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Homily for Graduation Mass 2018-02-10

Graduation Mass, Fri, 11:30 AM, Feb. 9, 2018 by M Sloboda
Year B 乙年 Is. 44:1-8; Col. 1:15-22; Jn. 10:7-16

Principal, supervisor and teachers, have you noticed something different about this class? Almost every member in the Class of 2018 was born after Jan. 1, 2000. They belong to the 21st Century. It is good to be alive in the 21st Century, especially in HK. Before I offer any spiritual thoughts, let me quote some good news, some vital statistics.

Students, the website of the Census and Statistics Department has the newest Hong Kong Life Tables Half of you young men will live to age 81, [81.24] and 25% to age 90. Half of you young women will see a birthday cake with the number 87 [87.32] on it, and 25% of you will make it to age 95. Hong Kongers live longer than anyone else in the world, even longer than people in Japan. Why? Because Japanese are more likely to be addicted to nicotine. Assuming the Class of 2018 avoids cigarettes, alcohol and junk food, and look both ways before you cross the street, then you will be here for a long, long time. Congratulations! Smile!

Most of you will get married sooner or later and have at least 1 child, hopefully 2 children or maybe even 3 kids. When will you get married? HK has changed, like the USA has changed. Slightly more than 100 years ago in the USA, secondary students graduated at the end of May. Almost every one of them was married by the end of June. [Our Town, by Thornton Wilder] Only 1 or 2 entered university.

Students, when will you see your baby? Only 10 months after you graduate from MFS? Probably not, maybe not until the year 2036. The Life Tables for babies born in 2036 predict a life expectancy of 87 for boys, with a quarter of them reaching age 92; half of your daughters will see age 93, and a quarter will celebrate their 98th birthday. When your children finally enter this world, they will stay here a long, long time, some of them 100 years.

We hear and see bad news every day. Yes, bad things happen. We should not deny the problems around us. No place in this world is perfect, not even HK. Yet there are good things to be said about living in HK in this era. For example, this is such a safe city. In St. Louis, my hometown, only 10 months after I graduated from secondary school, a classmate of mine [Douglas Roberts] was murdered, shot dead by a handgun. Bang! Bang! No place in this world is perfect, not even the USA. We live in the low crime city of Hong Kong, part of the great nation of China. Congratulations! Smile!

Looking at the first reading from the Bible, the people of Israel were not in any mood to smile. It was a time of violence, conflict and insecurity. Yet the Prophet Isaiah urged them to trust in God. God would protect them in an unstable time and place.

In the second reading, the new Christians were well aware that they had previously been living without hope and without God. If they previously thought of God, a distant God, they remembered all the bad things they had done. They felt alienated and separated from God and from other people. Then everything changed. In the new church, they found a place to belong. God the Father had made peace with them through the cross of his Son, Jesus.

In the Gospel, Jesus reassures his disciples that he will be with them. When things get difficult and dangerous, Jesus will not run away. He will guide his sheep to safety.

The Mass booklet uses the prayers for the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In any religion, what people pray is what they believe. Also, a country’s national anthem tells the citizens what values are important. If you want to know what the Catholic Church teaches about anything, the best and quickest way to get an answer is to look at the prayers which we use on that occasion.

I’m holding up the prayer card from the First Friday of each month. At the end of Mass, we have some prayers to the Sacred Heart. I’ll only read the middle section. If you want to read the rest, you can find Prayer to the Sacred Heart online. This is a litany. The lector reads the first phrase, and everyone answers Have Mercy on Us. It was written with sin and guilt in mind, yet you can hear how this litany also gives reassurance and comfort to lonely people:

Heart of Jesus, truly human, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, truly divine, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, still praying for us to the Father, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, like us in all things except sin, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, whose love for humanity is scorned by many, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, my hope in sadness, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, my strength in temptation, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, my protection in danger, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, loving me now despite everything, have mercy on us.

Notice it says “have mercy on us,” not “have mercy on me.” Spirituality can be private, excessively private, just Jesus and myself, but religion includes the church and the wider community. If anyone tells me, “I’m spiritual, but I’m not religious,” I will answer, “I have both spirituality and religion. As a Catholic, I have the best of both, not just one or the other.”

There is also a parallel Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Feel free to go online to compare and contrast those two feasts.

Anglican 聖公會Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa told this story: A man died and went to heaven. When he met Jesus, the Lord showed him the wounds in his hands, feet and side. The man fell down in adoration, and exalted the Son of God, the Savior of the World. Then Jesus said, “Stand up and show me your wounds.” The man looked puzzled and replied, “Wounds? Lord, I don’t have any wounds.” Then it was the turn of Jesus to look puzzled. Jesus asked him, “No wounds? Why not? Wasn’t anything worth fighting for?”

Ladies and Gentlemen, you will all feel on top of the world on your graduation day. Congratulations in advance! Then smile and take some time to relax. Yet not long afterwards, you will go to university, or else start a job. HK is a safe city, but some people do not like us. They laugh at how we live, and laugh louder at what we believe. People get a few injuries and scars as the years pass. No place is perfect, but keep in touch with your classmates. Do not run away if they get into trouble. Also, trust in the love which God has for you. You have hope to enjoy a long, long life. Congratulations, smile, and thank God!

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