HOMILY AT THE GRADUATION MASS
FOR THE STUDENTS OF MERCEDES COLLEGE
Church of the Holy Cross, Goodwood, SA
Friday, 19th October 2018
Theme: “What we are is God’s gift to us; what we become is our gift to God.”
As you know, ever road has street lights. And all of them are automatically lit at sunset and turned off at dawn. This is because of the marvel of electricity, a power that makes so many things possible and enjoyable. However, many years ago people were not so fortunate. They too had street lights, but they were gas lamps and needed to be lit each evening by a lamplighter. He had a long stick with a glowing torch at the end of it. Stretching out he would ignite the gas in the lamp in much the same way that you would light a gas stove, and the lamp would first glow and then steadily brighten till it spread its light all around, thereby enabling children to play long after dark.
More than one hundred years ago, there was a famous British writer named John Ruskin. One night he was seated at a window in his house. Across the valley was a street on a hillside, and the lamplighter was on his daily rounds. John Ruskin could not see the man because it was very dark; but he could see the light that he carried from one lamplight to the other. All he could see was the trail of lights that the lamplighter left behind.
Suddenly an interesting thought crossed the author’s mind. Turning to his friend, who was seated beside him, this is what John Ruskin said, “That lamplighter is a good example of how Christian men and women should live. You may never have seen them, but you know they passed through the world by the trail of lights they left behind.”
I find this observation very apt and thought-provoking. 2000 years ago, Jesus said to all of us: “You are the light of the world. So, let your light shine before others, so that seeing your good works, they will give praise to our Father in heaven.” In other words, each and every one of us is expected to be a lamplighter spreading the light both by our words and our deeds. People may never see us as John Ruskin could not see the lamplighter, but they will know that the world is a better and a happier place because of the kind words and the good deeds done by us.
So, to all the graduates I wish to say just this: Over the past years, you have received a lot through your education in Mercedes College. You certainly have become a lot wiser, competent and confident. You must now serve as a lamplighter for Christ Jesus by your words and your deeds. Each and every one of you can make a very significant difference for the better, if you use your education and your God-given talents to spread happiness wherever you go. Remember what Jesus said: “You are the light of the world. So, let your light shine before others, so that seeing your good works, they will give praise to our Father in heaven.”
For me, this Graduation Mass, like every other is very special and I will tell you why. Over the past six years, it has been my privilege and joy to serve you as your Chaplain, and it has been a unique joy to see you all advance in age, in wisdom and in grace. What has pleased me most is your openness and receptivity to my messages and your grateful appreciation of my encouragement. I certainly do not expect you to remember each and every one of them. But the seeds have been planted by all of us who have been entrusted with your education and formation and will progressively sprout, bloom and blossom in the form of praiseworthy achievements – personal, academic, social and professional. May God crown your efforts with success!
As you launch into the future, may I encourage each and every one of you, in the words of the famous Dr W. Edwards Deming, to commit yourselves to a ceaseless and unwavering pursuit of improvement and excellence in every endeavour. This, in a nutshell, was the message of His Holiness, Pope Francis, to the youth who had gathered at Rio de Janeiro for the celebration of World Youth Day, as well as to the millions of enterprising young people around the world. After all, you are the architects of the future. This is indeed your Good-assigned mission; this is your God-given privilege; this is your God-ordained challenge. And I am fully confident that you will acquit yourselves both commendably and admirably.
My dear students, at the conclusion of this academic year, I wish to join you all in praising and thanking God for the innumerable blessings he has showered on you, your parents and the members of your families.
I praise and thank God for your Principal, the Deputy Principals and the Members of the School Staff for their painstaking efforts and dedicated investment in education and formation.
I praise and thank God for your personal and academic success – big and small – in the course of the past twelve years. And I earnestly pray that you all are richly blessed with success in the near and distant future.
In particular, I hope and pray that each and every one of you strives always to be a shining light, so that the trail of light that you all leave behind will always be one of kind deeds, wise decisions and generous actions.
I wish you all a very happy Christmas and nothing short of the happiest New Year.
In conclusion, I have but one pithy, truly thought-provoking and inspiring motto for you all: “What you are is God’s gift to you; what you become is your gift to God.” Do make it the best gift ever!
May God bless you!