[Homily. ADDU Grade School Baccalaureate Mass, March 28, 2014.]
I wonder if you have ever heard the story of Chip Gatmaitan. I chanced on his story on the Internet. Chip is now ten years of age. Early on in life he learned from his teachers that soft drinks are not good for you. Every soft drink he learned contains ten teaspoons of sugar and other chemicals that harm your health. When he was eight years old, as part of his school’s conviction that children can make a difference, he started a campaign to prohibit soft drinks in schools. If soft drinks are bad for children, he reasoned, they should not be sold in schools. Instead, healthy drinks like mango juice or buko joice or just simple water should be promoted. He asked his father who was a layer to help him draft a bill for Congress, and on his own continued to use the Internet to learn about the harmful effects of soft drinks. He learned more about how soft drinks, outside of having too much sugar, also contain chemicals that are related with such as cancer, depression, brittle bones, memory loss and obesity, that it, being too fat. At eight years of age, with the support of his parents and their friends, Chip went to Congress to convince legislators to support his cause. He called himself the Soda Slayer, and brought his case personally to individual congressmen. As a result of his lively lobbying, Congressman Kaka Bag-ao and then later Congresswoman Leni Robredo sponsored bills to support Chip’s cause. Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago filed a parallel bill in the Senate. The bills are still pending. But at 10 years of age, Chip has already been making a difference.
We come here this morning with great gratitude because after pre-school, kindergarten and six years of elementary education you are now graduating from the Ateneo de Davao grade school. Before your parents and loved ones we declare: You have learned your lessons well. You have made many friends. You have completed your projects. You have passed all your tests. Today, the Ateneo de Davao certifies that you are ready for high school. But even as you prepare yourselves for high school, you are challenged to make a difference.
Chip Gatmaitan, at eight years of age, had a conviction that soft drinks were bad for children. So he worked with his parents and his parents friends, to pursue his campaign all the way to Congress. At twelve years of age, you too may have insights and convictions that may lead you to a campaign to help your fellow students or all people in or society. You may be disturbed by the people who have to sleep on the streets, or the mothers carrying babies who approach you in your cars for help. You may be disturbed by the number of children who are not able to study in good schools like you have. You may be convinced that young children in Davao should have more parks for picnics and more soccer fields for football. You may be challenged not only by the example of Chip Gatmaitan but also by the Lord to make a difference. Making a difference may not happen immediately. But especially as graduates of our ADDU GS it is not too early to start.
On your graduation day, our Lord challenges you in today’s Gospel to make a difference with two commandments of love. Love God. Love your neighbor.
Love God because God loves you first. Love God because God loves you in your parents, your brothers and sisters, your teachers, your friends. All of these are God’s gifts to you. Love God. Never forget his presence. Never forget his love for you.
Love your neighbor because God loves you and your neighbor together as one family. Help members of God’s family who are needy, even if this means helping by mounting a public campaign for your cause and going to Congress! As Chip would not have been able to pursue his campaign against soft drinks without his father, so too, in whatever manner you may wish to make a difference for the poor, for the homeless, for the welfare of other children, for the environment, remember you can do so only with the help of our Father in heaven who loves us first in Jesus Christ. He will help you! He will love you more for your helping others. It is his Spirit that will enlighten you, guide you, encourage you and give you great strength. It is in his power and only in his power that you will succeed.
Congratulations, ADDU Grade School graduates of 2014. In God’s love, go forth and make a difference!
For Christ, King, Fight Strong and True
[Closing Address. Graduation ADDU HS, 28 March 2014.]
First, a word to our graduates:
“Men and Women Knights in Blue For Christ, King, Fight Strong and True…”
You have sung the Blue Knight Song over and over again.On your graduation day, you will sing it again. I would like to point out its special meaning for you.
You are addressed in this song. You are young men and women, Knights in Blue – Blue Knights – who have a relationship with your King. Your King is Jesus. As you go forth into the world – he commits himself to lead you, to guide your, to protect you from your enemies – you and all others whom he loves. But as his Blue Knights, you commit yourselves to be loyal to him, to obey him, to work with him in bringing about a Kingdom of joy, justice, and happiness for all. You follow your King in his battle against evil, violence, ignorance and sadness so that our world may be a better place for all. The Blue knight song tells you to fight for this King, fight with all of your strength, fight focused on the struggle, not wavering, not heeding temptations to betray you King or ever to give up. Therefore the words:
“For Christ, [your] King, fight strong and true.”
Find your inspiration in your King, who brings the good news to the poor, heals the sick, clothes the naked, fights the hypocrites, raises the dead, who empties himself in the fight against evil, accepting even death on the Cross in order to establish his Kingdom. And should the King turn to you, and give you a command, please say yes. That’s what the song says:
“To God’s high command your heart’s bow. “
To God’s command, to his will, bow! Say yes! In life there is nothing better you can do. That is how you will in life make a difference. You may think money can buy many things, and you may think power can help you accomplish many things, and you may think with your connections and with you friends you can change the world, but the truth is what the King himself says, “Without me you can do nothing.” Without me, you cannot make a difference.
With the Lord, however, nothing is impossible. You can make this world a place where people kill each other less and love each other more, where people are less selfish and care about each other more, where people less destructive of the environment and take genuine delight in the fish and shrimp among the colorful corals, the majestic old trees atop the mountains, the fresh water thundering down the waterfalls, the clear air even in the dwelling places of humans like you and me.
With the Lord, nothing is impossible. To God’s high command your hearts, bow. Obey your King. And make a difference.
Finally, a word to our parents.
Thank you for entrusting your children to us. Thank you for the partnership we have enjoyed in providing for your children their pre-school and elementary levels of basic education. Education in the Philippines is changing. Much is still very much a work in progress. Recently, things with DepEd have been very challenging; they will continue to be for a long time. But thank you for working with us to make these changes work for your children. We consider it a privilege that you have chosen us as your partners in education.
Finally, as we face the challenges of the future, we would like to ensure that even the less privileged are able to access Jesuit education. For this reason I ask you – as many of you in fact already do – kindly volunteer to be an A-1 Scholarship Donor. This entails a commitment of one peso a day – for the rest of your lives. We assure you, your being a donor – or getting others to be donors as well – will make a difference.
Congratulations to our graduates! Congratulations to all!