Archbishop of San Antonio Jose Gomez delivered the commencement address at the Oblate School of Theology on Friday, telling the graduates to unite reason with faith to overcome the self-limitations of modern thinking. He also exhorted the students to help promote a dialogue with the American culture by seeking and defending the truth.
Archbishop Gomez spoke in place of Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ, a prominent American theologian who cancelled his appearance because of health concerns. Archbishop Gomez spoke to the graduates about the life of Cardinal Dulles, who converted to Catholicism in 1936 while he was a student at Harvard. Though not a religious believer when he entered college, he remained a “seeker after truth” who “discovered and came to fall in love with the great figure of Jesus Christ.”
“Dear graduates,” Archbishop Gomez said, “the world Cardinal Dulles found at Harvard is a world very much like the world you are ‘commencing’ into today.” Like Cardinal Dulles, he said, graduates face the task of remaining open to the truth and proclaiming God in a world indifferent to Him.
The archbishop said he hoped that the students and their teachers will “help the Church enable the world to know God again.”
“What’s happened in our culture is what Pope Benedict calls ‘the self-limitation of reason.’ We’ve told ourselves that there are certain things we can’t ever really know. We’ve made the decision to limit our reason to only certain kinds of knowledge,” he said.
This self-limitation, Archbishop Gomez said, shows a “crucial need” for the Church to open a new dialogue with American culture. “That dialogue must be an important part of your ministries and your witness to the faith, no matter where our Lord leads you in your journey,” said the archbishop.
“My friends,” he said, “what reason and science have discovered about the world does not contradict what we know by faith. It radically confirms it, if we understand the findings of faith and reason correctly. You have learned this here in school. It is time for you to bring this wisdom to our world.”
However, he said, faith uniquely reveals to us something crucial.
“Faith reveals to us that divine Reason, the Word through whom all things are made and sustained, is also divine Love. Again, the Scriptures reveal that ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8) and that ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son’ (John 3:16).
“This is why faith and reason can never be separated. Because without faith, we can only discover how the world works. But not why.”
The archbishop exhorted the graduates not to separate this faith from reason, saying, “Do not let anyone tell you that the truths of your faith are just feelings, emotions, something you can’t prove. Something you do on Sunday and put away for the rest of the week. You know that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6)”
Archbishop Gomez quoted from Pope Benedict XVI’s first homily as Pope, a homily the archbishop said he never tired of quoting.
In that homily, the Pope said, “We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”
Archbishop Gomez closed with prayers for the graduates, saying, “I pray that the Spirit of truth will guide you into all the truth. And may Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of Truth, bring you the joy and happiness you seek.”