Peace be with you – in Mindanao
[Baccalaureate Mass Homily: ADDU Law and Graduate School Graduation, 27 April, 2014.]
As in every Eucharist, we come together today with great thanksgiving. Two former Popes, John XXIII and John Paul II, graduate today to the roster of saints. Among your ranks, 33 are graduating from the Law School, 35 with higher education degrees from the School of Arts and Sciences, 54 from the School of Business and Governance, 9 from the School of Engineering and Architecture and 25 from the School of Education. That is a total of 189 graduating from the higher levels of tertiary education at the Ateneo de Davao University. For this we are grateful, especially as we consider the great sacrifices you had to make in order to survive your daily recitations, write your term papers, and complete your class projects, even as, for many of you, you maintained your regular jobs, and needed yet to take care of your spouse and children. We are grateful today for the warm support the members of your family extended to you, just as we are grateful for the encouragement from your colleagues, and thankful for the support you received from the institutions from which you benefit.
Some of you, looking back, never dreamed you would ever reach this day, when finally you are recognized as a master of arts or master of science or even as doctor. But this happy day has come – with a little help from your loved ones, a little help from your friends, and appropriate help from your teachers, staff and administrators. You have received much help, even from God. But primarily, this day is your achievement. You have worked hard, and succeeded. This is why we are grateful!
Your gratitude today resonates with the thanksgiving of the universal Church for the passage of Jesus from the throes of his passion to the darkness of his death to the glory of his resurrection. In this resurrection, we believe, death is overcome; life is won. Sin is overcome; forgiveness is won. Despair is overcome; hope is won. Interior brokenness is overcome; peace is won.
Before this Resurrected Lord, it is opportune today to take stock of one’s life. The achievement of a graduate degree in such as law, philosophy, psychology, nursing, mechanical engineering, and educational administration, constitutes a major milestone in your lives; it is opportunity for you to take stock of your life. What is central to it? What makes you get up in the morning? What makes you content or discontent at the end of a day? Take stock of your faith. In whom do you believe? In what do you believe? Many today believe in power. Others, in wealth. Others in pleasure. What do you really believe? In whom do you really put your faith? What is the source of your joy? And what shall be the role of your new academic status in your lives? What is your academic degree for?
The Good News – or Gospel – for today is that the Lord is alive. He is present. In our midst. When the disciples encountered him in real flesh and blood, most were filled with joy. “It is the Lord!” they proclaimed. That same Lord is present today: in the Word proclaimed at this Mass, in its signs and symbols, which make present Jesus, self-emptied, self-immolated, self-sacrificed on the Cross out of love for us. Today, the Resurrected Lord stands before us and says, “Peace be with you” (Jn. 20:21). He shows us his hands and his side, and he says again, “Peace be with you. As the father has sent me, so I send you” In this peace he sends them forth to forgive sins (ibid) and preach salvation in baptism into his death and resurrection (Cf. Mk 16:15).
How do we relate to this Jesus, whom we experience today here, present. For did he not say, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst” (Mt. 18:20). For some of us, as happened to the apostles in our Gospel, the experience is so deep it fills our lives with joy, and remains the source of our joy throughout our lives. It is that which in our lives “makes us tick.” For others, however, as Thomas, even in experiencing Jesus, they distance themselves from him, and allow the confusion of their lives, the darkness of their sins, or perhaps even the height of their learning, the loftiness of their academic degrees, to prevent them from seeing. Like Thomas, they demand an empirical, scientific, erudite proof on their terms: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the wounds, I will not believe”(Jn. 20:25). The Good News of today’s Gospel is that the Risen Lord leads even the doubting Thomas to insight, conversion, and deepened belief, where in awe he expresses the full message of the Gospel: “My Lord and my God”(Jn. 20:28).
In being present to us, so that we experience him, he sends us forth today to be witnesses of the joy of his risen life – not just with saliva but with our lives. In sharing with us his Peace, he sends us forth to be witnesses of his Peace. Today, in Mindanao, this is especially urgent, where we all desire peace, and apply ourselves tirelessly to crafting peace through frameworks and agreements for peace. Here, we balance wealth with wealth, and power with power, and arms with arms, and trust with trust, and hope that the precarious agreements from on high are maintained among diverse tribes and clans and military machineries on the ground, and the sensitive agreements forged with so much care and passion by experts in ideal environments are not breached in sudden fits of rage and passion of people who live in real worlds. Even here, however, even as we use all our wits and learning to forge lasting peace on earth, yet know how precarious peace is, we remain witnesses of the Risen Lord, whose peace is shared with us not as a result of negotiations but as a fruit of self-immolation in non-negotiable love – love indestructible even by death. His message of Peace is at one and the same time consolation and challenge.
Dear graduates, the message of the Risen Lord to you on your graduation day: “Peace be with you! My peace I give you.”
[President’s Address: ADDU Law and Graduate School Graduation, 27 April, 2014.]
Challenge to the Graduates of Law and the Graduate School of ADDU
I have just returned from a planning workshop in Malvar, Batangas, for the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines. In this workshop, we came to a deeper appreciation that all of the 1,350 schools of CEAP, including ADDU, must be schools of transformative education. We believe that this is an imperative rooted in our relationship with the Risen Christ.
That our schools ought to be transformative may come as surprising to some. For certainly part of the integral mission of the school is to conserve and to effectively transmit conserved knowledge. Every time the school has a new batch of students, it does not reinvent the wheel for how to teach law, or psychology, or engineering, or education. There are traditions in teaching which are conserved over generations. In this sense schools are necessarily conservative. In society they are stabilizers, based on truth.
At the same time, however, because of the inherent commitment to the school to truth, and to Jesus Christ – the Way, the Life and the Truth – the school is engaged necessarily in an ongoing effort to transform what is to what it discerns ought to be. Where humanity has lost the way, allows life to degenerate to cultures of alienation or of death, or generates economies of exclusion and corruption, or confuses itself through its own prevarications, propaganda and media hype, the university acts to transform – ultimately based on its relationship to Jesus, the Way, the Life and the Truth. It does this through its instruction, its research and outreach.
But its most important contribution to the transformation of society is in its graduates. And among the graduates, the crème de la crème, are the graduates of higher education, its specialists in law, in psychology, the sciences, health care, education. It is from these graduates that the University expects its most competent, most engaged, and most informed transformative activity.
Again, I congratulate you on your achievements celebrated in this graduation. I pray that you use your training to the full in service: that you not have acquired your higher learning to keep it hidden under a bushel basket, or worse, to contribute to the conservation of the ills in our society. I pray you have acquired them to contribute to its transformation as your disciplines empower you to – especially today as our country is challenged to recover the sense of identity, meaning and joy of its peoples; to wage lasting peace among our divers cultures and religions, a peace based on justice and the professional pursuit even of social justice, to produce enough wealth as to eradicate poverty through its appropriate distribution, to subject science and technology to the humanization of our cultures, to participate meaningfully in educational reform, to contribute to the health service of our people both physically and spiritually, to respect and conserve the environment for our generation and future generation to come.
Thank you for giving ADDU the privilege of being part of your higher education and formation! For your missions in the Risen Lord’s Peace, God’s blessings!