Graduates of 2014, I congratulate all of you for your academic and extracurricular achievements that have brought you to commencement. You have spent less than two decades of your life at home and in school and we are all proud of your many accomplishments, but even more so of the persons each of you has become. Parents, teachers, your friends, and many others have made significant contributions to your special day. Cherish them for providing you with such a foundation. As you move on from this day, your parents and all of us share your happiness, but not without some apprehension as well, especially your parents. They are torn between letting you go and no longer having as much consistent influence over your lives that have marked their early bond with you. The question for them and for you is who will enter your sphere of influence once you leave home. What values are worth living? And where will those values come from? Whom will you value as mentors to guide you as you increasingly make more of your own decisions? Will they be a classmate, a coworker, a professor, a clergyman or clergywoman? And which values will have the power to sustain you in the long run?
My hope is that you will be diligent in seeking out persons whose values will challenge you to look beyond immediate gratification to that which is luminous. We all need the radiant light of a good conscience to guide and sustain our interest and concern for people on the margins who live in desolation. Full of surprises in a little more than a year, Pope Francis has drawn the attention of many in the world today. Shortly after his installation as Bishop of Rome, he broke a number of traditions of the past. It began with his not taking up residence in the Vatican Palace, preferring instead to reside in a modest guest hotel on the grounds. He finds joy in being close to the people. He mingles freely, smiles easily, and travels around Vatican City in a 20 year old Renault with 190,000 miles instead of an expensive limousine. He also broke the Traditional Holy Thursday Ritual by his washing and kissing the feet of twelve teenagers, including two Muslims and two women at a Juvenile Detention Center in Rome instead of in a church.
Who is this man and what drives him? Regardless of your religious beliefs, how do these actions speak to you? He leads by example, a humble man of mercy for a world in need of compassion. Could he be a mentor for those who desire to live joyful lives?
He recognizes that young people are a powerful engine for society. The material things of the world are not sufficient for you. Nonmaterial values that are deeply rooted in the heart of a person are needed more than money, success, power and pleasure to live a dignified and fulfilled life. In your studies and your work, you will be faced with a competitive attitude of consumerism that says what I alone want is most important. It leads to feverish pursuits of frivolous pleasures and a stunted conscience. Whenever the interior life of a person becomes caught up in oneself, we trade the genuine joy of living for a resentful, angry and listless life, we let ourselves be deceived by our own self-absorption. May studies and work never allow you to think that you can only be happy once a thousand conditions are met. Technology, to some extent, can also deceive us by successfully multiplying occasions of pleasure, but technology will not provide us with lasting joy. The danger is that even before we are able to think of all the consequences that the applications of technology have on us, they already affect nature and our lives. Who is capable of restoring our joy?
Perhaps we all need a mentor whom we may have dismissed as beyond our reach. Perhaps it is a voice that we once had heard, but no longer hear. Is there a person who infinitely loves us? Could that person be the God who guides us beyond ourselves and lead us into a life of joy? Pope Francis, though a mentor for many, is a man who himself is mentored. Status is clearly not an idol for him. He seeks God, his mentor, and he searches the Scriptures. Our renewed encounter with God can blossom into an enriching friendship. It can liberate us from our self-absorption. There is a single criterion that Pope Francis uses and it makes him an outstanding mentor. Look at the poor and those living with disabilities around you. They are the divine measure of our decisions and actions in relating to everyone in our world. I would encourage you to develop it as part of good conscience in relating to others in your life. How do we treat the most vulnerable in our society? This is the same criterion that we find in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures: a preferential option for the poor. God is a mentor whom you can always count on. From time to time throughout our lives, we all need a renewed personal encounter with God or at least an openness to letting God encounter us. We become more fully human when we are brought beyond ourselves. It is then that we share in the divine. Lasting joy is the fruit of detachment and simplicity in our lives. My hope is that all of you will accept the path of divine, unconditional love and find joy in being fully human.
Graduates of 2014, my sincere congratulations to all of you and I wish you the blessings of a bright future as you continue to seek the “Values worth Living!”
Incoming search terms:
- catholic values