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Homily for Class of 2019 2019-02-19

Mass for Class of 2019, Mon, Feb. 18, 2019, by M Sloboda
Sacred Heart, Is. 6 the spirit of the Lord is upon me; 1 Jn. 1:1-7, which we have touched; Jn. 14:15-21, I will not leave you orphans

Dear supervisor, principal, and teachers: I am confident you will agree with me. We are happy to see the Class of 2019 almost ready tograduate from MFS. We are proud of them.

First the big picture: we live west of the Pacific Ocean, not east of the Pacific. In my country, students in most schools have less academic pressure than in HK, yet the USA is not nearly as safe. At least once a year, an angry student with a gun goes to his school and shoots a dozen people. I don’t suppose any of you students have a gun at home. Neither do your parents. When tourists come to Rosary Church, I tell them, “HK is a great city, one of the best cities in the world. I don’t need an automobile because of the MTR, bus, minibus and an occasional taxi. It’s extremely safe here. You can walk at night and no one will hit you on the back of your head. HK is a wonderful city, if you don’t have to pay rent.” Students, have you thanked God for living in HK?

I also tell visitors from the USA. “No place is perfect. Chinese tend to gamble. Gambling is a big problem here. Russians drink alcohol. Japanese men spend all their money in night clubs, and in the USA, we pull out hand guns and shoot each other.” An American tourist replied “Father, you can go to Las Vegas and do all 4 of those things in 24 hrs.” Students, in case you are curious, I am not planning to visit Las Vegas. Are you?

The bad news is, there are problems everywhere in the world. The good news is, you are part of the solution. Your family, your future place of work, and the wider society will be slightly better because of you. You have more knowledge and more options than your great-grandparents had at age 18.

In the USA 100 years ago, not everyone graduated from secondary school, and only a few percent of secondary grads went to university. Most high schools seniors, or F6 students as we say in HK were already engaged. The big day of graduation was followed less than a month later by the bigger day of marriage. I’m not going to ask anyone to raise a hand, but I suspect almost none of you will be married by July 1. The world has changed in many ways.

Some things have not changed in 2700 years. As we heard in the first reading, people of Zion, another name for Jerusalem, were feeling sad. They felt alone, forgotten, abandoned, and left without anyone to care for them, just like orphans. The prophet Isaiah told them that joy was coming, thanks to the power of God. Today, many people still want more life, a fuller and more satisfying life. In the old days there were not many ways to kill time. Without TV, mobile phones and computer games, when people were lonely, they did not have many options. Today we have a wider range of distractions, yet killing time in the long run does not kill loneliness. We need God, and we need friends. It’s easier to make friends if we are people of truth and loyalty.

In the second reading, St. John shares his happiness. He had seen and heard Jesus, even shaken hands with him. Later he made the connection between the flesh and blood carpenter from Nazareth and the eternal wisdom of the universe, the Word of God. In his old age, St. John summarized his insights and wrote so that his joy, his fullness of life, could be in the hearts of other Christians, and so that their joy could be complete. When we are happy, we want to tell other people; we want to share our good news with them. What about the times when we are not happy? I can’t urge all of you to go to church and pray, since Catholics and other Christians in this hall this morning are in the minority. Let me suggest we can all count our blessings: 2 eyes, 2 ears, 2 arms, 2 legs, more education than most people in the world, and living in a city with a low crime rate. You might also think of someone who has problems and phone or visit them. There’s an old saying, “Sharing doubles our happiness and divides our misery in half.”

In the Gospel, Jesus reassures his disciples that he will not abandon them. He said this at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, on the eve of his suffering and death on Good Friday. After he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, it was finally time for the Holy Spirit to descend upon his followers and fill them with hope and enthusiasm. When we feel lonely, frustrated or abandoned, it’s vital to keep hoping for a brighter future.

For many of you, that brighter future may eventually lead to marriage. In the USA, people still prefer June weddings, and the banquet halls are booked far in advance. More than 20 years ago, a woman made the news. She entered a big restaurant and said “I need 45 tables for my wedding banquet.” She named a day in June, a year and a half in advance. The clerk looked at the calendar and said, “45 tables? No problem! But you must make a substantial, non-refundable down payment.” She replied, “I hear you, non-refundable.” The woman started to write a cheque. The clerk repeated, “This deposit cannot be refunded.” She answered, “I heard you the first time,” and handed the cheque to him. He said, “Ma’am, I have to warn you for the third time, this down payment is non-refundable.” She said, “OK, OK, non-refundable! Here, take the cheque.” He said “Congratulations! What’s the name of the lucky man?” She replied, “I have no idea. Now that I’ve handed the cheque to you, I am highly motivated to find a husband.” Then I flew back to HK, so I don’t know how the story ended. That was before the internet. Maybe she remained highly motivated and found Mr. Right. Or maybe she got desperate and grabbed Mr. Anybody. I hope they are still married.

Class of 2019, don’t imitate that woman. In the future, there will be a sequence for you to follow: find the right person, fall in love, set a wedding date, book a banquet hall, get married, move into an apartment, and then have a baby. That sequence of events is important. A wedding is a day, a marriage is a lifetime. We want people to improve their odds by being well-prepared for marriage. If you know anyone who is thinking about getting married in church, please tell them to contact the church a longtime in advance. The Catholic Church has a course of instructions for people who want the sacrament of matrimony. Every couple needs to spiritual preparation. There is also a spirituality of studying in university, or working on a job. The future is unknown, yet we need to face the future with hope.

Whatever your situation a few years from now, you will need hope. We all need hope. I pray you will be highly motivated, and be men and women of truth and loyalty.

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