[Homily: ADDU HS Baccalaureate Mass, March 27, 2013.]
Normally our graduation exercises are not in the middle of Holy Week. This year it is, because the liturgical year, which follows the lunar calendar, places Holy Week early in our normal year. As the Church throughout the world quiets down to reflect on the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord, we also reflect on how God in our life histories loves us, cares for us, and redeems us. God has created us, and wishes us the fullness of joy. Even though we have sinned, he is loyal to us. He lifts us up.
He lifts us up even to the joy of this day, when we come together in thanksgiving for four years of study, play, prayer, social interaction, learning and maturation that make up the ADDU High School experience. This has not been easy. It has meant having to learn disciplines of study and reflection that often rubbed against untamed desires of youth; it has meant staying up late at night to work at weaknesses in mathematics or spending long hours working at demanding projects. At the end of it all, you have been tried, you have been tested. The collective judgment of your teachers and administrators is that you have not been found wanting, and so today will receive your high school diploma, some with honors and distinction. For this I congratulate you. For this we give thanks.
Give thanks to your God who in making you and walking with you has manifested his loyalty in love to you. He has done this in your loving parents, in their caring for your performance, in your supportive brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, grandparents and close family friends. In your receiving your diplomas today, he has shown himself to be a loving Father loyal to you through the Love of his Son, Jesus. The depth of that love we appreciate in his passion, death and resurrection, which we commemorate specially this Holy Week. Hopefully, through your years here at Ateneo de Davao it has been possible for you to experience something of the height and depth, the breadth and length of the Father’s loyalty to you expressed in the love of Jesus.
While I urge you to loyalty to God and loyalty to Jesus, the Gospel today is about betrayal. That can be taken as a sobering message as you celebrate the diplomas you receive this day. You are young men and women equipped to use your knowledge and skills to go to college, eventually to take on heavy responsibilities for family and society, to work for the welfare of your loved ones and for the common good of our people through the exercise of professional prowess and inspired leadership. It is possible for you to become great allies of Jesus, pillars of the Church, paragons of service to others in loyalty to Jesus. But it is also possible to betray Jesus. To say: “I do not know him.” To deny him loyalty for thirty pieces of silver. This is the disturbing truth that the Church is conveying to you today even in the joy of your graduation.
At face value, Judas betrayed Jesus for money. That is one of the great problems we have in our society, where the immeasurable value of the human person and the infinite value of a human friend, a human loved one, can be betrayed for money. But it happens all the time and in different ways; friendships are compromised for money, and honor and self esteem are betrayed in order to gain advantage in money. Money, some have said, is the root of all evil, the principle culprit in all human alienation. For if you believe it is “money, money, money that makes the world go ‘round,” you will have to consider how is it money, money, money that also makes the world go haywire! To betray Jesus and others for money is a powerful temptation with which you will have to deal for the rest of your lives. With God’s grace, I hope it is you, and not money, that triumph.
Beyond money, Judas betrayed Jesus in his failure to get to know him intimately, in his disappointment that he was not a political Messiah, and therefore not there to free Israel from the Romans, and therefore not there in order to give him a powerful political position. “My Kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus declared, loyal to his Father’s mission. Because of this, Judas, wanting very much to be important in a kingdom of this world, betrayed him. Not getting to know Jesus as he is, not getting to know him intimately, trying to reduce his mission to merely the things one personally wants, rejecting him because one cannot manipulate him, insisting: “Not your will, but my will be done!” are among the profound reasons why we betray Jesus. We betray him because in fact we do not know him.
The Gospel’s invitation to you today: do not betray Jesus. Be loyal to him, who has been loyal in love to you, even to accepting suffering and death on a Cross. Do not let money manipulate you in life. Do not be the slave of mammon. Remember the example of St. Francis of Assisi who renounced his father, his house, his inheritance, his social position, even his clothes, rather than become a slave of money. Do not let your self-serving and often false ideas of Jesus block you from getting to know the true Jesus. Learn of God from Sacred Scripture, from the teaching of the Church, from the hungry, the naked, the imprisoned, the sick, the homeless, for in responding to these the least of our sisters and brothers, we respond to him.
We give thanks for the hope that is yours as your graduate today, just as your families, your nation and your Church thank God for the fresh hope gifted all in you. I pray that with God’s grace you never betray that hope, that with God’s love you truly become women and men for others, loyal in the faith and fruitful in your love for others.