By Father Gabriel Zeis | Diocesan Episcopal Vicar for Catholic Education
We begin again. I say this because this is what a commencement is all about, a beginning; it is never an end.
And as I look out at the wonderful faces of our many graduates of 2017 I am filled with hope and joy. Hope in that I believe what began for many of them in Baptism, their birth into Jesus Christ, has now matured. That the dignity they embraced, even if it was in the simple seal of the Sacrament, marking them as priest, prophet and servant leader (king), now is coming to fruition through the wonderful gift they have received in a Catholic education.
Saint Paul, the great evangelist and missionary to the gentiles, proclaimed to the Greek community to which he preached, that all knowledge – the very heart of education and all learning – can only take place on the very foundation of Jesus Christ.
The Greeks, who gave us our educational design, believed in the goodness of the human person. They believed that this goodness was revealed in the health of the body and in a virtuous soul. But, as we all are, they were stymied by their failures in both areas, that of body and soul. The body waned in time, no matter how strong one became, time took its toll. And the virtue so desired by the Greeks fell short. Their great heroes never measured up to the expectations of their hopes and desires. They became, in all their great aspirations for learning, disillusioned.
But Paul gave them hope in the proclamation of Jesus Christ, a foundation upon which one can come to eternal life, and the one who can sanctify even the greatest sinner. Upon Jesus Christ we can truly learn, we can truly become all that we need to become. Jesus Christ gives meaning to our lives, a purpose, a plan and great hope. I believe this is what our students learn in our Catholic schools. This is why I, too, have great hope in the future.
But I am also joyful. I am joyful because I have met the graduates and have come to know their openness to Christ, their willingness to seek him more fully as they transition into new ventures, and their willingness to share the significance of Christ in their own lives with others. They are going forth as witnesses of Christ into the world.
What began as a family gathered to celebrate the Baptism of their child has now blossomed into the revelation of what that child has become. There will be more revelations. Christ will manifest himself in and through each of our graduates in many remarkable ways. We come to see just one more sign of this as we celebrate their successes in our many commencement exercises, and send forth Christ’s witnesses out into the world.
God bless the Class of 2017!