[Homily: Baccalaureate Mass, College Graduation, ADDU, 22 March, 2013]
Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J.
This afternoon we come together to give God thanks.
You have come to the ADDU as a Jesuit, Catholic and Filipino, hoping to be prepared for the challenges of our difficult national and global society. For four or five arduous years you have worked hard to grow as human persons and to equip yourselves in various professions to realize your hopes and make your dreams come true. You have worked hard to meet the demands of ADDU. You have been tried, you have been tested, and you have not been found wanting. Some have not made it. You have. So today, already bearing the garb of graduates of ADDU, you have come to give thanks.
We have come to give thanks. With you, your teachers, your administrators and members of the staff, your families, your friends: we have all come to give thanks for the milestone that is marked in your lives when tomorrow you receive your ADDU diplomas, many of you even with honors and distinction. We give thanks for the hours of instruction, the periods of study, the struggle at learning, the flashes of insight, the satisfaction of finishing projects, and for the helping hands of teachers or parents or friends along the way – hands that could never do the work for you, but hands ready to support you, and allow you be convinced that you could make it, you could succeed. For your success, we gather in this Baccalaureate Mass in thanksgiving.
You graduate into “real life” as momentous changes mark our world, changes that are bright opportunities, but also dark threats. Our Philippines is at the cusp of an economic upsurge, dramatic economic improvement are at hand; it is threatened however by enduring structures which make the rich richer and the poor poorer, so that economic progress now would only increase polarization between the rich and poor. Our Mindanao, and specifically our City of Davao, are increasingly favored destinations for investment, promising countless material blessings, but with them destruction of the integrity of the environment, the toxification of rivers systems and underground aquafers, with devastating results on our food supply and agri-business. Our Mindanao is on the threshold of finally forging lasting peace between Christian Settlers, Muslims and Lumads, and healing centuries-old wounds of exclusion and discrimination, even while this peace is threatened by those whose interest is enduring rancor, division, and war. Meanwhile, there is a new Head of State, Xi Jinping, in the People’s Republic of China, even as North Korea under Kim Jong-un has declared it is targeting the US with its nuclear capability and withdrawing from all non-aggression treaties with South Korea. In Rome, there is a new Pope who is for the first time in history a non-European, an Argentinian, a Jesuit, and a “Francis” for “Francis of Assisi; he promises reform and renewal in the Church in a year of faith by going back to basics like loving God and loving one’s neighbor, but he is threatened by lack of faith, lack of shared intra-faith understanding, confusion, skepticism, moral vulnerability, and indifference to things of religion.
You graduate into real life. In this real life, I urge you, as Pope Francis I urges you: take refuge in the basics of your faith. Through Jesus, strengthen your relationship with God, your Father, that you may be enlightened in dealing with your neighbor. Love God, who has loved you first. Love your neighbor, as God has loved you first. Love in truth, refusing to allow your love to be plastic, artificial, inauthentic. Love in humility, allowing yourselves to be guided in love, faith and morals by the truth of your faith as it is proclaimed in this world and for people in this world. Amidst the light and shadows, opportunities and debacles, hopes and griefs of this world, talk to God from the innermost recesses of your heart with the words of the Psalmist today: “I love you, O Lord, my strength, O Lord, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer!” (cf. Ps. 18: 1-2). Speak to him with love, who responds to you in love. Tell him in the words of Simon Peter, “You words, O Lord, are Spirit and Life, you have the words of everlasting life” (Jn 6:68). In the the confidence of this relationship, say with the Psalmist, “I am saved from my enemies. … In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice” (cf. Ps. 18:48).
I share these thoughts with you to encourage and strengthen you. The world into which you graduate is exciting, but difficult, and will continue to force you to grow. In preparation for this world, you have learned much. But it is certain: you have not learned enough. You must continue to be learn in humility. In preparation for this world you have been practiced in service. But it is certain: you have not served enough. You must continue to serve in generosity, often needing much more study and practice. In preparation for living in this world you have loved much. But it is certain: You have not loved enough. You must continue to love in truth. You have been trained to learn, serve, and love not just for the short but for the long term.
Inspired by our Pope Francis I, who has branded his papacy with the love, poverty, humility and holiness of St. Francis of Assisi, perhaps you may commit to memory and take to heart the beautiful prayer of St Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled,
as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.