Graduation Homily

Homily addressed to the High School Graduates of Saint Alphonsus Catholic School
18 March 2000, 2pm @ The Virgen de la Regla Parish Church, Lapu-lapu City

Dear graduates:

Today, more than anything else, is a day of recollection and reflection. It is a time of looking back and of gazing forward. As you look back you will see how far you have already gone. As you gaze forward, you will realize that there is still so much to go. This day, therefore, is a wonderful moment to appreciate the past and contemplate the future.

About 1,220 days ago, you walked into SACS High School as hopeful and enthusiastic boys and girls, willing to learn and be tested. Today, you will walk out so much more. Many of you started high school without knowing where you were going or where you would end up. For four years you have struggled with getting up early, with sleeping late, with minimal allowance, with meeting deadlines, with peer pressure, with lengthy homeworks, with cramming for exams, with inconsistent grades, with demanding parents, with hard-to-please teachers, with cute crushes who don’t even know you exist, with unwanted pimples, with yearend clearances. For four years you struggled too with getting a life, with developing your own personality, with strengthening your faith, with having a clear direction in life. There might have been a point when you just wanted to quit. But for sure all those struggles you’ve faced also made you stronger and prepared you to face the many obstacles you will encounter in life. So look at yourselves right now. You are not the same person you were four years ago. You have become God-loving, responsible, committed, and focused young people. But more importantly, you have become Alphonsians. Today, you are not only graduates, you are Alphonsian graduates.

We call graduation a day of commencement. And rightly so. I think the word “commencement” beautifully and meaningfully describes the new birthing you are about to experience as graduates. As you begin afresh, I believe this is the message you should take with you – everything you have done in the past and will do in the future will never be as important as living a life that reflects the values instilled in you at Saint Alphonsus Catholic School.

Where will you go from here? What will you do? Who will you become?

As you graduates go from SACS to wherever it is you are headed, to whatever it is you want to do, to whoever you might become —– may you bring some of SACS with you. You each have a responsibility to carry SACS principles and values with you and use them to shape and create your own life. Stay true to yourself and be an authentic Alphonsian.

There is a quote that I keep dear in my heart. “The really important thing is not to simply live, but to live well.” You have learned so much from the school the past four years, but more importantly, it has taught you how to live well. Think back over the past four years. SACS has not only taught you how to survive academically, but it has also taught you how to thank God, how to care for others, how to forgive, how to love, how to give back to the community what it has given to you. That is why you have gained so much. I am sure that each and every one of you will someday be able to look back and remember how your time in SACS strengthened your faith, developed your character, shaped your future, and prepared you to deal with life’s many twists and turns. SACS has given you a strong foundation.

Thank God for this school and its amazing staff.
Thank God for your teachers.
Thank God for your family.
Thank God for your friends.
Thank God for your classmates.
Thank God for the gift that is you.

The Gospel we have just heard talks about what is really important in life. I will tell you right now that what is important in life is not money, power, nor fame. It is not even success. For all these things will but perish. It is not also the score you got on the accounting final that really matters nor your mastery of Starcraft and Brood War. It is not even the valedictorian medal or the Miss Prom award. In the end it does not really count if you’re the hottest varsity player or the coolest vocalist of a rock band or one of the top ten students. So what is really important in life? It is to live for God. It is to make sure that people can see God through you. Ask yourself – in all four years, did I do something worthwhile? And by that I don’t mean winning the chess finals or getting perfect in all math exams. What I mean is – did you comfort a heartbroken classmate, did you try to ease the burdens of your parents, did you say “salamat” to the multicab or tricycle driver, did you listen to your teachers, did you say “hello” to the security guard, did you try to help the school janitor? Not medals, not grades, not popularity, but the ability to respond to a need, to help all those around you, to be nice and caring, to stand up for what is right, to be kind and honest. Even if you have the lowest grade in Filipino and P.E.H.M., or even if you failed all your subjects, but you take every effort to care, to love, to forgive and understand, you graduate with the highest honors.

As I look over the faces of your parents and teachers, I get the impression that their hopes and expectations are similar to mine. They are not really expecting you to graduate as the coolest or the most handsome or the prettiest of the class, they are only hoping that you grow to become learned, responsible, faithful, and mature persons. And I know that each of you has the ability and the willingness to actualize their hopes. I know that each of you has the ability and willingness to make the right choices and act for change. Being a learned, responsible, faithful, and mature person is something you never graduate from. So when you say goodbye to Saint Alphonsus Catholic School, know that you’re not ending your education… you’re just continuing it somewhere else.