Grade 12 Baccalaureate Mass Homily
Luke 24: 35-48
Today is your last day as a student of the Ateneo de Manila High School. It is goodbye by tomorrow. You are leaving, and we would love you to leave — not because you are unimportant, but because you are too precious for us to make you stay. You have to go; you are ready. The world awaits you: the world that needs saving; the world that needs you to become better; the world that needs people who can still believe in its goodness. So, we want you to leave for a greater mission.
But before you go, we, who will stay in the high school, need to tell you some things we hope you will enshrine in your heart: REMEMBER, FORGIVE, and CLING TO CHRIST.
In her most influential book, The Human Condition, the German-Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt said that we are in a state of chaos and confusion. Basically, we are insecure of the future because it is always uncertain. We cannot control what will happen. We cannot determine its outcome. We are constantly anxious by what will be. In addition, we are troubled by our past. We have been hurt and wounded and more true than not, our past have determined our lives. But Arendt maintains that there are two factors that keep us at bay. Promises secure the uncertain future and forgiveness undoes the mistakes of the past, allowing us to move on!
So, let us first talk about the past.
In your exit interview, you mentioned three most important experiences. On top of our survey, you said that what you will never forget 1) your retreats, 2) your immersions and Tulong Dunong, and finally, 3) the friendship that has been formed from all the years of being weaned and nurtured in the Ateneo High School.
First, REMEMBER your stories. The Spanish philosopher and essayist, José Ortega y Gasset says that every love affair is a story crying out to be told, so that the rest of us can consider it, possibly learn and grow from it.
During your retreat, you have mentioned some of your individual stories, and these are stories about love, about friendship, about family, about your class, or about anything in between. These stories are crying to be told. So tell those you will meet in the future about Ateneo High School and what it stands for. Tell them about our values. And then illustrate your words with experiences. That way, our values are not just concepts, but a living culture.
But tell your story with greater devotion. With a greater passion. With much intesity. Recount your stories about how you have discovered yourself and God in Ateneo High School. Because what makes us different from others are our stories.
The disciples who are gathered in the Upper Room in the Resurrection accounts like in the Gospel today are in a very similar situation. I can imagine what have transpired in the Upper Room. The disciples who are there have stories to tell. They are talking about all the appearances of Jesus to many of their members: The women who went to the tomb early claimed to have seen angels who told them that Jesus had risen; there are Simon and John who already witnessed the empty tomb. Yesterday, two disciples on the road to Emmaus recognize Jesus at the breaking of the bread, and they have immediately returned in haste to share their stories.
It is the glory of the Christian that he lives in a fellowship of people who have had the same experience as he has had. It has been said that true friendship begins only when people share a common memory and can say to each other, “Do you remember?”
Each of us now belongs to a great community of friends who share a common experience and a common memory of Jesus. Wherever you are, dispersed and in other universities, you will continue to be one because of a common experience.
What makes an Atenean a true Atenean across generations are their common experiences articulated with a common language: the Atenean will understand Magis, AMDG, and Finding God in all Things (Top 3 Ignatian values according to the result of this batch’s Exit Interviews).
The Atenean will have a common prayer and a common song: Everyone will be able to pray the Prayer for Generosity and will sing the battlecry, “Song for Mary.” Carlos Centeno, one of our graduates, shares that he was in tears when you all sang the “Song for Mary” with the marching band during your graduation rehearsals a few days ago.
The second is FORGIVE. Forgiveness is about not allowing the wounds of our past to determine our future actions. Forgiveness is what we offer those who are chained by their wounds. Forgiveness will free you, so that you can face the future with a new lease on life. Some of you have shared during your retreat how your classmates or some other person in your batch has hurt you.
Jesus in the Gospel today showed the disciples the wounds of his hands and his feet. He asked Thomas to put his finger in his side. And Jesus said, “I am he.” Jesus identified himself with his wounds.
So too with us. Our wounds have formed us. It molded our vision of life; it made us more resilient to pain and difficulties; it strengthened our character; and it also made our faith stronger. Even your most hated, therefore, can contribute to your well-being. Just as we identified Jesus by his wounds — especially the nail marks on his hand — our wounds made us what we are.
So, love your enemies, by releasing them from your heart. Be grateful for the challenge they have presented to you, but do not let them determine your life. Do not live on anger or of fear of them. I have a tenet: He who angers you controls you. I do not want these people to influence my life — because they do not matter to me, as much as my authentic friends. The best “revenge” as I say is to be forever happy. Instead of filling yourself with greater regrets (or with any bit of regret), fill you life with enriching experiences and your best friends.
Let us now talk about the future.
Your fears about the future have been very prominent during your retreat. You feared the future because the future is not in your hands. You will not know whether you will still find friends the way you found them here. You will not know whether you will be accepted the way you were accepted here. The world out there is indeed frightening. What will come out of you, or who you will be, we, your teachers, do not know. But we have one more “food” for your carry-on bag that, we believe, might help you navigate your life.
Third, do not let go of Jesus. CLING TO CHRIST more than anything and anyone else in the world. You have Jesus. The risen Lord was no phantom or hallucination. He was not a ghost or a spirit. The Christian faith is not founded on hallucinations or visions of those who are not in their proper mind. The resurrection is an actual historical fact that has been challenged, but the truth has survived them. The Gospel today tells us that Jesus, when he appeared to them, asked for food. This proves that He was never a figment of their imagination.
And thus, we are offering you a security. Despite your parents believing that they can protect you 24/7, that is not true. They can wish that can be with you every single moment of your lives, but that is not true. No one can claim to have this ability, not even us your teachers, no matter how we wish we could. But only God can be with us 24/7 – and this is the truth. You have Jesus who promised to be with us until the end of time. And because of this, our future and destiny acquires a shape, a person.
It is on this promise that Christians face the future without fear. They will take up the cross, because they knew that Jesus is with them until the very end. This is our hope.
You know why I believe in the Resurrection? I believe in the Resurrection, because good things should last. Suffering should not have the last say in our lives. And finally, love is stronger than death. The future is now certain. As Hannah Arendt says, the promise of Jesus makes our vaporous future acquire a shape: In our deepest faith, we confidently know what will last, what will be in the end: Goodness, salvation, hope and love. Above all these, we all know who will last: Jesus.
So three things: 1) Remember your stories. 2) Forgive. 3) Cling on to Christ. Or simply, say this, to begin your future days right: Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, I will remember and I will forgive.