Alumnus Father Justin Raines ’07, ordained on July 27 in Nashville, was invited to concelebrate and deliver the homily at the annual Mass of the Holy Spirit. Father Raines returns to Rome this fall to finish his last year of studies at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (Santa Croce). For more information about the Mass and for news about the coming year, please visit our news story Historic Academic Year Begins.
Father Raines’ Homily from the Mass of the Holy Spirit
September 5, 2013
For those students and members of the faculty and staff that don’t know me, I’m Father Justin Raines, an alumnus of this college of the class of 2007 and a newly-ordained priest of just over a month. I think that I was an altar server for this Mass and the one in honor of St. Thomas Aquinas that we have in the Spring every year that I was here. So it’s a great joy for me to be here now as a priest, and I hope you’ll forgive me if I am little bit nostalgic. And when I was asked to preach this Mass invoking the Holy Spirit at the beginning of a new academic year, it occurred to me that I should reflect on the ways in which the Holy Spirit was present to me during my time here which were some of the most formative years of my life. Now Aquinas College is an institution of higher learning, one that strives especially to discover and make known the truth, the truth to which its namesake St. Thomas Aquinas dedicated his life. And when thinking about truth, it is natural in a college setting like this one to begin to think about our classes, the courses that we have to take this year, the things that we will learn, the skills we will gain, and the knowledge that we hope to have when it is all over. It’s good that we invoke the Holy Spirit over these academic undertakings, that He will guide our minds, help us to learn the material, to do well, and to be successful. St. Thomas certainly prayed each time before he studied, and I have no problem telling you that there were many times in which I went to St. Jude’s Chapel and literally tossed up some Hail Marys right before taking exams. And many times it worked, by the way. Upon further reflection, though, we realize that the truth, at least the ultimate truth that we are pursuing at this college, the truth that this college is dedicated to is not any piece of information that can be read and comprehended and then given back in a paper or on an exam. This Truth is a person: Jesus Christ. And Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel reading why God sends the Holy Spirit. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” If there is only one thing that we learn during our time here, it should be that. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” In other words, the reason that we invoke the Holy Spirit today, and the reason that the Father sends Him is not so that we might become smarter, but that we might learn how to live, so that we can also find a way of life that can truly make us happy and that has the ability to bring us to ultimate fulfillment at the end of our lives. And keeping this in mind, we can see that the Holy Spirit is active in this place, not only in learning the beauty of creation in the empirical sciences or the art of healing in our nursing classes, not only in discovering the order of the universe in mathematics, or the best application of economic systems in business, not only in cultivating the ability to teach others, not only in the truth and the reality of the human condition that we find in Literature or in History, not only in the truth that we reach by human reason in Philosophy or that that is given to us by revelation in Theology. The Spirit certainly is active in helping us to reach the truth in these ways, but He is also active in friendships gained and relationships formed, in honest exchanged with professors, in examples given by Dominican Sisters, and hours spent in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. He is active even in what we can learn from our academic failings or from words that should never have been spoken or actions that should have never been taken. And the great opportunity that we have here, and the reason why we invoke the Holy Spirit today, is so that He may help us to take what we learn in the classroom and to truly make it a part of our lives so that we can be more fully human. We can become better people. We can learn to love the Lord and to keep His commandments, and by doing so, we can become shining lights in the world with the ability to illumine others. And this is our prayer to the Holy Spirit today, that He help us to grow in knowledge so that we may also grow in love.