The key to lasting happiness lies not in what we accumulate in life, but rather in our ability to live out the wisdom of Jesus, articulated in the Gospels.
That was the message delivered on Sunday, February 5, by the Most Rev. Robert J. Brennan ’84C, Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn, to those gathered at St. Thomas More Church at St. John’s University’s Queens, NY, campus for the 5:30 p.m. student Mass. The Bishop’s visit, planned in January, coincided with the Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, whose Gospel reading continued Jesus’ reflections on discipleship and service.
In the Gospel reading from Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus calls his followers “the salt of the Earth” and the “light of the world” and urges them to spread the message of Christ. To Bishop Brennan, that means being a visible representation of Jesus’ truth and recognizing our responsibility to others.
“Salt and light are not ends in themselves,” Bishop Brennan said. “Both exist for other things. Salt exists to make other food taste better; light exists to make other things visible. So it is with us. We live our lives not for ourselves, but for God and others.”
Reflecting on the period of his graduation from the University, Bishop Brennan recalled the eagerness of some to secure the latest in technology. As the years continued, some still were trying to find happiness in the next new thing.
Blessed are those, Bishop Brennan said, echoing the voice of The Beatitudes, whose happiness does not depend on what they own.
“I remember when Nintendo came out with Game Boy,” Bishop Brennan said, referring to the handheld video game console introduced in 1989. “People said, ‘if only I could get one I would be happy.’ They would stand on line outside toy stores to buy one.”
“The next year Nintendo released Game Boy in color,” Bishop Brennan continued, “and all those who were happy the first year to get the original version weren’t happy anymore. The moral of the story is, will Game Boy make you happy? How blessed are you that your well-being doesn’t depend on what you have!”
The Mass at St. John’s was the bishop’s second in as many days and his third since being installed as the Diocese of Brooklyn’s eighth bishop on November 30, 2021. On Saturday, February 4, he celebrated Mass at St. Thomas More Church as part of the diocese’s World Day for Consecrated Life. One of his first Masses after his installation was also celebrated on campus.
Bishop Brennan, who hails from Lindenhurst, NY, served as Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island from 2012 to 2019, when he was installed as Bishop of the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio. Two years later, he returned to shepherd the 1.3 million Catholics living in Brooklyn and Queens.
The diocese boasts 177 parishes, 200 churches, and 70 elementary schools teaching nearly 20,000 students. It is the fifth largest diocese in the United States and St. John’s is the largest college or university within its borders.
Bishop Brennan is a proud St. John’s alumnus who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics.
“Much of his ministry is about young adults and youth,” said Dennis Gallagher, Director of Liturgy and Faith Formation, Campus Ministry. “He is an alumnus, and he wants to come here and celebrate Mass with our students.”
“He always points to the fact that he is an alumnus and that creates a real point of connection with our students,” added Andrea Pinnavaia, Campus Minister for Liturgy and Faith Formation. “He can say to them, ‘I was in your seat not that long ago.’”
More than 150 members of the St. John’s community attended the Mass. It was followed by a pizza social at which the bishop spoke to groups of St. John’s students about his ministry, the Gospel, and what the University has meant to him. The students were impressed.
“Bishop Brennan is extremely friendly; he wants to get to know who you are,” said Linda Melendez, a sophomore in The School of Education. “His presence definitely lights up the room.”
Members of the St. John’s community can watch a video of Bishop Brennan’s homily.