[Homily: Baccalaureate Mass, ADDU Grade School Graduation, March 29, 2016]
During the last celebration of Araw ng Dabaw the participation of the ADDU Grade School was very prominent! I was there helping hold up a huge banner, which shouted out the words: “Start Bright!” Marching in back of me was Ma’am Suzette Aliño and a large contingent of ADDU Grade School teachers. Many of them were your own teachers here at ADDU. One would shout, “Ateneo!”; then all the others would shout louder, “All the way!” Then, one would shout again, “All the way!” to which the others would respond,”Ateneo!” Then, over and over again, the special message of the season, “Start bright!” The message is: on the long way of education, at Ateneo Grade School, “Start bright!” On the challenging journey to maturity and the ability to contribute fruitfully to human society though junior high school, senior high school, college and graduate school, at Ateneo, Start bright! Don’t be sad and gloomy in learning how to learn: Start bright! Don’t be cooped up forever in gloomy classrooms, but learn under the friendly sun and in the richness of colorful flowers and shady trees: Start bright! It was fun marching in this way through the streets of Davao! And when we finally passed the grandstand, there were special praises for the lively Ateneo contingent brightened by the smiling Blue Belles twirling their batons and the energetic drums of the Blue Band.
Hopefully, as you graduate from elementary school into junior high school and plan to journey at “Ateneo” “all the way” through its junior high school, its senior high school, its colleges, then its graduate school to success and happiness, you have yourselves benefited from Ateneo’s bright start. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed learning to learn at Ateneo, you’ve been enlightened by caring teachers, you’ve been happy with your classmates and friends. Hopefully, you’ve also learned that success and happiness “all the way” does not just mean one day having a comfortable house with a swimming pool or more clothes and shoes than you could ever wear, but – as the prayer of today’s Mass suggests – it means success in finally reaching heaven! Ateneo all the way to heaven means you cannot be selfish, you cannot be arrogant, you cannot be uncaring. “Ateneo all the way!” means Ateneo values all the way to heaven. Ateneo values such as faith in God, justice for all, love for people – even for people of different colors of skin or of different countries or of different religions – all the way until you reach heaven! How do you reach heaven? In getting to know Jesus more and more, in loving Jesus more and more, in finding Jesus more and more in the people you serve! Remember Jesus’ words at the last judgment: “Whatever you have done or not done to one of these the least of my sisters and brothers, that you have done or not done to me” (cf. Mt. 25:40,45). That is what today’s prayer is about: that through the resurrection we may all reach heaven! That we may be happy in getting to heaven! That we may be happy in making the free choices that get us to heaven! The key is that you get to know Jesus as a close friend, and let him influence you in all you do. The key is that you love him. Love him so much, that you don’t want ever to be separated from him.
Mary Magdalene was like that. She was a sinner. He was the famous teacher eveyone was talking about, the healer, the Lord. But when she met Jesus, she met a caring, compassionate and forgiving person. She had never met a person like him. And she loved him. She never wanted to be separated from him.
But she was separated from him. Jesus had had enemies, people who did not like the lessons he taught, the company he kept, the sinners he loved. They didn’t like it when he said you must love God above all things, with your whole mind and your whole soul, and your whole strength. They didn’t like it when he said, you must love your neighbor as yourself. They didn’t like it when he called them hypocrites, plastic, whitened sepulchres, for making it difficult for people to know and love his Father.
But Mary understood him. She had experienced his love. And loved him back with all her heart. Yet they killed him. They nailed him to a Cross until he died.
Two days ago we celebrated how he rose again. And in today’s Gospel we hear how Mary had not known he had risen. She was weeping. Bitterly. Because she thought someone had stolen Jesus’ body. Two angels asked her, “Why are you weeping?” “Because they have taken my Lord,” she replied, “and I do not know where they have laid him. Jesus, whom she did not recognize, asked her, “Why are you weeping?” Thinking he was a gardener she said, “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have brought him, and I will take him.”
Then Jesus said, “Mary!” Suddenly she recognized him. She was shocked. She was amazed. She was overjoyed. She did not know what to say. She did not know what to do. She said, “Teacher!” She fell to her feet. She embraced him.
Jesus told her, “Do not cling to me.” He gave her a mission: “Go, and tell my brothers I am alive.!”
The Lord may have a similar message for you today as you too perhaps say, “Ateneo, all the way!” Ateneo values all the way to heaven in closer and closer friendship with Jesus. All the way to heaven, in knowing Jesus is alive, feeling his love as he challenges us to go and tell others he is alive. Ateneo values all the way in working with Jesus to bringing heaven down to earth – in stopping the wars, stopping the injustice, stopping the destruction of the environment, in caring for our common home, in taking care of each and every human being. If this is something of what you at Grade VI have come to learn in your young years at the Ateneo, on the journey to heaven, on your life journey all the way to heaven, on your journey towards excellent education, you certainly start bright!