I hope you have been happy here at the Ateneo de Davao Grade School. And I certainly hope that part of that happiness has come from the goodness of your teachers. From them you have learned to read and write, to sing and to play. From them you have learned addition and subtraction, multiplication and division. From them you have learned about the sun and the earth, the moon and the stars, the mountains and the valleys, the trees and the flowers. You
feel close to some of them, because these have shown you special care. They know yournames. They know when you’re happy; they know when you’re sad. With some of them you have shared your most secret secrets. I hope you have been happy here because of your teachers.
But I hope that you have also been happy here because of the friends that you have made here, many of them in the same class as yours. Some of them are girls; some of them are boys. Some of them are good at playing games, others are good at drawing and painting, others are really good at learning lessons. Some of them are swimmers, others football players, yet others outstanding in chess. I hope you have had many happy days with your friends here at Ateneo. Many of them, hopefully, will be your friends for the rest of your lives. Some of them may even be best friends forever.
I hope that a big part of your having been happy here is because you have been able to come closer to Jesus. Jesus, of course, was a teacher, like many of the teachers you love. He taught about the birds of the air and the wildflowers of the fields. But he also taught about you. He taught about how the Father loves you more than the birds of the air which he feeds every day; he loves you more than the wildflowers of the field which he clothes more beautifully than can any human king. He taught that if the Father loves
you more than the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, you really have nothing to worryabout in life. This father created the sun and the stars. But he also created you, and loves you more than all else he has created. You can be happy in the love and providence of the Father.
Jesus taught that you are the salt of the earth. He taught that you are the light of the world. He was saying that you have an important role to play on this earth. You have an important role to play in life. You know how it is when your food lacks salt; you don’t like it when you are served fried eggs without salt, or French fries without salt. Salt provides flavor. Salt makes a difference. You are called to be salt in the world, to make the difference between something that is yummy or yucky, pleasant or irritating, good or bad. Jesus taught that you are the light of the earth. You know how it is when the lights go out, when you can’t see, when you don’t know where to go to get to where you have to go. Darkness is scary, so scary, it is often related to evil. Jesus taught that you are light, just as he taught that he is light. If you are light, do not hide your light. Let it shine. In the sparkle of your smiles, in the twinkle in your eyes, in the brightness of your laughter, let it shine! Let it shine bright in the knowledge and the goodness you have learned here at ADDU. “Start bright!” we say to those coming to ADDU GS. At graduation we say, shine bright!
Jesus was a great teacher. Great crowds would come on foot from far and wide to listen to him. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” he taught. “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” You don’t have to be rich to be happy, he taught. You don’t have to be rich to get to heaven. Instead he taught, “Love one another as I have loved you.” “Whatever you have done to one of these the least of my brothers and sisters, that you have done to me.” He taught much about the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of God. I hope that at the ADDU GS you have understood this message. He taught that heaven is about God, the King, reigning in our lives, in our hearts forever. He taught that heaven is happiness forever, but that heaven begins now, in allowing God to reign in our hearts. Now. That’s why he invited sad people to turn away from their sins, unhappy people to turn away from serving only money, miserable people to turn away from serving only themselves. “Seek first the Kingdom of God,” he taught. “All else will be given to you.” If you have learned this important message at the ADDU GS, you are certainly blessed. For this is the message of Jesus that many people do not understand – up to today. Those who did not understand it became Jesus’ enemies. They put
him to death on a cross. But we know that what Jesus taught triumphed in his resurrection. His message about the Kingdom of God, his message of love, could not be put to death. His message is alive as he is alive.
I hope therefore that among the great teachers you have met here at the ADDU GS is Jesus. I hope that among the many friends you have made here at Ateneo is Jesus. In being close to Jesus you are close to the Father, because what the Father does, Jesus does, our Gospel says. What the Father does to make you happy, Jesus does. What the Father does to show you his love, Jesus does. In Jesus being your teacher, the Father is as well. In Jesus being your close friend, he brings you the eternal friendship of the Father.
At this Mass, let us thank God for all the good things you have experienced here at ADDU, especially for your teachers and friends. But let us thank God especially for the greatest teacher that you have met here, Jesus, who is also your greatest friend. As you go through life – through JHS, then SHS, then college, then to marriage and work – remember your teachers and treasure your friends. But may your greatest teacher bring you deep wisdom, and may your best friend forever bring you life’s profoundest joy. With Jesus as your teacher and friend, be salt and light to the world.