[Homily: College Baccalaureate Mass, March 28, 2014]
We come together this evening with a deep, deep sense of gratitude. On the one hand, there is the great joy obvious in the glow of your faces that finally this day of college graduation has arrived. On the other hand there is the feeling of incredulity, the stupefied question: “Omigosh! Is it really true? Am I really graduating?” To your own answer of, “Yes, it’s really happening! My name was on the list of graduates!” you add your memories of hours and hours of classes, some exhilarating, others perplexing, some exciting, others boring, but out of which you gained much of the knowledge that today entitles you to graduation.
But it was certainly not only the classes. It was also the long hours of study, the work with classmates on shared projects, the reading, the writing, the cramped preparation for exams, the Masses in the chapel, the University liturgies in Matina, the moments of silent prayer, even as you had to contend with such as athletics and physical education, immersion in the lives of the poor, the Cheer Dancing Competition, the Awitenista, the Utakan, the relief for victims of Typhoon Pablo, the demands from your barkadas, or from your families, or from your “special someone,” the demand for time, never enough, for chores, never completed, and for affection, never sufficient.
Outside of all this, for a good number of you, there was a demand for leadership. You were called to leadership – not to a leadership that imposed your views and your personalities on others, but a leadership that we have called ADDU leadership sui generis – that leadership that emerges uniquely from your appropriation of the values in the mission-vision statement of the ADDU. This is leadership that is educated, that appreciates knowledge, that loves the truth, that is shaped by a relationship with God, responsive to the call of justice and of the common good, sensitive to cultures, open to inter-religious dialogue, and committed to environmental protection and preservation.
Life at ADDU has become so much a part of you, it is hard today to imagine that with your graduation it shall be over. But it is over, at least for you. Not everyone made it. Of 1.739 students scheduled for graduation, you are only 1,399. That means, for every five graduating condidates, only four made it. You move on. You move on to the hope that is yours as graduates of this school: to service of your society, to service of your Church, to entrepreneurship, to business management, to preparation for professional board exams, to further studies in your fields of specialization.
There is therefore much warrant for gratitude: gratitude to your parents, relatives and benefactors who put their faith in you and underwrote your studies, gratitude to the your teachers who shared with you their knowledge and stretched you to your academic achievement, gratitude to your friends who were your joy in good times, your strength in trial, and your hope despair; gratitude to your God, whom I hope over the years you have gotten to know better, not just as a concept, greater than which nothing can be conceived, but as the Father Almighty, the Redeemer, Friend, Brother, the Spirit. He is the Holy present in the in the awesomeness of suns, moons, galaxies and stars, present in the mystery of the atoms, neutrons and electrons; present in the rampaging winds that bring down billboards, buildings and trees, present in the gentle breeze the cools on a hot, sweltering day.
This God whom you thank on your graduation day has from our Gospel for today two simple messages. If you are educated enough to understand and live these messages, your Ateneo education shall have been successful. And you shall be rich and happy. Misunderstand these messages, ignore them, or disobey them, your Ateneo education shall have been worthless. Your life will be shallow and sad.
First, on this day, God says: There is a God. I am the Lord your God. Love me. Love me because I have loved you first. I have loved you in your parents, in your brothers and sisters, in your teachers, in your friends. I have loved you in giving you your education, even in your last exams. You know that. I have loved you giving you the happiness of this day, and I will continue to love you.
Second, on this day, God says: People are important to me. As I have loved you, so have I loved them. Love them as well, especially those who are weaker than you, especially those who are powerless and vulnerable. Moved by my love for you, love those whom I love. In my love, seek the good of all, heal your wounded cultures, re-discover in all religions my unifying compassion, forge peace not war in my name, support the integration of the Bangsamoro into Filipino society, do not squander the hope of the Comprehensive Agreement Bangsamoro but make it the first page of a new chapter of enduring peace in Mindanao, make my created world a garden teeming with life and beauty, a home for humanity, a source of healing and re-creation. Fulfilling this command will not be easy. There will be those who will oppose you with wealth, power, lies, defamation, and even violence. There will be those who will prepare for you a Cross, as they did for me. But take comfort in the fact that I command you to love. And that in love accepted to full, there is life and Resurrection.
These are his two messages on your graduation day; these are his two commands. Perhaps our Blue Knight Song expresses the only appropriate response:
Let all you knights of Davao
To God’s high command
Your hearts bow.
Go onward on to the fight
Where glory is shining bright.
O shake the mountains with your song
And with your banners march along…