‘Tis the season of spring … of leafing, of flowering, of hatchlings spreading newly-fledged wings to eagerly, yet nervously, fly the nest … under watchful and anxious eyes of parents fluttering above, squawking: “Careful not to fall; it’s a long way down!” “Watch out for predators!” “Be wary of eating things that bite back!”
“Dude … what’s with your parents?”, squeaks the little chick from a neighboring nest. “They’re always that way,” is the response. “They don’t know crickets from crawdads, and always on our case! We’re grownups now, and they still treat us like hatchlings! After all … we’re weeks old! ” And … the little birds take flight into a harsh and oft unforgiving world, despite the concerned trepidations of their parents.
And thus we complete the season of graduations from both high school and college, and birds inevitably fly the nest. So many things we’d like to tell our graduates and, like the parent birds, also warn them of. But … poverty of time (not to mention space) inevitably results in wisdom and experience unimparted, and we can only hope that good sense has been imbued in their all-too-inadequate development.
For you parents, even the 18-22 years seems much too brief for all that you would impart to your kids. We priests and other ministers, too, watch the young ones grow, and pray for their well-being and success—spiritual success most of all.
Some go off to college, and some to the working world. Whichever they do, remind them of the importance of always learning and always striving—whether in formal education or no. Yes, school and learning can be tiring and mundane, but as Aristotle wrote: “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” (Apothegm), and we read in the book of Sirach: “To a senseless man education is fetters on his feet, and like manacles on his right hand … [but] To a sensible man education is like a golden ornament, and like a bracelet on the right arm.” (Sirach 21:19-21)
Now graduates: I could exhort you to many things, and warn you of even more, as you step out into the world. But all the things I would tell you in one way or other come from the teaching of Jesus Christ—given to us in the scriptures and through the teaching of thousands of years of faith and practice.
God wants only our good, and thus what He teaches is only for our good. Society’s whims change more often than seasons, but Christ and His teaching is an infallible anchor for life. As He IS what is right and good, He leads to true and eternal happiness.
Christians are given a mission: to love God above all, and our fellow men and women as ourselves. To seek the unity of humanity through charity and love in Christ … reflecting the love of God for all Mankind. Christians believe that no matter our apparent success in the world, if we have failed to love God in following His commandments, and/or failed to love our neighbor, we have failed in life. As Jesus assures us: “…a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15), and “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [wealth and materialism].” (Matthew 6:24)
This life is not given us for selfishness and self-absorption, but rather to live in God’s love, and to reflect His love to those around us … to be the salt of the earth and light to the world that Jesus calls us to be. Yes, we have to live in the world, but worldly success, money, fame, and power are secondary at very best, and even dangerously destructive if ill-used; we lose all at death anyway. It is our relationship to Almighty God which lasts forever.
So, my exhortation to you is simply this: follow the way of God with all your heart. That is what is good, and that, and only that, brings to true happiness.
The lure of the things of the world which are not of God is strong … and yet know that in the inevitable difficulties, trials, sorrows and even failures that come your way in life … when you despair and all seems lost … know that God is ready to receive you home. See Luke 15 for details.
As Christ prayed for His disciples, you go forward with the prayers of all who truly love you … your family, your churches and your community. And, as St. Paul exhorts: “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)