[Homily: Baccalaureate Mass of the ADDU Law and Graduate School, Assumption Chapel, 29 April, 2017]
I see from your faces, you are happy. But I also know that deep within, you know that the happiness of this day carries heavy responsibilities.
You are happy because you made it. Many times you thought it would not be possible. Many times, you were tempted to throw in the towel and give up. But you didn’t. You stayed the course – despite all the competing responsibilities at home or at your regular workplace which complained about the effort you were putting into this graduate degree; they mocked your academic ambition. But today, wearing the toga in this festive graduation ceremony, you know you prevailed.
And you are grateful. You are grateful to your families, your spouses and children, to your colleagues at work, to your parents, superiors and benefactors who continued to support you along the way. You are grateful also to your teachers, no matter how demanding they were, to your alma mater, and to your God. None of these can be taken for granted; you are grateful that they were there for you. All of this gratitude you exude at this graduation. You bring your gratitude to God in this Eucharist.
This grateful happiness, however, carries with it great responsibilities. The liturgy of this Eucharist reflects that. It is still liturgy in Resurrection light, celebrating the joy of redemption through the incarnation, ministry, suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Its prayer is for freedom. You have all been been baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ. Bathed in resurrection light, we pray, “Give us true freedom….and bring us to the inheritance you promised.” We pray for freedom because we often know ourselves unfree; we know ourselves diminished by our lazy compromises, unable to live up to the dignity and responsibility that has been entrusted in us. We often lose sight of the mission and goals which would lead us to “our true inheritance.” At the same time, in Resurrection light, we know sin, suffering, failure, and death are not ultimate in our lives. What is ultimate is God’s love and God’s life which he restores to us in the Resurrection. We live in Resurrection hope.
This is crucial as you freely take on the responsibilities of graduates of higher education at the Ateneo de Davao University. You are graduates of professional courses in law, arts and sciences, business and governance, nursing, engineering and architecture, and education. You take on the responsibilities of your technical knowledge; many of you will have your professional knowledge confirmed through professional bodies. Through your enhanced competencies, you will take on significant roles in our economy and society, many in positions of leadership. We pray for God’s blessings on your professional careers and increased service to society.
But we also pray that with your growth in professional competence and responsibility, you also grow in your life as a Christian. This is life not only within the private sphere of the family, nor only within the sacred sphere of the Church, but now especially in the public secular sphere of the world. Through your Christian life may you be blessed in advancing social justice, contributing substantially to the common good, and leading all you can influence towards a society where all as human beings flourish optimally. Through your Christian life may the lives of your workers happier, may your students break out of poverty, may you lead your communities to prosperity, and wherever you are ma there be peace.
Today, our Gospel suggests that it will not always be smooth sailing. You may be smiling and reveling on a graduation day, and there may be many bright and sunny days ahead. But in time your voyage will lead you to troubled waters. Not all will go as expected. The waters and waves will rise perilously. Your vessel will be buffeted by violent winds. People will disappoint you, friends will hurt you, enemies will attack you ; you will fall, you will fail, you will suffer. But that may also be a moment of the Holy, where you encounter Jesus walking on the water, telling you, “It is I, do not be afraid.”
That may be God’s graduation message for you: He is alive. He is present. He is in control. He is with you. Do not be afraid.