May 9, 2019 Ascension Catholic High Baccalaureate Mass
Dear Graduates, parents, school faculty, and guests,
This day has been much anticipated by the graduates and the parents alike. For the students, the past twelve plus years have been an adventure of growing, maturing, and discovering their place in the world. I thank you parents, godparents, and grandparents for being faithful to the promises that you made when these graduates were baptized as babies 16-17 years ago, to protect the flame of faith in their hearts!
Dear graduates, the Book of Proverbs reminds us not to forget the teaching we have received and to take to heart the commands of God. Over the course of your lives spent in this school and this church, Jesus enlightened the eyes of your hearts through His Divine Word and the Holy Eucharist for you to see yourselves as disciples of Christ. Just as he did with his apostles, he invites each of you to follow Him, to go where He leads you, to offer yourselves in service of God. Just a few days ago, a high school senior showed us what a disciple of Christ looks like.
A high school senior, Kendrick, was looking forward to his graduation ceremony. He loved fixing things and tinkering with his jeep. He hoped that, like his father, he would major in mechanical or electrical engineering in college. A childhood friend described him this way, “He cared about his faith and his family and friends more than himself. He was always the first to help when anyone needed it; if it was a friend to talk to, someone to hold the door, or carry something, he would always help no matter what.” Another close friend said that Kendrick looked forward to joining the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization for men, once he was in college, “He told me he wanted to be a Knights of Columbus because he wanted to help not only people, but his community.” The day before yesterday, Kendrick’s English class was disrupted by a classmate who walked in the classroom and pulled out a gun. The young man told out loud to everyone not to move. In that split second, Kendrick lunged for the gunman. And while the gunman was disoriented after shooting Kendrick, a cluster of boys then tackled the gunman, allowing the rest of the class to dive under their desks and flee the classroom. Kendrick died from that gunshot.
What Kendrick did was brave, and many are calling him a hero. For those who do not yet know the love of Christ, the explanation for what Kendrick did, stops there. He was being altruistic for the benefit of many, they would explain. But for those of us who know Jesus, who know the love of Christ, and who serve Christ, we know why Kendrick did what he did. He was following the footsteps of Jesus who called Kendrick and all of us to follow Him. Jesus himself explains in John’s Gospel, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.”
We Christians serve God who created this infinite Universe and yet calls us friends, who became man and laid his own life for us on the Cross so that we may be saved and redeemed. The world serves a fallen angel Lucifer, a mere creature whose motto is, “I will not serve,” a conniving creature whose goal is to separate us from trusting and loving God. A definitive choice is given to us at baptism when the Church asks us, “Do you reject Satan, all his works, and all his empty promises.” God gives everyone on earth a choice, to freely love and trust God the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and to make our lives a life of charity and service. Often we use words and phrases that betray our baptismal promises, and we don’t realize that they are contrary to Christian vision for life. We use phrases such as, "It's my life"; "I want what feels right for me"; "Follow your heart"; "Just do it"; "I want to be fulfilled"; "It's my choice." We have all used these phrases, but they fly in the face of Christian faith because we are created solely to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord and by this means to enter eternal life. The phrases we should use are, “I want what God wants for me,” “I love what God has in plan for me,” or “I trust that God will carry me through this.”
Mother Teresa said, “Jesus said, ‘I have chosen you. I have called you by name.’ Everyday you have to say, ‘Yes.’ Total surrender. To be where Jesus wants you to be… To accept whatever He gives. And to give whatever it takes, with a big smile. This is the surrender to God. You are free then.”
Dear graduates, I pray that you do not forget that each of you have been purchased at a great price by Jesus. Your life is not your own. God has created each of you with a unique mission that goes beyond your time on earth and into eternity. However long God has asked you to stay here on earth, always ask in prayer, “Lord, what can I do for you today? Whom can I love around me and who needs my help today?” With these simple questions, you are going to do great things for God.