‘Go with God always,’ Bishop advises 2019 graduates

Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M. encourages St. Rose High School graduates during the May 30 Baccalaureate Mass he celebrated in St. Rose Church, Belmar.


A message from Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M. to the Graduating Class of 2019

St. John’s Gospel speaks often about the importance of maintaining a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Learning about that, doing that is the purpose of Catholic education – the purpose of the last four years you have spent in Catholic high school. 

I want to focus your attention on words spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ himself on the night before he died, what is called by Bible scholars as the “Last Discourse.” If you believe in him, truly believe, these words, his words, should be something you also believe. They are his “last will,” part of his final message at the Last Supper.

People are fascinated by learning a person’s conscious “last words.” I emphasize “conscious” because they are considered to be an effort on the part of the “conscious” person to share what is on his/her mind as life comes to an end, a message to be remembered. What did he or she say? What were his/her last words?  

When my mother began the final journey of her life four years ago, the last thing she said, her last words were simply, “ok.” She repeated them several times before losing consciousness. I thought about that many times since then. I believe she was promising my brothers and me that she would be “ok” going home to the Lord, that we should not worry, that we, too, would be “ok.”

As the Lord Jesus looked around the table at the Last Supper, he saw his closest friends, his Apostles, watching and listening carefully to him.  His “hour” – the end of his earthly life had come, he wanted them to remember him … and his message, his hope and prayer for them.

“I am the true vine and my Father is the vine grower,” he said. “Remain In me as I remain in you” … “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.”

Last words. A final message. Words of hope, a message he wanted them to remember and never forget. Phrases that were addressed to his closest friends and that for 2,000 years have been repeated for us and now, for you who are about to graduate from Catholic high school to hear and remember. 

My young sisters and brothers, graduates of the Class of 2019: the Lord Jesus is the true vine, we are the branches. Remain in him and let him remain in you. That is the most important relationship in your life, and it will both LEAD you and FOLLOW you wherever and whatever your future holds. If you embrace that relationship in your life, you will bear fruit – the fruit he wants you to bear.  

The Lord Jesus always chose his words carefully, purposefully. “I AM,” he began, the same phrase that God used when Moses asked for his name to tell the people of Israel. “I AM WHO AM. Tell them ‘I AM sent you.” When the Lord Jesus used those introductory words, he was revealing himself, he was speaking as God.    Eight times in John’s Gospel: “before Abraham was, I AM”; “I am the Bread of Life”; “I AM the Light of the World”; “I AM the Sheep Gate”; “I AM the Good Shepherd”; “I AM the Resurrection and the Life”; “I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life,” and finally, “I AM the true vine, you are the branches … apart from me,” he cautioned, “You can do nothing.” Without God in your lives, you can do nothing. 

You are beginning a new chapter in your life. Soon you will be heading off to college, or to work or to some new thing. You will face new challenges, new opportunities, new struggles and new happy, joy-filled moments; new friendships, new experiences. Go with God always, my young sisters and brothers, with the Lord Jesus as branches on the vine.

Look for him in your all new experiences. And if you cannot see him at first, know that he is there loving you, leading you, calling you. 

As you turn this page in your lives at graduation from Catholic high school, it is up to you to remain in him, to stay connected, to let him remain in you. 

Do that, my young sisters and brothers, graduates of the Class of 2019; do that, remain in him, and your lives will bear much fruit.

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