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Who you are tomorrow depends on how you live today

Archbishop Wenski's homily at baccalaureate Mass for class of 2021

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily at the baccalaureate Mass for the 2021 graduates of Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Miami. Representatives of the high schools — the valedictorian and salutatorian, each school’s recipient of the Archbishop Wenski Catholic Leadership Award, plus their school principals and parents, participated in the Mass, which was celebrated at St. Mary Cathedral May 24, 2021. 

Graduation ceremonies are called “commencements” – they are not just about the end of something; they are about new beginnings, new commencements. And so, at this baccalaureate Mass, we not only give God thanks for the past four years you have spent in high school; but at the same time, we invoke God’s help and guidance for the future that opens before you. This is the second time we are celebrating his “baccalaureate Mass” remotely – with just the participation of some representatives from our high schools. But, as you leave high school behind, we also hope and pray that all of us get to leave behind this pandemic that has disrupted all of our lives. But we also want to thank God that, thanks to the dedication of your parents, your teachers as well as your own determination and resilience, you will soon receive your high school diplomas.

I am sure that many people have told you that with a good education, opportunity will knock at your door. And that is true, but during this pandemic, that knocking you heard at the door was probably the guy from Uber Eats.

Because you are young, most of your life’s journey still lies before you. You leave high school – and many of you will leave home as well — to pursue higher education in different cities. In fact, I would wager a bet that if we added up all the scholarship money awarded to the classes of 2020-21, and then we added up the cost of your four years of tuition, the total amount of the scholarship money would be more than the total of the four years of tuition. Of course, it is not divided evenly among you – but it proves the point that your parents, in sending you to a Catholic high school, made a great investment that in the future will pay great dividends. When somebody says: How can you afford to send a kid to a Catholic high school? I would answer: How can you afford not to?

This year, when we celebrated Catholic Schools Week, the theme was simply: Catholic Schools: Faith, Excellence, Service.

At any rate, one chapter in your life’s story comes to an end and a new one will soon begin. As Americans – even in this time of a global pandemic, social unrest and a troubling economic uncertainty – you have many opportunities to develop your talents and you have been raised with a great sense of generosity, service, and fairness. That is not to deny that there are difficulties: We find in our path activities and mindsets that stifle hope, and there are false pathways that seem to lead to happiness and fulfillment but in fact end only in confusion and fear.

But with four years of Catholic secondary education behind you, our prayer is that these years have helped shape and formed you so that you leave high school committed to walk in the Lord’s footsteps even when your path takes you through twists and turns, through the joys and trials of ordinary life. And being a Catholic Christian simply means that: to commit yourselves to walk in the Lord’s footsteps. With the Holy Spirit to strengthen and guide you along the way, your own lives then become a journey of hope.

Today, the Monday after Pentecost Sunday, the Church observes the feast day of Mary, the Mother of the Church. She stood at the foot of the Cross when Jesus was crucified – and from the cross he entrusted us to her, and her to us. And so, we find her with the disciples when the Holy Spirit came upon them on Pentecost – and she has been with us ever since. She models for us what it means to be a Christian disciple. In her life were exemplified Faith, Excellence and Service, the theme of this year’s Catholic Schools Week.

As we journey through life, we must remember that God is our origin and our destination – and Jesus is our way. Jesus is the Way to God, our ultimate destination; his selfless way of love allows us to find meaning for our lives through whatever career path the future may reveal to us.

As I said on other occasions, other schools may teach the test; in Catholic schools we teach the “yes”. As Mary said “yes” to God at the Annunciation, we too say “yes” to God and his will for our lives. The goal of Catholic education, then, – and what makes Catholic education “good news” – is the development of the whole person. And in pursuing this integral formation which aims to prepare our students for life – both this life and the life to come – we are convinced that all human values find their fulfillment and unity in Christ. It is in Christ that the fullness of truth concerning man is to be found.

You have received an education based on Catholic values – an education that presents a worldview that God matters – and that because God matters, so does the work of his hands, especially that work made in his own image and likeness, the human person.

A solid Catholic education is not just meant to prepare you to make a good living, to do well; a Catholic education is to help you learn the ways of being good and living well.

Our lives are a gift from God, but in a real way our lives are a task entrusted to us by God. We acknowledge the gifts, the many gifts of God’s providence; but at the same time, we must recognize that our lives will be, in great measure, what we make of them.

Life is eternal – but at the same time, we must apply ourselves if we are to reach eternity. Who you are tomorrow depends much on how you live today. Mary, Mother of the God, pray for our graduates! Pray for all of us!

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