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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

graduation homily

{today i started packing my things in balik-bayan boxes to be sent to manila. i had mixed feelings. i started missing iloilo already. i am just enjoying every moment that i am here. here is the homily i delievered during the high school graduation last march.}

Homily (HS Graduation)

Santa Maria Parish Church

25 March 2009

Good morning dear friends and graduates. It brings me such joy and honor to stand here and be with you on this special moment in your life, not to guide you like in our practices for the past days, but this time to simply honor you by giving this morning’s homily. You have been a good batch. That is why it is no surprise for us your teachers that one hundred fourteen of you started the school year, one hundred fourteen will be graduating this afternoon. Because of this, I think all of you here today should pat yourselves on the shoulder for a job truly well done. You deserve to be congratulated and receive warm applauses today.

Let me then start my homily with a story. One Sunday afternoon of November last year, I went up to the faculty room to get some of the hundreds Skills Workout to check. And since I was already at the fourth floor, I decided to check the classroom of my advisory class if it was ready for the week. And there I saw a saddening sight that could break any adviser’s heart. The classroom was in total, total mess. Instead of feeling angry, somehow the Holy Spirit touched me that I had the urge to simply pick-up the broom and start sweeping the floor and arranging the chairs. After cleaning the room, I noticed that the other fourth year rooms were also a heart breaker. Since I still have time, and somehow again touched by the Holy Spirit, I started cleaning one room to another.

My dear friends, I am telling you this story not to make you feel guilty about the mess you have left behind one day in November, but come to think of it, there is a good reflection here. Let me then propose to you an image from my story that I will use all throughout this homily. And that image is, passing by. Every moment in our life is a passing by. We are just passing by. Some passing by are like short stopovers. We pass by a boutique, a gift shop, a restaurant, the mall before going to a party or a big event. Some passing by takes a long period of time before we can move on. We are just passing by when we studied in prep, in grade school, and recently in high school, and later in college. And for some they will pass by graduate school, medical school, or law school. We are just passing by.

Because these moments are just passing by, and you are just passing by high school, there are perhaps three dominant feelings I think you are feeling right now: relief, anxiety, and hope. Relief, anxiety, and hope, these are the normal feelings I feel one encounters in passing by.

First, relief. After passing by high school, there must be a relief feeling: tapos na!; wala nang exams; wala nang investigative projects; and most of all, the most important relief of all, wala nang Sir H sa buhay ko! Secondly, after the relief feeling, comes fear or at least anxiety. You realize that it is not yet over. There is still college. You still have to pass by college and even beyond college. Or perhaps at this early, thoughts of uncertain future creep on you because of the confusing and unending problems that our country is facing today. And lastly, there is still the hopeful feeling. “A chapter of my life ends, a chapter of my life will start. Now I can make my dreams come true! I’m going to make a difference! My life is about to start!” Relief, anxiety, and hope: truly not abnormal emotions at all, because today something is truly ending in your life and something else beginning. On this day then, when your life is changing, perhaps more than you know, we pray for you. We pray that “as the setting sun bids farewell,” with three gifts for your life ahead, three gifts inspired by today’s readings.

First, we pray that your relief may deepen into gratitude. Yes, it’s all over. You made it. But if you look more deeply, you might recognize, like the story of Jesus in today’s Gospel, that the achievement of these past four years was not simply the result of your striving, but a gift much like the miracle of Jesus that surprised the unsuspecting crowds who didn’t believed in him.

Second, we pray that your anxiety may be tempered by faith, a faith that is really a deep trust in the One who is always near but whom we often don’t recognize, as the first reading assures us. The Lord said, before he formed you in the womb of your mother, he knew you. Before you will receive your diploma today, before you will be set off from our school, he has felt every beat of your heart as you rejoice in gladness. Before you will face the challenges and difficulties in life, he already knows all your doubts and worries. Our God is a loving God and He will always be with you.

Finally, we pray that your hope be broadened by responsibility. What does this mean? As Pope Benedict reminded us in his encyclical: “Our hope is always essentially hope for others. . . . we should never limit ourselves to asking: how can I save myself? We should also ask: what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them too the star of hope may rise?” (Spe Salvi, 48). Thus, our prayer: that you expand your dreams to include always a deep sense of responsibility for the future of our country and our people, especially the poor. I think your retreat experience invites you to become fishers of men and women, drawing in the net for the Lord. So, we pray, it may be with you.

Dear graduates of the class of 2009, relieved, anxious, hopeful friends, these then are our prayers for you as you leave the Ateneo today: may your relief deepen into gratitude; may your anxiety be tempered by faith; and may your hope broaden into responsibility; Grateful, faithful, responsible Ateneans, may you thus be for our world and our time truly In Ominibus Amare et Servire, to love and serve the Lord.

Before I end, I wish to name a final feeling that I believe some of you feel and that I have not mentioned till now: sadness. Even few weeks before the 4th quarter exams, I have read different “senti” lines from your batch mates in YM, in Friendster, in Multiply, in Facebook, conveying sad expressions in various images and cues. Of course, the Ateneo has been more than a school for many of us; it has become a home and it is always sad to leave home. I don’t think there’s anything I can say to take away that quiet sadness: it’s just there; high school is over. Allow me to address that sadness though some lines from a European novel:

We will leave each other and go our separate ways. Life will happen to us and change us, sometimes, not for the better. But, if life tempts us to become cynical or bitter or cruel, if we remember these golden days of our friendship, if we remember how we dreamed together, how we were kind to one another, how we were good, then maybe, just maybe, that memory will save us, and draw us away from the forces of darkness that are always threatening to vanquish and capture us.

I would like to end my homily by bringing you back again to the story of the dirty rooms. I guess beyond the feelings of relief, anxiety, and hope when one is passing by, are the memories and the MAGIS we make when we pass by. Fr. Manny, Bro. Manny, and myself are also leaving in the next few weeks and we are just passing by. But perhaps what goes beyond our mixed feelings are the many wonderful and grateful memories we have had that we will always treasure in our hearts as pass by another moment in our life. And this is my challenge to you, my dear friends and batch mates, as you pass by each moment of you life, may you have the urge to make memories and make a difference, by picking-up the broom and start sweeping the floor and arranging the chairs.


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