[Address: SHS Graduation, 14 April 2018]
Rejoice and exult! You are now graduates of SHS in the Philippines! Your graduation today is historic. In the Philippines, you are part of the first batch of some 1.2 million graduates of SHS as provided by the Enhanced Basic Education Law (RA 10533). At ADDU, you are the first batch of 1,676 SHS graduates. For you, these past two years were very intense. Your schedule was very demanding, moving you from classrooms to libraries to laboratories to general assemblies to large-scale liturgies to exhausting athletics to tireless dancing and to singing ”525,600 Minutes. How do you measure, measure a year?” And you have had two! You had to read much, learn much, understand much – not only to collect concepts in your heads, but through your relentless performance tasks to test concepts in practice. You had to grow much, in height and in girth, in insight and in competencies, but hopefully also in love. “525,600 Minutes… Remember the love!” “Love, love, love!” became something like a SHS byword. Hopefully, not just a sloppy soppy slogan, but a reminder of how God loves you, how your family, relatives and friends love you, and even how the sun and moon, the oceans and the rivers, the mountains and the trees love you. Love, love, love! Hopefully, also a reminder of how you love God, how you love people, how you love God’s creation! Rejoice and exult! The love, sacrifice, and dedication of parents, the love and competence of teachers and administrators, the love and wisdom of legislators and statesmen have brought you to the joy of this day.
With the joy of the day comes its challenge. With SHS done, what next?
The prospects are more than just work or college. Rejoice and exult! The last time we heard that was during the Easter Vigil when we lifted up the Paschal Candle symbolizing the Resurrected Lord to allow its light to break the darkness of death and sin. The Resurrected Lord: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). To Peter, the Resurrected Lord asks three times, “Do you love me?” To Peter’s answer, “Yes Lord you know that I love you, the Lord missions. Three times he says, “Feed my sheep!” To Jesus’ question to Peter: Love? Love? Do you Love me? Peter answers, “Love! Love! You know I love you! In the context of Peter’s “love, love, love,” Jesus missions: Go feed my sheep.
With SHS done: what next? “Do you love me…?” Jesus as you. If your answer is yes, like Peter’s, he missions you.
It is that mission that should determine what’s next: what work? What college? What course? Whether in Luzon or the Visayas or Mindanao? Whether in Manila, Cebu or Davao? Whether among the natural scientists or social scientists, the soldiers or the teachers, the philosophers or the anthropologists, the ideologists or the theologians. It is that mission that should determine: what desires I have, what dreams I have.
And what success God has.
Rejoice and exult! Gaudete et exultate! This is the name of an apostolic exhortation that the Pope has issued just three days ago. It provides another important context of your graduation and challenge for you as SHS graduates. Gaudete et exultate! Rejoice and exult! It is an exhortation to holiness. To your many desires – to be an engineer, to be a lawyer, to be a doctor, to be a teacher, to be recognized, to be successful, holiness may not be an obvious consideration. But that is the main burden of Pope Francis’ exhortation: he encourages you, in the unique way that is given you and only you, beneath a great cloud of heavenly witnesses, not to be bland, not to be wish-washy, not to be mediocre, but to be holy, be a saint. “A Christian cannot think of his or her mission on earth” he declares, “without seeing it as a path of holiness” (19). Love, love, love? For the rest of your lives, Love, love love! It is a formula for holiness. Be happy! Be blessed! Be holy. And even when they begin to persecute and humiliate you and troll you in Facebook and Twitter for this holiness, “Gaudete et exultate! Rejoice and exult,” Jesus said, “for great is your reward in heaven!” (Mt. 5:12).