The Kingdom of God in Mindanao

[Homily: Baccalaureate Mass, Graduation, ADDU Law School and Graduate School, April 25, 2015]

You come to our Baccalaureate Mass this morning, I am certain, with mixed emotions. Perhaps, the first is relief. Finally, the gauntlet has been run. The pressure is off. The comprehensives have been passed, the theses, or even the dissertations, have been written and defended. The mentors, the faculty panels, have expressed their satisfaction, if not their admiration for the work that you have accomplished. You have been tried. You have been tested. You have not been found wanting. So you are here today in your academic gowns heaving a collective sigh of relief. With the relief, you come this morning with gratitude. For many of you, you never dreamed that you could ever come to this day. But you look back on the narrow path you took, while so many others you know took a less demanding road; you recall the sacrifices that you and many others have accepted that you might reach your destination; you recall hard decisions you had to make, and you are filled with gratitude. You are grateful for benefactors, some of them government agencies or serious foundations, some of them your closest relatives or friends, who have made this day possible; but you are also grateful for teachers, mentors, advisers, and fellow students who have contributed directly to what we celebrate today. You are very grateful. With your gratitude, you come with great joy. For your achievement is not insignificant, and it will help define what you do for the rest of your lives. Your relatives, friends, teachers and administrators join you today in your joy.

You bring your relief, your gratitude and your joy to this Baccalaureate Mass, this celebration of the Eucharist, on the occasion of your graduation. You do so on the Feast of the Evangelist, St. Mark, whose Gospel focuses on the Kingdom of God.  That ought to bring a special challenge for you today. For today you come not just to add a higher diploma to the academic degrees you already have, but at this Mass to deepen yourselves in your Christianity: to recall Jesus Christ, the importance of his Paschal Mystery for you, and the personal mission that he gives to each of you in this world. The importance of your Christianity transcends any career or any worldly milestone you may have reached; it provides the framework of the manner in which you will exercise and use your higher or professional knowledge. As expressed in St. Mark’s Gospel, this challenge is articulated in Jesus’ words, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Good News” (Mk. 1:17).  Turn away from your sin and your bondage to darkness and despair, and “Come to me”. To his followers, to you and to me, Jesus says, “Come, follow me” (Mk 1:18).  In the light of the Resurrection, preceded of course by the suffering and death of Jesus, he is equivalently saying: Come, follow me in the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, the proclamation that was not defeated when they crucified and killed me, but was finally validated and confirmed irreversibly in my resurrection. And so, St. Mark’s special challenge to you, as you heard in today’s Gospel reading: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature…” (Mk 16:15).

You graduate with the challenge to follow Jesus and in following him to proclaim his Kingdom. You are challenged to follow Jesus: to meet him personally, to converse with him, to get to know him intimately, come to a deeper understanding of his persons and his values, and so to understand and participate in his ongoing establishment of the Kingdom of God on this earth that he proclaimed. You know that if there is anything like a Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of a God of Compassion and Mercy, it is not compatible with godlessness, with godless murder and violence, with godless wars and genocide. It is not compatible with poverty brought about by economic systems that favor a few and exclude the many, by political systems that concentrate power in a few and disempower the many, by social systems that reward and aggrandise the haves and penalise and caste out the have nots. The Kingdom of God on earth demands of Jesus followers, but perhaps especially those he has blessed with educational privilege, educated power, social prestige and leadership, as we know today you are, that they work for a common good where all communities and every individual can flourish together as a human beings. That is especially challenging in our world of Mindanao where the Kingdom of God must encompass not only believers in Jesus, but also religious and cultural communities who in religious freedom do not believe in him, or even those who in religious freedom do not believe in the God of any religion. For such persons and such communities our evangelization would necessarily be in the mode of dialogue with them, understanding and respecting their cultures, and witnessing to truth of our God through the goodness and integrity of our lives and the authenticity of our responsibility in a humane society.

Let the Baccalaureate Mass then be for you not only an occasion for special thanksgiving and joy for your higher academic accomplishments, but as followers of Jesus Christ, let this be the occasion where you understand yourselves specially committed with the benefit of your higher education to proclaim and work for the Kingdom of God especially here in Mindanao. In the success of your endeavors for the common good, may your joy and thanksgiving be increased a hundredfold.

About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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