This past Sunday I was honored to be the commencement speaker at the Alice of Montbar Home Education Association graduation. Congratulations to the 32 high school and 8th grade graduates!
What follows is a large excerpt from my speech. Although they were words addressed to those about to embark on new academic or career pursuits, they are concepts we are all called to ponder throughout our lives.
Yes, graduates, as you sit there and dream of the path the Lord has for you, you will not be able to begin to dream of the wonderful plans He has. This is an exciting time, a time of increased trust in the Lord’s providence, a time of joy as you look with thanksgiving at the work God has already done in your lives, at the fruit your parents’ love has already born.
But during this time of graduation, there is also need for a word of caution. Think for a moment of the most common question you have received during this senior year.
“What are you going to do?”
“Where will you go to school?”
“What will you study?
You’ve undoubtedly answered so many times that your response can become robotic or bored or short. As common as this question is, and as good as it may be to inquire as to another’s future plans, there is a danger.
You see, graduates, who you are is not what you do. Your identity is not whether or not you attend college, which college, receiving how much scholarship money, and what major you have chosen.
Who you are at your core is not determined by your grades, your future salary, your achievements. The core of who you are has simply been given.
A true gift is one that is freely given – not forced – not the thoughts of a four year old who says, “I’ll give you my green M&M if you give me your blue and red ones.” A true gift is given simply in order to love.
And our identity – at its absolute core – is a gift from God. He loved you into existence. He didn’t have to create you. He wanted to create you.
Whether you become a doctor or a janitor, a stay at home mother or a priest, nothing can change the fact that your life is a pure gift from a God who loves.
Walking to receive your diplomas in a few minutes, as monumental as it may be, is not going to change your identity. God has been working in your lives – perhaps in ways that are perceptible, perhaps in ways that are hidden. But He has been working and He will continue to work, to love, to form, to guide.
He has a plan for you – for your vocation, for your learning to love and be loved, for your faith. While your life is a gift from God, and your dignity is based on His goodness and love in creating you, we can also learn a line from Spiderman, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”
Your dignity as a son or daughter of God is revealed to the world in the way in which you interact with others, the way in which you serve, the way in which you love. And as you love and serve, you, in turn, may awaken in others an awareness of their own dignity.
This is, I believe, a strong aspect of the New Evangelization – to witness to a culture that has forgotten the dignity of the human person, that each and every person was loved into existence – created and redeemed and longed for in heaven.