One of the greatest baseball films ever made is Field of Dreams. One of the scenes calls on Doc Graham to cross over from the field of play to save the life of Ray’s daughter who had fallen and is choking. The problem for Doc, though, is once he crosses that threshold in this life, there will be no turning or looking back. He has to give it all up, all that he wants out of life and in playing baseball, to serve a greater purpose, his greater purpose; and not even his own desires and passions could stand in his way.
Much of our lives is about crossing those thresholds, even though we are not always aware of it because we’re in such a hurry to get to the other side; more to get away from one thing in order to get to something else, something that we perceive is better, without ever reflecting on what we’re doing, where we’re going, or better yet, who we are called to become, to find the greater purpose in our lives and then serve God by doing it!
Both readings today give some outline on that purpose and the need in life to cross the threshold. We hear it to the community of Philippi, to whom Paul writes, and to the disciples that Jesus continues to prepare for the great threshold they too will soon embark on in their lives. Like Field of Dreams, and us for that matter, the disciples will be called to build something–for Ray it is a baseball field in the middle of a corn field in Iowa, but with a greater purpose in mind, not his own self-interest. The disciples will be called to build the Kingdom of God here on earth, as are we, and we see how that unfolds in Acts of the Apostles. It was the same purpose that Paul was called to in his life, but he too had to cross a significant threshold, from one who was responsible for the death of the early Christians to becoming one of the most beloved leaders, attributed much to his ability to surrender to that higher purpose and painfully cross over.
He writes the letter today to the Philippians from prison, but because of this transformation and greater calling in life, not even the circumstances in which he finds himself will prevent him from living out that call. Even in prison, he continues to live with purpose, and even goes on to tell them not to live with any anxiety in life; only someone with deep trust can live with such freedom! He challenges us to seek out our own purpose and who and what gives us meaning, and our lives and hearts will attain the peace that is desired.
The disciples, too, will make that necessary leap as they move towards Jerusalem where God’s great threshold unfolds from death to life. Jesus will go onto say to the disciples that they should rejoice that he will no longer be with them in the same way–not because he won’t be missed, but because when he leads them across that great threshold, they will begin to become aware that His presence is with them always because he too had fulfilled life’s purpose and now transcends it all.
Today you all take a courageous step, off into the unknown future of life, and quite frankly, one of the greatest times to spend finding yourself and what gives you meaning and purpose. If you do it well and allow yourself to be open to the process, you will eventually, in time, become a story for the ages. Which of us wouldn’t want such greatness?!? It will come with many joys and great struggles, but by staying true to who you are, you will cross that threshold of life boldly in the years to come. But like Jesus, you won’t be forgotten. Your spirit as individuals and as a class will now live eternally in the walls and halls of Goretti; that is what we are assured of as people of faith. You now become part of something that is even larger than Goretti; like Jesus, the spirit of this class ascends to the ranks of all who have gone before you off into the threshold of life.
Crossing these thresholds can be painful not only for you, but also for those who now have to let you go in order to do that. So be patient with your parents and others; it will be a big adjustment and a big change because they know from their own experiences that once you leave, there is no coming back to this moment or to who you are at this moment, still their little sons and daughters. You are forever changed because of them and all of us are forever changed for having you in our lives.
As you leave, and cross the threshold from where you can no longer return, we who are left behind assure you of our prayers that you will have the courage of the countless people of faith that have gone before you and have crossed over in seeking out a fulfilling way of life, a life of meaning and purpose, and to give back to God all that has been given. If you continuously find the time to give thanks to God for all the gifts and even the burdens of life, meaning and purpose will follow. I wish all the best to each of you as you take this leap into the great mystery of your life.