[Homily. SHS Baccalaurate Mass. Mar 26, 2021]
Day after tomorrow the Holy Week begins. Again, the Catholic Church shall commemorate and celebrate the suffering, death and resurrection of the Lord. Your Senior High School graduation is celebrated at the threshold of this profound celebration of holy Week. You celebrate the end of your basic education and very possibly the end of your personal adolescence in the grace, challenge and hope of this Holy Week. You enter adulthood in the conviction not only that you are not alone in life, but that you are loved, so loved that God gave his only begotten Son to die for you, that through faith[i] in Him you may live in peace with God through the love of Jesus Christ, and rejoice in the hope of the unending glory of God.
And not only that. May you in your adult life rejoice in its challenges, trials and tribulations, knowing that this will produce in you perseverance, and that perseverance will prove your character which will increase your hope, hope which will not disappoint. It will not disappoint because the love of God has been poured into your hearts through the Holy Spirit. You graduate in the grace of the Holy Week during which you are invited again to experience God redeeming you in Jesus dying for you and in the Holy Spirit convincing you of the hope that is yours in Jesus’ Resurrection. This hope is of your future not only in the eternal Kingdom of God in heaven but your future in your every undertaking on earth, in your personal life or in your professional life, in bringing your every effort to success, or in overcoming your every disappointment, your future in the power and strength of the God who has brought you through your parents, relatives and benefactors with much care and tenderness to your graduation today and who rejoices with you.
This is the God who is Love, who manifests himself in the Love of the Son, and who together pour themselves out on you in the Love of the Holy Spirit alive in your family and community. This is the Love that Sir Rikki and Fr. JBoy and all your teachers and friends have joyfully celebrated in your Senior High School experience, one Love in three, Love, Love, Love: Love reaching out to you, its prized creation, Love redeeming you, Love filling you with hope. That is the Love, Love, Love at work in the solemn mystery of this Mass, Love obedient unto death to the Love of the Father “for you” lifting you up in the Love of the Resurrection and gathering you together in the communion of the followers of Jesus.
This said, what say you? This learned, what is your performance task? This experienced, how do you respond? Hopefully, not by taking up rocks to stone Jesus and kill God in your lives, as today’s Gospel (Jn 10:31-42) suggests we can do. Hopefully not by growing cold and indifferent to Love in our lives. To Love, Love, Love can there be any appropriate response other than love, love, love – love for the loving Father, love for Jesus expressing the Father’s love for you, love for the Spirit who gathers you together with all the disciples of Jesus into the Christian community and inspires your love for them? On a broader level: love for God in this confusing world loving and creating all of humanity with its rich diversity of peoples and religions; love for Jesus sacrificing himself for the peoples of all nations and faiths; love for the Holy Spirit open to all, including all, leaving no one out. Love for all in the compassion of the Father, love for all in the service of the Son, love for all in the hope of the Spirit, remembering the grace of your own conversion not by merit but by the sheer gift of God’s love.
Having encountered Love, Love, Love in this senior high school, may your perspective in life manifest the new life that is gifted you in the Resurrection, the “life, life in abundance, life to the full,” (Jn 10:10) that Jesus brings in the power of the Resurrection. In love, love, love, may you overcome the compulsion to power, needing always to do “my will’; may you find liberation in doing God’s will, or joy in doing your beloved’s will. In Jesus, may you overcome the compulsion to selfishness in the relentless pursuit of self-interest; may you be liberated to seek the good of others, even at great personal cost; in the Holy Spirit, may you conquer all tendencies towards discouragement, depression and despair, always finding excitement and joy in the hope that love brings. May your love for the world and your love for the nation find fulfillment in your love for Mindanao, its Bangsamoro people, its Lumad peoples, and its Christian communities. Through your higher education, may you be empowered to find the joy of love[ii] in the warmth of family, the love of our common home[iii] for you to cherish and protect, and the love of global fraternity because in this world, as Pope Francis has taught us, we are all sisters and brothers one and need in social friendship to tear down all barriers to achieve that fraternity[iv].
In sum, as a summary of your senior high school experience at ADDU, and as the sum of all it can bring, in Love, Love, Love… love, love, love! Remember, “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous, is not inflated. It is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing bur rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. … At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (Cor 13:4-7.12-13).
[i] These initial wishes for our SHS graduates are inspired by Rom. 5:1-11
[ii] Cf. Amoris Letitia: Post Sunodal Apostolic Exhortation of the Holy Father Francis on love in the family. Pasay City: Pauline Publishing House, 2016.
[iii] Cf. Laudato Si’: Encyclical Letter of the Holy Father Francis on care for or common home. Pasay City: Pauline Publishing House, 2015
[iv] Cf. Fratelli Tutti: Encyclical Letter of the Holy Father Francis on Fraternity and Social Friendship. Pasay City: Pauline Publishing House, 2020