Baccalaureate Mass. AdNU College and Graduate School
25 March 2011
We come together today in celebration of your forthcoming graduation. Tomorrow, you “walk through the AdNU Pillars” into your graduation celebration, and into the rest of your lives. All the sacrifices you, your parents, relatives, benefactors and friends have offered come finally to happy fruition. When you come up the stage, you reach out for and receive your Ateneo bachelor’s or master’s diplomas, receiving with them the congratulations and best wishes of your Alma Mater. For this happy achievement, at this Eucharist, in this sacred House of God, we give thanks!
We give thanks that this Baccalaureate Mass is celebrated on the Solemnity of the Annunciation. On this day, on the one hand, we recall the Angel Gabriel’s announcement: “Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you… Blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus” (Lk. 1:29). We recall Mary’s yes to the role the Angel announced she would need to play, “Let it be done according to your word” (Lk. 1:38). On the other hand, on this day, Mar 25th, exactly nine months before Christmas Day, we also celebrate the Incarnation of the Lord – the coming in carnem – “into flesh” of the Lord. This is the day that through the power of the Holy Spirit, as willed by the Father, the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus, takes on human flesh – enfleshed humanity – for the salvation of the world. Outside of Easter, there is probably no more momentous Feast than this. On this day, in the Father’s will to save the world and humanity, divinity says yes to humanity, not just on a verbal level, but in itself assuming, taking on, appropriating humanity, human flesh. On this day, in the yes Mary gave freely to co-labor in this plan, humanity said yes to divinity in opening itself to cooperate in the plan God had to save us.
Your university graduation celebrated under the aegis of the Annunciation, that is, under the aegis of the Incarnation, confers on this milestone event in your lives a special meaning, a special challenge. For even now as graduates you are asked ultimately to reflect on what it is that God is actually announcing to the world in the Annunciation, on what it is that God is actually saying to the world in the Incarnation. Ignatius of Loyola actually challenges each of you to try to enter into the mind of God as he looks upon this estranged world and sees: “all the varied people on the face of the earth, so varied in dress and in behavior. Some are white and others black; some at peace and others at war; some weeping and others laughing; some well and others sick; some being born and others dying.”
What is in God’s mind today as he looks at our world of globalized commerce and borderless internet communications, our world where dictators murder opposition with mortar and bombs, and the international humanitarian response is cynically measured in spoils of oil and gains in national self-interest? What is in God’s mind when he beholds this heady world of fortunes made and unmade on the basis of data streams coming into handhelds 24/7, billions of dollars moved with the ease of timely text messages, while emaciated farmers in Banasi, who till the soil day in and day out, are deprived of their lands with a legal sleight of hand so that urban capitalists can put up their gasoline stations, their malls and housing projects? What does God think when he sees this world of organized written- spoken- digitally illustrated- animated- dancing- information-images accessed through iPods and iPhones and iPads – with their promise of “cool” but their ability to strip you down to emotionless, naked bits of cold digital data, bereft of emotion, of feeling, of love; this world of plastic-packaged food that comes from factories of tortured animals and fields of plants sprayed with toxicity and carcinogens, of “cool” that comes from refrigerants that destroy the ozone and endanger the planet; this tortured earth disemboweled till it yields its nickel, its chromite, its gold, bringing with them the felling of ancient rain forests, irreparable damage to this beautiful earth, once our tranquil home? What is God thinking as through all the ambiguity of the present-day, he continues to say yes to the world, does not turn his back on it, but enters into in in-the-flesh?
It is an audacious challenge: to consider what God is thinking – and why – as he beholds our world of laughter and pain, peace and war, plenty and starvation, love and promiscuity, elation and despair, as he looks into our communal, familial, and individual lives, sensitive to our cravings, our yearnings, our hopes, our aspirations. He looked on our world, said yes to it by becoming part of it. We must ask ourselves whether we as AdNU graduates are thinking similarly. Do our thoughts, plans, and hopes as we graduate resonate with the thoughts of God who looks on our poor, our lonely, our needy relatives and friends and responds, or are we merely locked in to the need for a quick job, any job, or the need for success, whatever the cost. Each day, I’m sure, we pray, “Our Father…, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done…” (Mt. 6:10). Perhaps, again, even at this Eucharist of Thanksgiving, we ought to recall the difference between, “Thy will be done” and “my will be done,” and ask ourselves whether our graduation will lead us to respond with competence to the superficial in our shallow society, to the downtrodden in our harsh, hard world; to respond with conscience to the world of corruption and environmental destruction, to reach out to the needy in commitment to change their plight because of our Christ-centeredness, or will it lead us merely to a world wrapped in on our selfishness and our insensitivity to moral imperatives?
We may be naïve if in the elation of this graduation we rashly answer, “We are different, Lord! Our batch is different! We will fight for you! We will die for you!” Remember the close disciple, Judas, who sold his Lord for 30 pieces of silver? Remember the other close disciples who couldn’t even wait up with the Lord in his hour of agony? Remember the loved ones of Jesus who fled when his enemies came against him with clubs and firebrands? Remember the many times you have said, “I will sin no more!”? On this feast of the Annunciation, the Incarnation, when we recall the yes of Jesus to our world, recall too that he says yes individually to each of you …as you graduate from AdNU, to each of us, with all of our faults, our ambiguities, our sins. He says yes knowing our faults and shortcomings, yet still believing in us, trusting in us, willing to help us move forward, to catch us when we stumble and fall in the mud, willing to extend his arm of strength to us, and raise us up. He is willing to challenge us to move on, always primum regnum Dei – putting first the Kingdom of God. Ultimately, this is the meaning of his yes to the world: he says yes to me. In becoming incarnate in this world, in suffering and dying, he says yes to me, that he may raise me up to more, much more than I can be.
If on this Feast Day and on your graduation into the rest of your lives, God has said yes to you so absolutely, consider responding with your yes absolutely! But only if you can do so freely. Only if you can do so gratefully. Only if you can do so in love.