Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 19, 2016
It is graduation season and the party invitations are flooding the post office. These days, most announcements are a single card with several pictures of the graduate. When I glance at the return address, it raises a mental image of the kid. If the young person is someone who I haven’t seen for a long time, I look to the past…and picture a little girl in her First Communion dress…or a middle school boy sitting in the principal’s office waiting to face the consequences for one of those bad decisions that middle school boys so frequently make. And then I open the envelope and find a beautiful young woman in a prom dress…or a confident young man, maybe sporting a beard…or showing off a “6-pack.”
The transformation never fails to amaze me as my memory of a young child gives way to the present reality of a young adult. The experience also puts me in touch with the harsh reality of time and reminds me of how frail and finite the human body is and how quickly it changes. And then there is the look in the graduate’s eyes, which gets me thinking about the future.
Maybe it’s the skill of the photographer…but I tend to think it’s something unimaginably greater. I think that the look I see in the faces of these young people is the result of the skill of The Creator. The twinkling eyes of the beautiful girl in her prom dress, or the confident smile of the strong young man put me in touch with that part of being human which is infinite. Those graduation cards mark a passage of time, but the pictures offer a glimpse of the timelessness that God has placed within us.
There is a look of eagerness to be “on with it”…to grab on to freedom and begin to explore the world looking for answers to the big questions. The whole idea of graduation is about moving into the future, but not to the exclusion of the past. The picture of the graduate is an image of what the parents, grandparents, family, teachers, pastors, and coaches…together…helped to mold and form. Now, it is up to these young people to begin the work of forming themselves into what they will be for all eternity.
Truthfully, for me anyway, these announcements, if only for a moment, become prayer cards. I look at the individual whose past and future will be celebrated and pray that we have done enough.
I hope and pray that we have been successful in our efforts to form consciences that will withstand the destructive influences of the dark side of our world, guided by, but not burdened by, guilt and fear.
I pray that we have taught them how to engage the world as authentic Christian disciples, who live in, but at the same time, live above the world.
I pray that they will find someone to love, and through that love, experience and develop an increasing hunger for a deeper relationship for The Source of all love.
I pray that they will keep close to the Christian community…and recognize that they are an important part of the Body of Christ, and will do their part to pass on to the next generation what is handed to them…a love and appreciation for our Church and our Sacraments.
And, most of all, I pray that after long and happy lives, they will understand that death is not simply a matter of the body closing down, but rather, is a spiritual act wherein all of the worthy and beautiful and loving strands of their lives are woven into the eternal tapestry of The Sacred Mystery we call our God.
Finally, the exciting beginnings of these young people remind me that, someday, we will all “graduate” from time and into eternity. And when we stand before the Just Judge, we might well be asked: “Who do people say you are?”
If we have lived up to our full potential…if we have not permitted life to fit us small…if we have done our very best to be all that God created us to be…we can respond truthfully…PEOPLE SAY THAT I AM A FOLLOWER OF YOUR SON JESUS CHRIST!…and we will “graduate” with the highest honors.