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Graduation

The story is told about a man and a donkey who walked to school together every day for eight years. One day, the man was seen walking to school alone. Why? The donkey had graduated.

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In today’s Gospel (Jn. 12, 20-33), Jesus challenges us to graduate from loving one’s life to losing one’s life, from being masters to becoming servants. Sad to say, some people never graduate from their selfish and vain mindsets, and, although they are successful in the eyes of the world, they are failures in the eyes of God.

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“Unless a grain of wheat falls and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” We all still have a lot of “dying” to do—dying to our pride, our selfishness, our ambitions, our impositions, our need to control, and our expectations. The truth of the matter is that we are still so full of ourselves that there is hardly space for God in our lives.

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Do you know why people never graduate to the next level? That’s because they don’t want to leave their comfort zone, or refuse to widen their field of vision. Jesus always challenges us to leave our familiar shores, and dares us to broaden our horizons. It is not easy to be open, to be vulnerable, to be uncomfortable, to be unsure and uncertain, but it is precisely in such moments that something qualitatively new, something truly valuable, can happen in our lives. As somebody once beautifully put it, the better never comes because we cannot let go of that which we think is good enough.

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It’s graduation time again—that time of the year when students are given recognition for their hard work and efforts. It is also that time of the year when some students are confronted with the fact that they did not work hard enough. So it will be, too, at the final graduation in heaven. Some of us will pass, and some of us will fail. There is a final reckoning, a final accounting. If life on earth is often unjust and unfair, we are assured that it will not be so in the final judgment. Having accepted that, we should also not forget that God is just, but He is also merciful and compassionate, and His love is more than what we can imagine and grasp.

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One with you parents, guardians, teachers and all others who helped our batch 2015 graduates. Through your prayers, hard work, patience and assistance, you have helped “produce much fruit.” We can never imagine how much love you have given and how much sacrifice you have done. We join you in thanking God, and we are one with you in your hopes, dreams, aspirations and plans.

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As a country and as a nation, will we ever graduate from corruption, or at least be freed from selfish personalities and politicians? Will we someday soon be freed of the “commissioning mentality” that besets so many of our government services and transactions? Well, elections will be held next year. But let us not count so much on the elections. We have long hoped that something or someone better will come. There must be a better way to politics and government. Beyond personalities, let us open ourselves to change and new ways of doing things. Let us continue to pray for guidance and strength. Yes, may we all graduate from our selfishness and become obedient and hopeful servants.

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I am writing this column in the Holy Land. I find that no trip to the Holy Land is the same as preceding trips. But there is one thing constant: the lesson of the Lake of Galilee and the Dead Sea. Why is the Lake of Galilee alive, and why is the Dead Sea dead? The simple explanation is that the Lake of Galilee takes in water and gives out water, while the Dead Sea takes in water and does not give out water. Sooner or later, we, too, will “die” if we only take and take and do not, or hardly, give.

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Next Sunday is Palm Sunday already. Inviting you to our annual Family Palm Sunday Recollection at the Meralco Theater (8 a.m. to 1 p.m.), sponsored by the Mission Angels.

Admission is free. Let us start the Holy Week right. Let us start to graduate from our comfort zone and give time to really listen to what God is saying to us. “Mercy and Compassion” is our theme for this year’s Palm Sunday recollection.

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Think about this, dear graduates:

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” (e. e. cummings)

“I must work for God’s eyes only, seeking to be a blessing rather than to gain a blessing for myself.”

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A moment with the Lord:

Lord, please help me to graduate from a selfish life to a life that is meaningful and free. Amen.

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TAGS: comfort zone, education, graduation, holy week, Palm Sunday
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