May 28, 2006
Faculty, staff, and administration of Bishop Canevin High School; friends of the graduates; and graduates of the Class of 2006…Class of Champions! Congratulations to you all on this day of celebration. And a special “Well done!” to the graduates.
Today is your commencement – your new beginning. Today is your graduation -- the day you take a big step into your future.
Both words … Commencement and Graduation … imply a journey. Neither actually means conclusion or completion. You are “moving on” -- leaving some things behind, facing new challenges and opportunities. But today your progress on this journey of your life is being celebrated with great joy by all here. Today you are the focus of our attention, of our praise for what you have accomplished, and of our prayers for your emerging future.
It is my honor to have this special opportunity to offer a message you might carry with you on your journey. Although today is about you, my message is a single word: OTHERS. Always think about others as they relate to your life's journey.
First, think about the others who have helped you get to where you are today – those who have been with you and for you, who have challenged and supported you, who have taught you and learned with you. Today's celebration is their celebration, too.
Think about the others who will be with you as you take your next steps – who will work or study with you, who will enter and exit your life as you journey. It is clear to us as humans that we were created to journey with others. In Genesis, God says, “It is not good for man to be alone,” and he formed the first community. Throughout your life, you will be a member of many communities, and the key to living together with others is to seek the common good of all, to look beyond self-interest, and to work for the general conditions which contribute to everyone's growth and advantage. The balance you should seek between self-interest and the common good is found in Jesus' great commandment: “Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.” This commandment leads us to seek social justice and to work for the good of all, especially the poor. Commitment to this moral social agenda brings out our better selves as we engage in kindness, compassion, and service. As you journey from this place, be guided by your understanding of social responsibility which has been part of your education.
One of the value statements you embraced at Bishop Canevin was related to Social Justice: “We foster the need to confront social injustices, and make an effort to build a community that reaches out to those who are less fortunate. We labor beneath the banner – ‘To be a person for others'.”
In seeking social justice and the common good, you will recognize that you cannot stop at the borders of your local or national communities – although these are good starting points. You will recognize that we live in a global society – bound to each other through politics, economics, electronics, and instant communication. Thus, you will find it necessary to expand your efforts toward social justice. You will need to understand those others in the world who seem different and distant from you, whose life experiences are unfamiliar to you. By studying other cultures and other life experiences, you will learn that you have more in common with other people in the world – in your world – than you might have expected. Their good should also be of concern to you, and will be of concern if you try to imagine yourself walking in their shoes, and if you try to see things from their point of view. This can be applied to every relationship on your journey. When you try to understand where others are coming from -- What motivates them? What life experiences are they coming from? What has shaped their thinking? -- you will find that your solutions and choices become clearer. You will incorporate your understanding of others into your decisions, into your leadership style, into your own world-view. Your own value statement about respect, cherished at Bishop Canevin, captures this way of thinking about others: “We acknowledge that all persons, created in the image and likeness of God, are worthy of dignity, respect and reverence… deserving our…protection and care.”
Finding meaning in your life will always involve others. You will find that life is not about ‘me' but about ‘us.' Your greatest joys, deepest sorrows, most noble deeds, greatest challenges, most satisfying achievements, will always be linked to others either directly or indirectly. John Milton reminds us of this in his famous statement: “No man is an island, no man stands alone.” You know this and have responded. Your generation has contributed many hours in volunteer service to others and in supporting causes to help those in need. You have understood that serving others is our mission and that our lives will be judged on how well we fulfill that mission. In your Catholic education, you have studied the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and the Beatitudes. You are well prepared to make this world a better place for all members of God's family.
In summary, my message to you as you continue on your journey is to continue the good work you have begun by caring about and caring for others. In your relationships and focus on others, consider this play on the letters of the word. Think of others with:
The prayer of St. Francis of Assisi will guide you in your relationships with others: “Where there is hatred…sow love. Where there is injury…pardon. Seek to understand and love others…” Know that in giving of yourself to others generously, you will receive abundant blessings, especially the blessing of being God's instrument of peace in your world – a world which desperately needs peacemakers – one relationship at a time, one choice at a time.
Paraphrasing the words of Jesus as He spoke of His mission: “For this were you born into this world: that others may have life and have it more abundantly.” May His example guide you and His grace strengthen you.