Excerpts from the Baccalaureate Message 2013

Thursday, May 30, 2013

I feel honored to be invited by the Ministerial Alliance to be part of your special evening and to rejoice in your accomplishments. I have come to know some of you graduates by name. And knowing a cross section of you represents all of you. I find you to be sincere, mature and focused. You have brought recognition to this community by your involvement in the various activities and sports. But more importantly, you leave Marshall High School with certain skills and values that are a good foundation and a good step as you continue your journey in life.

And, as I congratulate you this afternoon on your accomplishments, I know that in your hearts you are mindful and grateful for all those people who have brought you to this day, especially your parents and family, teachers, your ministers and your friends. They are indeed as the song says, "The wind beneath your wings."

Every generation has its successes and it has failures. You as graduates can avail of and enjoy the successes of the generations that have gone before you.

But many of the failures of past generations will become your challenges as you face the future. There is a big challenge facing you of building up and preserving a wholesome and good family life. Family life is the foundation of society. A famous leader once said, "as goes the family so goes America." America is not as much hungry for food from the table. America is hungry for a spirit; a spirit of unity, a spirit of justice, a spirit of purpose, a spirit of values. As a nation we find ourselves with confused and mixed values. With some people, "might is right." With others, "do whatever you want to do as long as you are not caught." With others, "the crippled, the unborn and the unproductive have no right to life." But our Judeo-Christian values tell us that our destiny goes beyond the check-out-counter, the assembly line and the hospital bed or laptop computer.

Someday soon, you graduates will be leaving home to establish your own family. And so putting family first in your life now will help you put it first in your own family of the future. This means that you should be loyal to your family. Have a sense of pride in who you are and the family you belong to, doing your share of work around the home and being thoughtful and thankful. Your home is more than just a place to dump your books and dump your body. Live life with your family and not with your peers and friends. The giving and taking which is part of every family will help you in your future family.

You are challenged to treat yourself with reverence and respect. Your body and your mind are gifts from God. Take good care of the health of your body and your mind. But, most of all, refuse every offer of drugs. They are not worth the eventual sorrow and pain. There are many young lives and lofty dreams that have been shattered by chemical dependency.

The mind is a priceless gift. An undeveloped and ill-formed mind can lead to destruction. An informed mind and properly formed character leads to a better life and gives one a feeling of security and freedom.

Leaders in education speak about an architecture of the soul. We would call it development of character -- to know what fidelity is and to practice it; to know what chastity is and to live it; to know what honor is and respect it; to know what truth is and speak it.

In the First Scripture you have heard today from Jeremiah 29, we are reminded that God knows every one of us by name. It boggles my mind to realize that no two people are identical except identical twins. We have our own finger prints, our own DNA. Each one of us is special in God's eye. He expects that each one of us is called to put our stamp on life that no one else can. We will only be happy and satisfied with life when we be what God wants us to be and not what we ourselves want to be. God has a plan for each one of you so that you will have prosperity and not disaster. As Jesus says to God the Father,"Not my will but the thine be done."

In the Second Scripture reading 1 Corinthians 12, Paul reminds us that just as the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles on Pentecost Sunday in the form of tongues of fire, He has come up on each one of us. And, because of this, each one of us has different gifts but the same Spirit. We perform different duties but we serve the same Lord. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part works for the good of the whole body, so too each one of us is called to live our calling and to build up the body of Christ.

My dear graduates, we live in an age that tells us that there is no such thing as objective truth. Today is Sunday, but I'm sincere in thinking it is Saturday. But the truth -- the objective truth is that today is Sunday. It is not you or I that determines what is right and what is wrong -- it is God who makes it so. Jesus tells us in John 8, "If you remain in my word you will know the truth and the truth will set you free."

Imprisonment, pornography, selfishness, addiction of all kinds enslave us, but God's truth sets us free.

Some years ago there were graduates who over emphasized the importance of the individual person -- "I am me and no one, no parent, no school, no church will tell me how to live my life." Because of this attitude, much damage has been done to the institution of family, school, church and government. We are grateful that the youth of today have come around to see the need to preserve and purify these institutions -- to find a better balance between the good of the individual and the common good.

Graduates, all these people who are here today to celebrate this wonderful day in your life -- these people have much confidence in you. You are to be the future leaders in whatever community you find yourself in. You are not alone in your journey through life. You have your Faith, you have your family and you have your friends. And equipped with faith, family and friends, you will face the future with confidence and without worry or fear.

Today is Mother's Day. A mother is the greatest symbol of all those who love us and respect us. On a day like this the words of an Irish song come to mind about mothers, "A Mother's love is a blessing. No matter where you go, keep her while she is living. You will miss her when she is gone. Love her as in childhood, though she is feeble, old and gray. For you will never miss a mother's love, until she is buried beneath the clay."

Graduates of 2013, congratulations and best wishes.