I—a kid from Buffalo—came to be at Georgetown Prep. How unlikely it all seems now, and yet, here we are. And, I remembered when I decided to row—when I saw the guys out on the Black Rock Channel as if for the first time and told my dad I wanted to do that. Because in my eyes, in my heart I knew that it was beautiful. And I wanted that beauty in my life. But it didn't work out—not at first, anyway. Because I was about 5'6" as a freshman and weighed maybe 92 pounds...maybe. So, they put me in the coxswain's seat instead—the little guy who had to yell and keep time and steer the boat. And I hated it. All the other guys got to move, to exercise, to keep warm in a Buffalo "spring" and I was cold and wet and miserable and living on cough drops. And all through that season I really wanted to quit, and at the end of the season I had to make a decision. And I did...I made the decision to eat so much that they could never put me in that seat again, that I could grow and work as hard as any of those guys, and that I would love this sport because it is beautiful. Because I really already did. And that's why I am here with you today—because of decisions I made along the way to do what was truly worth doing—to find what I truly loved and to pursue it with all my heart. And my young brothers, parents, faculty and staff, my brother Jesuits, that is why we are all here—because there are things we know, sometimes against all odds, sometimes against our own instincts, there are things we know are truly worth doing, truly worth loving, truly beautiful—no matter how hard they are, no matter how much they ask of us.
In the Gospel today, we hear of one such moment in the life of Jesus and his disciples. He has had to tell them hard things, things that were hard for them to believe—about who he really is, about what that means for his disciples. "I am the bread of life", he tells them, and that to live we must eat his body and drink his blood—there is no life outside of that—anything else will just leave them hungry and eventually starving, starving to death. And for some of them, it is just too much. They say to themselves: "This guy is a whacko, or a heretic, or a blasphemer, or a fraud." And, they walk away; they cannot trust him. And he's sad—sad because a whole bunch of people—people whom he came to save—he lost them. But he can't lie about who he is, he can't sugar-coat it. Then he turns to his friends—his closest friends, who maybe have the same dubious looks on their faces—and asks: "Are you going to leave me too? Can you trust me?"
You can imagine that moment for them—everyone else is walking away, everyone else is giving up. This Jesus is now officially a nut-job. But he is also their friend, someone who has shown them through his words and his works how much God loves and forgives and reaches out—you can imagine their minds spinning as they think about all that they have seen with Jesus—the cures of lepers and blind people and lame people, the expulsion of demons, the feeding of thousands—and yes, they know this stuff is crazy, they know they would have to be nuts to trust it, but they know what they have seen, what they have experienced in their time with this Jesus—nothing less than the generosity and the spontaneity and the love of God himself. And they know...they know. "Where would we go, Peter asks, where would we go? You alone have the words of eternal life."
My sisters and brothers, and especially my younger brothers, we are all faced with those moments, moments where we have to make those deep decisions, moments when we can walk away...or stay. And those moments can be incredibly hard—God knows—Jesus knows—how hard they can be because he too faced those same moments. He could have walked away so many times. God could give up on us so easily and with such good reason. But he doesn't...he doesn't. Because he loves us and he trusts everything in us that is true, everything that is honorable, everything that is just, everything that is pure, and lovely, and gracious, and excellent, and worthy of praise. For he has placed all those things in our hearts and when we trust them and follow them even when maybe we should give up—when we trust what God has placed in our hearts we become like him, loving all the right things. And trusting that God can still work even when it seems so unlikely—that God can work in the Church still despite the mess, that God can work in that person despite his or her issues, that God can work in me despite all the obstacles I place in the way, that God can still be present—truly present—in bread and wine blessed and shared among us because he said he would be because he knew that we would always need him as real food and real drink as we journey through life. He gives us this food so that we can become like him—true sons and daughters of our God. We become what we eat. We become what we love.
It's that simple: we become what we love. And that is what Paul means as he reflects on his own love for this Jesus—Paul who is so flawed and temperamental, just like all of us, but so loved by Jesus:
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Then the God of peace will be with you. Always. Always.