8th Grade Graduation

     In addition to celebrating your graduation, today I’m also celebrating my 3-year anniversary as a priest. Sadly, much of my ordination remains a blur from which I remember very little. Beyond recalling fighting with every ounce of my being to keep from fainting during the Archbishop’s homily, my most vivid memory is walking into the cathedral at the start of the Mass and being deeply moved by the mosaics. I had been there hundreds of times before and in the year and a half I was assigned there as a MC I had watched people from all over the world stop in their tracks mesmerized by its beauty, but there was something about the seeing the light glisten off the mosaics that made me feel like I had left his world and entered, if only for a moment, into heaven.

     While we often take them for granted, those mosaics were a true labor of love. Starting in 1914 artists cut 41.5 million pieces of glass and shaded them into over 7,000 colors. Then they climbed up 200 feet of scaffolding before laying on their back and placing the glass into wet plaster. Lastly, they tapped each piece ever so slightly off center, so the light would glisten off it. When the artists finished the last mosaics in 1988 they had formed 83,000 square feet or nearly 4 miles of mosaics. Yet it wasn’t until they took the scaffolding down that the true beauty of those mosaics shone through.

     Graduates, I dare say your education here at Queen of All Saints has been similar to the creation of those mosaics in our cathedral. For the past 8 years scaffolding has been erected around you while you, your parents and teachers, have worked hard to form you into the person God created you to be. While it wasn’t always easy and certainly required time and patience, today as we pull away the scaffolding we celebrate the success that hard work and patience has brought.

     Like those mosaics you have been given the foundation to reflect God’s beauty into a world so in need of seeing the true peace, joy and love that comes from following Christ, but ultimately, the long-term success of your time here at Queen of All Saints is up to you. Over the next 4 years, of high school your parents, teachers, and coaches will set a high standard for you and push you harder than you have ever been pushed before because they want you to be successful. It will be for you to define what success is, but if you leave here seeking only to do well academically so that you can get into a good college, which will lead to a great job making you popular, we have failed you. All of us want you to be successful and we know that success is nothing more than becoming who God created you to be.

     Just as those artists who labored for years creating images one small piece of glass at a time had to keep the big picture in mind, as our school labored to form you into the person you have become we also kept the big picture of forming the next generation of saints in mind. Anything short of sainthood is failure because “all arithmetic and writing are useless if they (students) don’t know the purpose of their lives and if this knowledge does not produce freedom, serenity and goodness.”[1]

     This call to holiness is the whole purpose of your education. You see as Catholic we profess that Jesus is both fully God and fully man. He is the fullness of humanity revealing the fullness of divinity. While none of us claims to be God, all of us are human, so if we want to become holy, to become like God (the best definition of holiness I know) we need to strive to be as authentically human as we possibly can. After all anything that helps us become more perfectly human makes us more like God, who in the person of Jesus is both perfectly human and perfectly divine. So, in learning theology, math, history, the sciences, fine arts, athletics and extracurriculars we become more perfectly human in so doing we become more like God; we grow in holiness.

     The example of Jesus teaches us that to be fully human requires us to hand over our life by serving others “for whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”[2] The education you have been given is like the talents in today’s Gospel. Jesus wants to take the education He gave you here and allow it to accrue interest so that you can share it with those who are less fortunate. For, in sharing the talents God has blessed you with, you can help others become more human, thus leading them to greater holiness and in giving we so often receive more than we can give and thus become more human, leading us to greater holiness.

     Graduates, the measure of the success of your Queen of All Saints education is the measure to which you share it with those who never had the opportunity to attend our school. Your education enables you to give something to someone else and in so doing you truly own your education. So then as we pull down the scaffolding which has helped form you for the past 8 years we are mindful that “gratitude should be our first response for all of the blessing in our lives. Our second should be to live a life worthy of the blessings we have received.”[3] As we gather here one last time as the class of 2018 we give thanks to almighty God for our parents and teachers who have sacrificed so much to get you to this point. Personally, I can think of no better thank you, that you could give them then to be able to point to them when we are all gathered together again in heaven at the end of time and say, “you helped form me into a saint.” The greatest return on this investment you have been given is to continue to develop it over the next 4 years of high school and then find a way to make a return on that talent, so that your life may culminate with Jesus saying to you “come share your masters joy.”[4]

[1] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011. Pg 27.

[2] Mt 16:25

[3] Matthew Kelly. Resisting Happiness. Erlanger: Beacon Publishing. (2016) Pg. 184.

[4] Mt 25:21

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