Last weekend, Loyola hosted our Baccalaureate Mass here on campus and our Commencement in the Louisiana Superdome. It was a wonderful time, punctuated by two speeches – the first a homily and the second his address to the graduates – offered by our President Fr. Kevin Wildes, SJ.
Here are some excerpts of those remarks:
From the Mass
This weekend, in this celebration of the Mass, and tomorrow at your commencement, we mark a very significant transition in your life. This is a symbolic weekend when your past and future come together. And, like most human beings in transition, I am sure you are filled with all kinds of emotions: excitement, joy, pride, and some anxiety about your future in our uncertain world. That anxiety is understandable. You have spent a good deal of your life in the classroom but that time is now ending and you are going into a very uncertain world. In some ways, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians may be just what you need to hear today: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.”
Today, we gather here in prayer to celebrate and give thanks. We celebrate your accomplishments and all that you have done. We celebrate the promise that you are and what you will do for all of us in the future. We give thanks to God for having supported you on your journey –with families and friends, and challenged you with faculty, staff and friends at Loyola. Today, your past and future come together. We celebrate all of your work, in the classroom, libraries, practice rooms, trading rooms, and all of your outside work and dedication with clubs, sororities, fraternities, athletic teams. It is a day to remember and celebrate all that you have done. It is also a day to give thanks for all of the help and support you have received—faculty, staff, other students, you families. As Christians we believe that God’s Spirit lives and breathes and moves among us. And so we are thankful to God who has been present to you; gracing your lives, in family, friends, and faculty, staff, and class mates.
Today we not only remember what you have done, with God’s grace and support, but we also celebrate what you will do. Your talents, abilities, and dedication offer hope to a world in need of hope. For we know that your work, study, intellect and talents are not an end in themselves but you have been taught to use them to make the world a better place. In John’s Gospel that we heard today, Jesus says something quite remarkable. He says to his disciples, to us, that we are his friends. Aristotle points out that true friendship can only take place between equals. In that light, this Gospel is truly astounding. God, the one who is Creator, has offered to be a friend to us. And, friendships cannot be forced on to someone else. They have to be freely offered and freely accepted. We can say no to God’s friendship.
But, if we say yes to the friendship God offers us, we can become like the Servant Isaiah speaks about. We can become the servants who carry the Spirit of God into the world; a spirit that seeks justice in the context of love. We become the servants who incarnate a spirit of love and justice that transforms the world; a spirit that is a light to the nations; a spirit that gives sight to those blinded to love; and freedom to those held in captivity by their misplaced loves and their prejudices.
It is this friendship with God that makes us powerful. But we are not made powerful for our own sake but we are made powerful for the betterment of the world. Nelson Mandela caught this beautifully in his first inaugural address:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, or fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking, so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
From the Commencement
As you commence, this time, I ask yourself to always ask three questions.
First, will your intellectual and professional competence lead you to live with genuine compassion? Even when you have gained the knowledge and skills to be a successful scientist, writer, accountant, lawyer, doctor, artist, musician, politician, executive, or whatever your future profession is, do you desire to use your talents to make life better for others? As bright, future leaders of our community, are you ready to help our world overcome ignorance that leads to fracturing our community especially along racial and economic lines? Are you willing to push yourselves, and others, to refuse the limitations we may find and build a better world?
Second, is your personal quest for excellence an end in itself, or a pathway to God? Even when you recognize your talents, do you see them for your private possessions or as gifts from God to be used to make this a better world?
Third, will your decisions be guided by the “Magis”? The magis is the spiritual insight of St. Ignatius Loyola which always asks what more can I do. It is the recognition that we can always improve and do better. It is a challenge for use to transcend our limitations. Too often we dream about a better life and world but we stop short because of reality. We look at a situation and dream of what it could be, but then yes, yes it could be this but…” Les Brown has written that “But” is a dream killer. But is an argument for our limitations. When you argue for your limitations, you get to keep them. The spirit of the Magis calls us to continually improve and to live greater.