Father Thompson shares his 2017 Baccalaureate Mass Homily:
One of the most powerful cinematic experiences that I have ever had was the 2013 film Lone Survivor which tells the story of Navy SEAL, Marcus Luttrell during Operation Red Wings in June of 2005. Marcus was part of SEAL Team 10 whose mission was to be dropped on to a mountain near a village where Taliban leader Mohammed Ismail was located in an attempt to capture or kill him. Luttrell and 3 other SEALs, Michael Murphy, Danny Dietz and Matthew Axelson were deployed in this mission. During the operation, local goat herdsmen discovered their location and the SEALs debated whether they should kill them or let them go. They decided to let the herdsmen go who then alerted the Taliban to their presence which resulted in an intense firefight. The team was able to alert U.S. forces that they were under attack and sent a team of reinforcements by helicopter who where shot down and killed in the rescue attempt. Luttrell's team members Murphy, Dietz, and Axelson were also killed leaving Luttrell as the only one left. After regaining consciousness and somehow evading capture, he had a broken back, numerous fractures and shrapnel wounds. He walked and crawled seven miles to a friendly tribe of Pashtun villagers who were able to contact U.S. forces which enabled Luttrell to be rescued and able to tell his story.
When we contemplate Marcus' Luttrell's story, what comes to mind is the contrast to what other people his age were doing here at home. Not far from here along the Metro Orange Line is the neighborhood of Clarendon in Arlington. If you go there on a Friday or Saturday night, it is a place filled with young adults from ages 22-30. Many of them live there in apartments and have jobs in D.C. or the surrounding area. They fill the bars and restaurants such as Whitlow's on Wilson, O'Sullivans, Silver Diner, The Cheesecake Factory and nightclubs like the Clarendon Ballroom. While these young adults are enjoying food and drink and the enjoyment of being with friends, there are young men and women like Marcus Luttrell who have forsaken that kind of life for a greater purpose to serve their country. Think about what it takes to be a Navy SEAL:
8-week Naval Recruit Training
8-week Naval Special Warfare Prep School
24-week Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training (BUD/S)
5-week Parachute Jump School
26-week SEAL Qualification Training (SQT)
To become a Navy SEAL takes 71 weeks of intense training involving extreme tests of physical fitness and endurance which stretches the human body and mind to the limit of its capacity.
Marcus Luttrell's story illuminates some points for us to contemplate:
1) We are created for a purpose that transcends ourselves
2) That we are called to make a gift of ourselves for that purpose
3) When we find that purpose, that we dedicate ourselves to it and strive to improve in our role to fulfill it.
God created you and I and everyone in this room for a purpose that transcends ourselves. He created us to manifest His love. Marcus Luttrell entered the SEAL program to protect and defend the freedom that we are enjoying right now to worship in this school auditorium. He endured the suffering of His training and of his ordeal so that you and I can live in comfort and security. Your parents dedicated their lives to get you to his moment. Each of you has been given a vocation, a calling. There is a calling to dedicate yourself to a greater purpose, first to manifest the love that God has for you. Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead to share that Love with you. Each day, the Lord calls us to show mercy, kindness, and patience even in the smallest matters because He has already done so for us. He also has a plan for each of you in which you will bring that love and mercy in service to others. Your graduation is a starting point for this discernment. How will you bring the love of Jesus into a world which is consumed with selfish desires for power and pleasure?
When you find that calling, will you be willing to dedicate yourself to it and to make it your daily responsibility to become better at fulfilling that purpose? When I prepare couples for Marriage Preparation, I remind them that once the wedding day happens, the work has just begun. Many of your parents understand this. In the armed services, if you are not deploying, you are training. Christ calls us each day to work to become better reflections of His Love for us. He has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit through Baptism and Confirmation to empower us. These gifts are renewed every time we attend Holy Mass and confess our sins. When you find the love of your life and dedicate your life to that person in marriage, that love has to grow and deepen. When you dedicate yourself to improving the world through your choice of career, that dedication, that desire to make the world better for others cannot become stagnant.
Today begins a series of celebrations that includes this morning's breakfast, Prom, commencement, the All Night Grad party, and your individual family celebrations. But in the midst of all of that, take a time out to have a conversation with Our Lord. Place yourself in His presence whether in our chapel, a parish Church, or even at home in your room. Ask the Lord to help you know, what purpose have you crated me for? Can you give the capacity to dedicate myself to it? Can you give me all the gifts I need to become the best at it? To begin time of reflection, the Holy Spirit will give you all you need if only you will ask Him and when many years in the future, when your time to be called home arrives I hope you will hear these words: "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord."