The title of my homily for this Mass on the morning of your graduation from St. Mary’s High School is, “Salt and Light.”
If Father John Tizio were preaching this morning, he would obviously have in one hand a salt shaker and in the other hand a flash light.
If Father Bob Wojtek were here, he would have this gospel memorized with ease and read it without looking at the book.
“You are the salt of the earth…. You are the light of the world.”
LISTEN TO THIS GOSPEL: MATTHEW 5: 13-16
“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, there is no way to make it salty again. It has become worthless, so it is thrown out and people trample it under foot.
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead they put it on a lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine before all, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.”
METAPHORS AND IMAGES
The other night at the Awards ceremony in Marian Hall, Mr. Paul Ahern - one of our teachers - described 2 of you with images. One of you was described as a redwood tree. The other of you was described as a shark.
Both are very powerful images.
What are your powers?
How would you describe yourself?
What image would you use?
Swan? Bear? Bulldog? Pug? Satellite? Porsche? Budweiser Clydesdale Horse? Budweiser? Lacrosse stick? iPhone? Guitar? Credit Card? Computer? Bulldozer? Backpack? Book? Suitcase? Medicines? Surgical knife? Grasshopper?
What would be a good image - that describes the real you? … the best you?
Today - in this gospel Jesus is calling us to be salt and light.
Salt and light: both make a difference.
Making a difference is the theme our parish and our school have chosen for last year and again this year - with a slight variation of the wording. Whatever words are used, the hope is that you will go forth from St. Mary’s and make a difference in this world - better that you make a better world.
I was impressed with this year’s distinguished alumni - whom we celebrated, honored and toasted last month. They certainly have made a difference in our world.
Our first reading is from Jeremiah 29: 11-14 - a preacher and prophet - who certainly has made a difference in our world. Our first reading by James Cardillo began by God saying to Jeremiah I have plans for you.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear that, I ask, “Okay, God, but how specific are these plans You have for me?”
In the next 5 years you’ll be asked the same question you heard when you were a little kid, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “What do you want to do with your life?”
And at 100 graduation commencement addresses around our nation, this week, this month, speakers will quote Mary Oliver’s question. I know I did a few years ago when I spoke at this Mass - and then our valedictorian did the same. Mary Oliver in her poem, The Summer Day, asked, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Let me read her poem. It is autobiographical for you as graduates - except today - this rainy today - is certainly not a summer’s day.
THE SUMMER DAY
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
In time, in time I hope, you’ll slowly come up with some basic life choices: mom, dad, husband, wife, accountant, lawyer, research assistant, engineer, doctor, teacher, environmental advocate or scientist, military, diplomats, government employee, etc. etc. etc. I say, “etc., etc., etc.,” because there are jobs out there that you’ll have that don’t even exist yet.
Obviously we priests - and St. Mary’s being a Catholic School - we hope some of you think of becoming religious leaders.
When Pope Francis spoke to a Joint Session of our U.S. Congress on September 24, 2015, year he mentioned 4 United States leaders who made a difference: Abraham Lincoln, Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.
If there is anything I keep hearing about Pope Francis, it’s the saying, “He makes me want to go to church.”
He has certainly made a difference.
So what are your plans, your hopes, for our world? How and where are you going to make a difference?
Your parents want you to be happy, do what you want to do, with the talents you have, get your own place when your finish college, and what have you.
God called Jeremiah - as the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah begins - from the womb - to be his speaker, his mouth piece, his prophet, his voice - to speak words of peace - not disaster as today’s first reading puts it.
I challenge all of you to find your voice - find your passion - find your life message - and proclaim it.
MAKE A FIST
Let me be very specific for a short moment - with a very basic suggestion - that you can use for the rest of your life.
I heard someone say the following in a talk a long time ago and I have been aware of it ever since.
Along with the ending of Mary Oliver’s poem, this might be the only thing you’ll remember from this homily: where to put your mouth when you are face to face with a microphone.
Could everyone make a fist. Could you hold your fist up? Now thumbs up? Next move your thumb finger nail to your lips or your mouth. Thank you. Now holding your fist in the same place - about 2 or 3 fingers from your mouth - lower your thumb - but your fist is in the same place.
For the rest of your life - when you come to a pulpit or a podium to read at Mass - at a wedding or a funeral - that’s how close you are to be to the microphone. When you have to toast your brother or best friend as best man or maid of honor at a wedding and you have a microphone in hand, that’s how close you are to be to the microphone.
For the rest of your life, a lot of people will thank you for letting them here what you are saying.
For the rest of your life, it’s going to bother - like ugggghhhh! - you at weddings and funerals or wherever, when someone is 15 inches or more from the microphone and nobody hears them.
Sorry, but now you know how to use a microphone - use it well.
In today’s second reading - from Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4: 13-19- Rebecca Osborn read Paul saying what we heard in today’s Psalm response - from Psalm 139 - we don’t have to go it alone. We can have God with us - at our side. We can have good people with us.
As Ginny tells young people on every retreat, hang with good people. Find good people for your life.
MOVING TOWARDS A CONCLUSION: HAVING A PLAN
I noticed that two of the biggest world leaders pushed plans on the other yesterday. President Trump gave the Pope a first edition set of the works of Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. - 5 books. The Pope gave our President 3 of his books, Amoris Laetitia, Evangeliium Gaudium and Laudato, Si.
Will all these words make a difference? They are longer than the tweet limit of 140 characters. They can, they could, if the words become flesh - and dwell amongst us.
A person can read one book - be challenged by it - and make big differences in our world. Another person can go into a library or Barnes and Noble - take out or buy 5 books - and do nothing as a result - if they don’t read them - and be challenged by them.
So too our education - Words, Advice, Questions, a homily or a talk on a graduation day. - unless they become us - it’s all water off a ducks back on a rainy day.
So too salt and light - if we don’t use them - we remain tasteless and in the dark.