Christ is Alive - Guilford Young College Graduation Mass

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The Christian has as a reference point for their life the teachings of Jesus Christ contained in the Gospels. As we gather tonight for this significant celebration of the Graduation of the Class of 2019 we turn our attention in this Mass to the words of the Lord given in the Gospel chosen for the Mass tonight.

The opening words of the Lord are indeed challenging. The words seem harsh: “If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple.” The word ‘hate’ sticks in our throat. Clearly the Lord is not proposing actual hate of family members. And he is not.

What the Lord is saying here is that not even the sacredness of family loyalty should outweigh our commitment to Him and His teaching. The Lord says that we cannot allow our own self-interest to stand in the way of following the way of life he calls us to.

In life we all need a guide, a mentor, someone to show us the way. In your years of schooling – twelve years in Primary and Secondary - which now come to an end, you have, I am sure, many times been assisted by the wisdom, experience and insights of your teachers. Schooling, in fact, is about being guided, being directed, and being inspired. I am sure that you can say that you owe much to some particular teachers who have been key sources of guidance for you.

You are who you have become because your life has been enriched by people along the way who have inspired you. Tonight is a moment in which you can be aware of this and be grateful for what others have offered you in your journey through schooling.

This is the nature of human life. We all need mentors and guides. They enable us to grow. They often call us beyond the limits of our own perceptions and confidence in what we can achieve. A true guide in life will lift us beyond what we thought was possible.

For the Christian there is one who is the ultimate guide: Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God. He is indeed, “the way, the truth and the life” for us. We orient our lives, our values, our decisions around his example and teaching. Doing this we can be assured that we will not be led astray. He is a sure and trusted friend. 

This year Pope Francis produced a letter to young people, entitled in Latin, Christus Vivit – Christ alive. It was the result of a synod on young people held the previous year, and in it he declared:

Christ is alive! We need to keep reminding ourselves of this, because we can risk seeing Jesus Christ simply as a fine model from the distant past, as a memory, as someone who saved us two thousand years ago. (CV 124)

The Pope reminded young people that the risen Christ wants to engage with each of our lives here and now. He wants to be our constant companion in life. The Pope said that Christ is “the one who fills us with his grace, the one who liberates us, transforms us, heals and consoles us”. He declares Christ is “risen from the dead, filled with supernatural life and energy, and robed in boundless light”. (CV 124)

Allow me to continue quoting Pope Francis as he then says:

Alive, he can be present in your life at every moment, to fill it with light and to take away all sorrow and solitude. Even if all others depart, he will remain, as he promised: “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mt 28:20) He fills your life with his unseen presence; wherever you go, he will be waiting there for you. Because he did not only come in the past, but he comes to you today and every day, inviting you to set out towards ever new horizons.

In this significant moment of transition for your life, as you graduate from Guilford Young College and you prepare to map out your future, I encourage you to take these words to heart. You do not go forward alone. There is One who will always be with you. He will be your trusted guide. He will be your constant companion.

In this letter the Pope urges young people to follow their hopes and dreams. He encourages young people to be engaged with life. He says that we should not “observe life from a balcony”. He adds, “Give yourselves over to the best of life! Open the door of the cage, go out and fly! Please, don’t take early retirement.” (CV 143)

He adds:

Above all, in one way or another, fight for the common good, serve the poor, be protagonists of the revolution of charity and service, capable of resisting the pathologies of consumerism and superficial individualism. (CV 159)

My dear students tonight as we celebrate your life and achievements at Guilford Young College I present you with some final words from Pope Francis:

I hope that you will be serious enough about yourselves to make an effort to grow spiritually. Along with all the other exciting things about youth, there is also the beauty of seeking “righteousness, faith, love and peace.” (2 Tim 2:22) This does not involve losing anything of your spontaneity, boldness, enthusiasm and tenderness.

May the Lord bless you and keep you and may His light shine upon you and give you His peace.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Wednesday 6 November 2019