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Mark's Speech - 2015

Good morning everyone.  My name is Mark Alvarez and I’m here today to kick the 2015 Thanksgiving drive. I graduated from Jesuit around 32 years ago in 1983.  In fact I walked through the doors to go to school here about 37 years ago.   That’s a lot of years; it’s been a long time since 1983. I probably haven’t been in this building more than a handful of times since then.   My life and work have been a bit away from New Orleans but that hasn’t affected my fondness for this place at all, not a single bit. So yeah, if you don’t mind I’m going to take a second to soak this up.  Wow – look at you out there 1,400 Blue Jays. 

You guys probably don’t pause to take stock of your place here.  I know I didn’t when I was here.   So why don’t we do that now, look around here and then take a look at each other.   Shake hands Fist bump, heck hug it out if you want.   Wow look around here, look at how blessed you are. Do you feel that?   This place is something special.   We feel that, right?   We believe that don’t we?   You know I think about it a lot these days as I turned the half century mark on this earth.   How blessed I was to be here for those 5 years of my life. How profoundly that time here affected me.   As I think about how fortunate we are to be in this community of faith, I can’t attributed to anything but the grace of God.  Grace – you know about grace right? It’s a gift isn’t it?  It’s always there and it takes a lot of forms but at its core it’s the favor of God.  It’s just given - for nothing.  It’s given just because you’re you.   I know that’s a lot to chew on a Monday morning but I’m telling you I think it’s important to note that; it’s good to think on that from time to time.   In my book, we have a big “one up” in the grace department because of what goes on here in the classrooms, in the hallways and in the chapels as you worship.    God’s grace is always there and it’s always been here.  I’m telling you, you can’t get away from it; you’ve received it by being here and that’s our challenge to deal with and understand. 

Now I’m here to talk about the Thanksgiving drive and why what you’ll do here as we build up to the week of Thanksgiving is so important.  The class of 1983 as you’ve no doubt heard donates the turkeys for the drive so, as chairman of that drive I was told, “Hey man, you got to get up and talk about it early in the morning at a Jesuit assembly”.  So I’ve thought a lot about it over these last few days preparing for this asking myself, why?   Why do we as the Jesuit community offer this outreach to the disadvantaged in our area?   Why is it so important to us?  We’ve been doing it for years.  Well at this time of year I often think of the passage where Jesus says “You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want”.   Now that doesn’t mean we can’t ever do anything about poverty, it just means there is opportunity to help the poor and disadvantaged.  It was true then and its true now, the poor are still among us.   It’s not up to us to judge that. Christ didn’t say to help this or that kind of poor, he didn’t tell us get caught up in the reasons why people are poor. He just said help the poor.  Whatever you’ve done for the least of my brothers that you do unto me plays through my mind a lot today as I talk to you.  
So this is that time.  This is that time as a community that we choose to come together to help.  We’ll do it and in that way we’ll fulfill the obligation that we learn here to: “be men for others”.   We have received this wonderful gift and I think this is just one of the ways we choose to repay it.
All this thinking about being here today and what it means got me thinking about my classmates that started this drive to donate the turkeys for this cause.   Among us in our class, they’re legendary.   They started this almost 20 years ago now.  You know, I don’t know if a single one of them was on the student council or was a great athlete, or a great scholar here and honestly it doesn’t matter.  The point is that God works through all of us no matter who we are.     You’re going to come to know that as you deliver these baskets.  You’ll become the hands and feet of the body of Christ when you’re out there.

To close I’m going to remind you again how extremely blessed we are to be here.  Standing here over 30 years later, I still in awe of it. When you think about all the places and circumstances that a child can be born in this world, it’s staggering that we’ve been this blessed. 

I hope that gives you a sense of why my classmates, and all the alumni are just so engaged in this effort.    I pray that in some small way it inspires you to give back throughout your entire life.  It’s often said that “to whom much has been given, much is expected” and I think it applies to all of us that have walked through these doors.  

That thought sometimes reminds me of a line from one of my all-time favorite movies.   It’s called Private Ryan.  Has anybody seen it? It’s the story of some soldiers that get a life risking assignment to find Ryan whose 4 brothers have all died in WW2, and get him home.  In the climactic scene after all but one of the soldiers are killed, and the captain is fatally wounded he pulls Pvt. Ryan close to him and tells him just two words “Earn this” “Earn this”.     Well I think that’s this spirit we’re trying invoke here today, we’re trying to earn this grace that we’ve been given.   That’s my prayer for you today.  Earn this.

God bless you. AMDG

Class of 83 Thanksgiving Drive -> Project 83

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