Having been a student for 27 of the 32 years I have lived on this earth, I feel right at home at graduation ceremonies. With 10 brothers and sisters, 3 graduate degrees and some years teaching added in, I have sat through more graduation ceremonies than I can count. While I have listened to some good graduation addresses and some not so good, I honestly cannot remember exactly what has been said at any of those ceremonies, or even what I have said at some of the ceremonies I have spoken at. Yet, if I were to follow the general outline of nearly every graduation ceremony, I am supposed to tell you that all of your hard work will pay off and all of your dreams will come true. However, I will not say that, because if that were really true, I wouldn’t be here with you this afternoon. Honestly, I don’t know where I would be, but I can assure you it would not be here celebrating Mass. While our dreams may seem exciting, I am truly grateful that all my dreams did not come true. In fact, I think we spend so much time asking ourselves what we want to do with our lives that we fail to realize our true fulfillment only comes when we discover what God wants us to do with our lives.
Looking out at our graduates I am reminded of my own high school graduation 13 years ago when I was preparing to enter the seminary with a plan to leave after two years. Yes, you heard that right, I was planning my exit from the seminary before ever starting. The truth is I never wanted to be a priest, but I couldn’t get the idea of being a priest out of my head, so I made a deal with God that I would give him two years in the seminary and then He would make all of my dreams come true when I left. Yet, once I entered the seminary and began spending serious time in a prayer my heart began to recognize how much God loved me and then it all began to click. I recognized that the God who created me, knows me better than I know myself and He created me for a purpose. Since God loves me, He always wants what is best for me and so ultimately, I would only find that fulfillment by following His path for me. Friends, don’t waste your time asking what you want to be, rather ask who did God create you to be.
When we recognize that God has a plan for our lives, we begin to see that our education is about something far greater than ourselves. The formation you received here was a gift given to you, which is intended to be used for the good of others. In fact, I dare say that the measure of the success of your education is the measure to which you share it with the people who never had the privilege of the education you had. For your education enables you to serve others and in so doing you truly own your education.
When we look at the Gospels we see that Jesus lived His life to give it away. In fact, while all of us come into this world to live, Jesus was the one person who came into this world to die. To be a Christian, a true follower of Jesus, we must hand over our lives through service to others. For “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” So then, “the purpose of our time in college is to love the Lord more deeply and to develop the skills to serve Him more effectively.” After all Jesus clearly teaches us in today’s gospel that “whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” So if we want to find our lives we have to lay down our own thoughts, feels, and desires, we have to lose our own dreams and follow the path God has laid out for us.
In the coming years, God will provide you with the opportunity to grow into the person He has created you to be. But in doing so you can never lose sight of where you came from what you learned here and those who have sacrificed so much to lead you to this point in your life. The next few years will afford you with the opportunity to reach further than you ever have before and will set the course of your lives. From this point on, in everything you do, it will be up to you to decide how you are going to live.
Wherever life takes you, never forget that God loves you unconditionally. No matter what we do or how far we stray He offers us His love, if only we are willing to accept it. So never be afraid to turn back to God, to our Catholic faith and to your JP II family to help you reset when you find yourself following your own dream instead of God’s dream for you.
So today, I won’t tell you the lie that all of your dreams will come true, but rather I’m here to remind you that God has an infinitely better plan for you. So, don’t chase your dreams, but rather go out and discover God’s dream for you and when you discover them, live them to the fullest for others.
 Mt 16:25
 Aurora Griffin. How I Stayed Catholic At Harvard. San Francisco: Ignatius Press (2016).
 Mt 10:39