Praised be Jesus Christ! Graduation season is upon us and we both congratulate and earnestly pray for all of the members of the class of 2017. God knows you will be missed as you begin the transition into adulthood and greater responsibility. But before you fly the coop, graduates, it’s time for some unsolicited advice. First up is a quote from the very end of the classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life:” “Remember no man is a failure who has friends.” Friendship is one of the greatest loves we can experience in this life. When we were little it seemed like we had dozens of friends. As we get older the number of true friends tends to decrease while the depth of friendship deepens (there are exceptions: I have 1,446 friends on Facebook, which is ten times the number Father Berns has). Friendship is based on trust, common interests, and depth of character. The Book of Sirach states that “faithful friends are a sturdy shelter; whoever finds one finds a shelter.” May God send you true friends that will be a kindling force and a revealing power in your lives. A second point of wisdom comes from the Greek philosopher Heraclitus: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” The moral of this insight is that “to live is to change, to be perfect is to have changed often,” (John Henry Newman). You will be encountering many ideas and people and you will, to one degree or another, be shaped by these. If you have been a very kind and giving person up until now, there is no assurance that this will always be true. Conversely, if you’ve lived selfishly and sinfully for some time, you are not obligated to continue on this path. Life gives you many opportunities to change and God has equipped you with the freedom to “know the truth” (John 8:32). The goal of the Christian life is to become more like Jesus as the years go by. Remembering that Jesus “came not to be served, but to serve,” (Matthew 20:28), the choices you make will either incline you to think of others more or less as you get older. Changing is much easier for you now – when you get to be my age you’ll find that you are more “set in your ways.” Heraclitus’ insight is as valid today as it was in his time, namely that you are changing already and will continue to do so for all of your life. As a parish we are praying that you choose to live virtuously, which will demand humility and trust in God. The last point of advice is simply the 4th Commandment: “Honor your father and your mother.” As you get older, some might suggest that your age exonerates you of this duty. They are wrong. Of course becoming an adult does grant us greater freedom and God wants us to stand on our own two feet. Just the same, we have a hallowed duty to our parents and God requires that we always treat them with love, respect, and at times, obedience. One of the disadvantages of our times is that we’re not as united in our families as we were a generation ago. God willing, your class will be a part of the movement to fortify family life and thus make the future brighter for your children and grandchildren. Soon, you’ll be flipping your tassel from one side of your cap to the other, signifying the end of your high school career. May the changes you experience in the years ahead prepare you for your final exam with God, and please God, may you pass that exam with flying colors.
May God give our graduates faith and wisdom, so that they follow the path that leads one day to Heaven!
Your friend in Christ,