I successfully completed primary school during the Reagan administration. Our teacher refused to call the ensuing ceremony a “graduation.” A Congressman spoke to us, we sang a few songs–our ‘promotional exercises.’
The picture of fourteen-year-olds parading around with mortarboards on their heads is a little laughable. I was fortunate enough to graduate from a prestigious high school; we received our diplomas wearing jackets and ties. You have to finish college before you qualify as a scholar.
All that said, here is my sermon to the young men and women finishing their course of study at our humble parish primary school…
The Master said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant…Come, share your master’s joy.” (Matthew 25:21)
I want to tell you graduates a story about growing up…
A woman had three sons. She had to raise the boys herself, working nights as a seamstress.
Her sons grew up and became very successful. One became a businessman, the other a lawyer, and the other a television journalist.
After all her years of painstaking work, their mother began to get old and lose her eyesight.
The three sons each decided to do something to show their mother how much they appreciated her.
The lawyer tried to outdo him: “I am going to buy her a limousine and hire a chauffeur to drive her around.”
The journalist would have nothing of this. “You guys don’t know our mother at all. She doesn’t want a big fancy house or a limo. All she ever wants to do is go to Mass and pray.
“I know about an order of monks down in Argentina who train parrots to recite the entire Bible. All you have to do is name a chapter and verse, and the parrot will recite it. The parrots cost $700,000 each, but it’s perfect for mom.”
So they each did what they set out to do. A few months later, they each received thank-you notes from their mother.
The businessman opened his. “Dear Son, thank you for this beautiful house. I love living in it. The only problem is, since I am losing my eyesight, I keep getting lost. So I pretty much just stay in my bedroom and the kitchen.”
The lawyer opened his thank-you note. “Dear Son, thank you for the comfortable car and the nice driver. He is wonderful. The only problem is, all I want to do is go to Mass and come home, but he wants to drive all over town, so we bicker all the time.”
The journalist opened his: “Dear Son, you really know your mother. You got me just what I wanted. That chicken was delicious.”
Dear class of 2009: We are here in church to implore God’s blessings upon you, and to congratulate you for your accomplishment.
I wish I could tell you that your labors are now finished. I wish I could say to you the words of the parable, “Well done, good and faithful servants! Enter into the joy of your rest.”
I can’t say this to you, though. There is only one speaker who has the authority to say this. Namely, the Speaker we will all hear when we graduate from our education on earth and enter the next life.
The fact is, you still have a lot more work to do. To begin with, you still have to go to school for at least eight more years, and that’s not counting graduate school. There are many report cards yet to come.
Then comes the rest of your life. The education of our youth prepares us to enter into the school that really counts, the school of loving and devoted service to others as mature adults. In the school of life, the Lord educates us, for heaven.
So as you consider the great expanse of life that lies ahead of you, there are three things that would be customary for your graduation speaker to say. I have no intention of saying any of these things.
One customary thing to say at graduations is: “Believe in yourselves!”
But I am not going to tell you to believe in yourselves. We human beings are weak and fallible. If you put your faith in yourself, you will wind up disappointed. Forget about believing in yourselves. Believe in God instead. He is strong and true. He will take care of you. He will not disappoint you. It makes more sense to believe in Him.
The second customary thing to say is: “You can accomplish anything you set your mind to!” But I am not going to say that, either. It might be true; it might not be. There are no guarantees in this life.
What I am going to tell you is this: The good Lord has a plan for you. Whatever it is, He will give you the grace to accomplish it—you can be sure of that. If we give ourselves over to God’s holy will, He will see us through every hardship and every set-back. May God’s will be done.
The third customary thing to say is: “Stay focused on your goals!” That would be good advice. But I am going to give you BETTER advice.
Stay focused on Jesus Christ. If our eyes are fixed on Christ, then we know what our goals ought to be.
Maybe you are saying to yourselves: “Father, how can we keep our eyes fixed on Christ, if we can’t even see Him? He went up to heaven. He has vanished from our sight. How are we supposed to keep our eyes focused on Him?”
We see Christ with our inner eyes of faith. Our inner eyes see better than our outer eyes do. If we study the Scriptures and share the life of the Church, then we can learn to see Christ and behold Him at all times.
You can see the Lord Jesus right now. See Him when he was fourteen, fifteen, sixteen years old. Close your eyes, and see and hear how he talked to the Blessed Mother, how He went to the synagogue to learn the ancient Jewish Scriptures. Imagine how He treated His cousins and friends, how He took responsibility for things when St. Joseph died…
If we keep our inner eyes fixed on Christ, then we always know what to do.
Dear graduates, when I look at you now with the eyes of faith, I see Christ the Lord. He is alive. He reigns supreme in heaven. He walks the earth in the members of His Body.
We congratulate you for all your accomplishments. But above all, we congratulate you for the fact that you share in the undying life of Jesus Christ. We congratulate you because you have the seeds of heaven already germinating in your souls.
Believe in God. Seek His will. Keep your eyes on Christ. And have a good summer.