To Be Numbered Among the Greatest

[Homily:  ADDU High School Baccalaureate Mass, March 26, 2014]

At every Eucharistic Celebration, we come together to thank God for the graces we have received through him as Our Lord and Savior. But this Baccalaureate Eucharist is special:  as we recall gratefully our redemption in the Lord, we also thank the him specially for the four years you have spent here at the Ateneo de Davao University. Many of you have even spent another another six to nine years at the ADDU Grade School on the way to this day. We thank him for the teachers, administrators and staff members who have taught and accompanied you on the way. We thank God especially for your parents who have sacrificed much to provide you this Ateneo education.  Studying in another school, private or public, would have been a possibility. But your parents decided to bring you here and to keep you here over these long years.  For this I am sure you too are grateful.  As ADDU is, as well.

For all of us who are here, these have been years of fruitful learning, years of interacting with teachers and classmates to explore the wonders of our world: from the tiny circuitry of electronic boards to the vastness of multiple galaxies of countless stars; from the mystery of yourselves, unique and free, to the richness of a Filipino then a global society of similar selves, interacting with one another in freedom, creating progress or impeding it, doing good or doing evil, a society of the strong, but also of the weak, a society of bullies and victims, of villains and heroes. You have expressed yourselves in speech, prose, poetry, artistry, dance, athletics and even in movie acting. You have learned. You have grown. You have been tried and tested. At this Mass, we are grateful that the ADDU administration, based on the judgment of your teachers, declares each of you, without exception, worthy of your HS diplomas, and therefore worthy to move on to college.   This we say with great confidence, even though the nation has embarked on an educational reform which add two years to high school in order to better qualify a student for college.

You have had good teachers, some of them great. It is our hope that as you leave ADDU, you leave with fond memories of your teachers. I hope you remember them, and what they have taught you.  Some of them have taught you to think critically, others have taught you to act decisively, others have taught you to read avidly.  In the first reading of today’s Mass, God presents himself as a teacher as well. He has taught us that there is a God. Some of us may want to forget this, some of us choose to ignore it.  But we hope that at the ADDU you have also come into such an encounter with this Teacher that you will never forget his main message:  “There is a God.  There is but one God.  I am the Lord, thy God. Don’t bring before me the images of other false gods.  Don’t worship money. Don’t worship power. Don’t worship comfort.” His corollary message, “Love your neighbor as yourselves.  Love your neighbors whom I love as well.  Love your families and friends;  but love also the poor and the outcaste, love even your enemies.   Transform your love into service.  Learn to respond to evil with good.”  In today’s Gospel readings, Jesus says. “Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.” That is the message that the Lord gives you as you graduate today.

The message expresses the Lord’s dream for you.  Your parents may have sent you to this school with dreams of how Ateneo education might help make you successful in life. They may have dreamt of your being a great lawyer, a great doctor, a great businessman, a great engineer. For this they are yet willing to send you to college at much personal sacrifice so that their dreams of your success may one day come true.  But at today’s Mass, the Lord too expresses his dream for you:  that you be numbered among those called “greatest” in the Kingdom of heaven, “greatest” in the Kingdom of God. For this, not simple, not mediocre, but greatest love is required, as Jesus himself exemplified love on his Cross. He dreams that you will be among the few who truly understand the message of the unlikely King hanging from the Cross looking into your eyes with a twinkle in his own eyes. He dreams that having understood this message you will keep his commandment: love him above all things, and to love your neighbor as yourselves.

Even when you choose your career paths, and choose your colleges, and forge the friendships and find the love that will define your lives, love God above all things, love your neighbor as yourself.  Even when you have to make hard choices in life – when you’re torn between doing the right thing and the wrong thing, or torn between doing the good thing and the better thing, or torn between choosing the private good and the common good, love God above all things, and love your neighbor as yourself.  Continue to be sensitive to God’s presence in his creation – in the plants, the flowers the tress, the rivers, the oceans, the valleys and the mountains – and keep this earth a home for your generation and future generations as well, so that in his creation-for-all you may continue to love God above all, and your neighbor as yourself.  In this way, may you become greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, and may God’s dream for your greatness become true in you!

____________________

For Christ, King, Fight Strong and True

 [Graduation Closing Address, ADDU HS, 2014]

Men and Women Knights in Blue

For Christ, King, Fight Strong and True…

 

You have sung the Blue Knight Song over and over again.

But on this, your graduation day, it’s main message may bear special meaning.

It is a message delivered in medieval metaphor, a message however rooted in the eternal challenge of the Gospel:  You are called by Jesus to discipleship:  “Come follow me.”  You are called to the service of the Kingdom of God.   “Before all else, the Kingdom of God!”  Today, as the influence of secularism, consumerism, and increasing industrialism grow aggressively even in our Mindanao, that is not a message for the weak, the outdated, the ignorant.  That is the message entrusted to you especially on this day, your graduation day.

 

Men and Women Knights in Blue

For Christ, King, Fight Strong and True

For Christ, your King, your Savior, your God made man, your Friend, your Kuya, fight with strength, with loyalty… against forces that would undermine God’s Kingdom, against forces loyal to the proposition that Money is King, or Power is King, or Comfort is King, against forces that would coax or coerce you into a shallow, sad, mediocre and Godless  life, where the source of all your happiness is a piece of new technology in your hand, the bottom line cipher in your bank book, or a fleeting experience of corporal pleasure..    Instead:

Men and Women Knights in Blue

For Christ, King, Fight Strong and True

You graduate today, and will make important career choices tomorrow, as you and your parents choose where you will go to college and what you will study.  Of course you choose, according to your interests, the record of your academic achievements, the resources in your families, and the prospects of “success” in life mediated by these studies.  Consider, however, that life’s “success” is often determined by a challenge greater than what others have dreamed for you and deeper than what may have yet been apparent.  It is determined instead by your obedience to a call from within, indistinguishable ultimately from you, a compelling imperative, referred to in our Blue  Knight song:

To God’s high command,

Your hearts bow.

To God’s command, to God’s will, bow.  Do so, even as you choose your college, even as you choose your career, your life’s partner, your vocation.  Be a knight in blue, in the battle of life, strong and true.

To the parents, guardians, benefactors who are here, thank you for entrusting your children and scholars to the Ateneo de Davao.  Thank you for the considerable sacrifices you have made to bring your children here and keep them here.

To our graduates, I thank you as well.  The success we celebrate this day is ultimately yours.  The achievements of yesterday and the hopes for tomorrow are yours.  The ADDU has been privileged to have been part of your education.

Finally, to help the financially challenged avail of education at ADDU, I invite you to join the A-1 donors who support ADDU scholars with one peso a day – for the rest of your lives.

So, grateful knights spread o’er the land

[you are sent]

To the farthest ocean strand.

With hearty song sing loud the fame

Of our Ateneo name.

 

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About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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