On Sunday May 30th the Graduation Mass was celebrated at Clongowes Wood College. Fr. John K. Guiney SJ gave the homily.
Today is surely a time for giving thanks- for what has been for the past 6 years- for the ups and downs, the learnings and unlearnings...This is the journey of education.
Today is a special day and it is good to mark it and share it with you. Thank you for the invitation. The lines from the Wisdom literature in Scripture seem appropriate for this Graduation Day.
For everything there is a season - a time for every matter under heaven…a time to be born and a time to die...a time to meet and a time to part…a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted.” (Eccl.3: 1-2)
A time to give Thanks
Today is surely a time for giving thanks- for what has been for the past 6 years- for the ups and downs, the learnings and unlearnings, the falling outs and falling ins, growing apart and growing together, for the moving beyond self - centeredness in order to see the world, oneself, others and God in a totally different way. This is the journey of education.
It is with this desire to notice, acknowledge and be grateful that we begin our Graduation and Union day. We give thanks today for what has been planted in us for the past six years through the strenuous efforts, patience and sacrifices of so many people in such diverse ways - grandparents, parents, siblings, friends, teachers, administrators, coaches, prefects, spiritual guides, silent heroes and heroines who have touched our lives through chance or providence. It is a thank - you day to all the people who have made us who we are. The wisdom of the Bantu/Kiswahili proverb is indeed apt for each of us - nipo kwa sababu wewe upo – I am because you are. You are a product of the craftsmanship and craftwomanship of a whole community of loving service.
It is indeed an occasion to celebrate. It is indeed fitting to do this on the Church feast of the Blessed Trinity when we celebrate God as family and community working with us and within us; delighting with us in re-fashioning a new humanity in God’s image and likeness.
Be a light
It is also a time to wonder and imagine the future as you move on to the next stage of the journey of life. It is future when life takes on a new rhythm, new challenges, new meaning in a very new context.
In 2010, during the present economic woes, looking towards the future seems risky; for some, just waking each day can be a source of anxiety rather than peace. In the midst of sudden economic change in our world and country, disorientation rather than certainty can be the reality; a sense of powerlessness, anger and depression can be the mood. The temptation can be even stronger now to think only of (me féin) and just take care of oneself. In the midst of the reality of the world into which you graduate I would like to recall to you the life and words of a wonderful hero of our age. He was educated in the university of suffering for 27 years in Robben Island as he struggled against the evil of apartheid in South Africa.
Nelson Mandela spoke not only for himself but for all humanity when he quoted these lines on the day of his inauguration as President of South Africa: “our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that frighten us” (1)
The light of Mandela’s life behind bars lit up the darkness of apartheid and was a beacon which set people on the road to freedom and gave them a sense of meaning and trust in the future.
The inspiration you might draw from Mandela’s words and more especially from his life as you depart Clongowes is this:
Embrace your light - the lights you have received in this school of what it is to be human, free, kind; to be a person of God, to be a person for and with others, a good team person, an upright, honest citizen of this country and planet.
Embrace and live the values planted here - let them shine in service to humanity wherever you are in the next months and years. You can make a difference by living the ordinary in an extraordinary way.
Remember the difference made to your life by people and events over the past years and notice the difference you have made to others in small but significant ways in your social outreach programs with the handicapped, the refugees, the poor in this neighbourhood and in Lesotho, and in your relationships with one another.
Share your gifts with others because you have received a most powerful gift – education, a Jesuit education. Mandela believed and often repeated this saying: Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.
Use the gift of your Jesuit education in loving service with and for others. Do not be afraid to stand up and stand out for what you believe in when it concerns human and Gospel values, honesty, justice and dignity of all, irrespective of colour, class or creed. Stand up for the most vulnerable of God’s children knowing that courage is not the absence of fear but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid but he who conquers that fear.
Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, recognized that each of us is a spark of the divine and when we put our sparks together in the service of others we light a fire. When that fire of love is alight it transforms people and situations. It makes a difference; such a difference that Jesuits continue to believe that to educate people for service is worth a lifetime of labour, whether it is in the slums of Nairobi, the refugee camps of the Congo or in the green fields of Kildare. Mother Teresa of Calcutta in her work with the poorest people and situations in the world spoke of the paradox of this love and service “ I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love” and she went on to remind us that “Jesus said love one another. He didn’t say love the whole world”. That is to say, Christian love is personal, connected and rooted in action and not just a romantic and generalized idea. Those of us who work or have worked in conflict situations know that without loving service there can be no harmony or peace. If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. (Mother Teresa)
Dream your dream
Finally I say to you - dream your dream.
On this Sunday of graduation I invite you to recall your dream for the future because as the old proverb says “a man without a dream perishes”. Dreams can be powerful vehicles for holding and carrying the deepest and most cherished desires of all humanity. In 1963,the great civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, expressed his dream for a racially unified America on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, in the following way:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.
That day, he could never have known that 40 years later a man of similar colour to himself would reach the highest office of the land and become President of the United States of America. Dreams do come true and we can and do change our world through commitment to our deepest desires for humanity. When our dreams and love are put into action, often through much painful perseverance and endurance, miracles do happen. It is not what we do - what profession or job we have- but how we do it - doing ordinary things extraordinarily well – that makes a difference.
For the past six years you have written the Ignatian motto in your copybook – AMDG - Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam- for the greater glory of God. You will no longer do this for your college professor and you need not do it since it is imprinted in your hearts and you can let the spirit of this motto flourish in your lives. Know that all effort/work/labour that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance, is full of grace and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence. It is indeed God’s work. As we depart let us each do whatever we do well, while recognizing that life is indeed pure gift. It is to be shared and the reward for you and for others will be beyond your wildest dreams. AMEN
 Marianne Williamson,(A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles", Harper Collins, 1992. From Chapter 7, Section 3)