Who am I? Where am I going?
Homily preached at the Graduation Mass, June 9th, 2004
By Fr Tony Noble
Graduation Day! How exciting, particularly for our graduating students with all their future before them, and looking so wonderful and beaming on this special day, surrounded by their family and friends. When we were having a rehearsal for this Service yesterday Mrs. Phillips made the point that this was their last day, and she said they will never have to wear a uniform again! And I said, well, you won’t unless you become a policeman, or join the military, or even become a priest!.
Of course this brings us to the future for our eighth graders, and the often asked questions: “What will they become?” “What will they do?” “What will they want to be when they grow up?” As you progress in the next stage of your schooling right through to whenever it is completed, this question will continually confront you. Everyone will want to know what you want to do, or what you want to be when you grow up.
When I was your age I was asked that question and I answered that I wanted to be an Egyptologist. An archeologist who studies ancient Egypt. Now here I am, not an archeologist who goes to Egypt - but a priest! And some people think that’s the same thing. That is, that I am concerned with ancient religion and old structures!
But let me say that being a priest is the most wonderful vocation in the whole world. Because it’s about doing AND it’s about being. And my hope for you is that the vocation and job you eventually find will enable you not only to do something you want to do, but to be the person you want to be. And that’s not going to be easy - because many people want you to do things that you perhaps don’t want to do. Perhaps your parents have already put pressure on you to get a good job so that you can relieve them of the financial burden sooner rather than later!
But the wonderful thing is: right now who knows what you’ll eventually do when you’ve finished college and university, and all that lies before? Along the way to that day when suddenly you are doing something and you have a job, you will encounter career advisers who will advise and tell you what they think you’re good at, what your capabilities are and where you should be directing your thoughts and studies. And also, of course, your teachers and parents.
And the word you will hear a lot from all of these people is the word success. They will want you to be successful in life. They will want you to have a successful career. They will want you to be someone they can be proud of. Your parents, your teachers, even your priest, will always want you to be successful. And that’s because all of us only want the best for you. So we define success in the best way possible: that you will have the best.
Your teachers will set standards to push you, as they have already through All Saints’ School - not because they’re meanies, but because they have faith in you. And by pushing you they hope that you will do your very best. And your parents, too - they will push you. And not just because they have hope in you, but because they love you.
Now sometimes it doesn’t seem our parents love us! They lay down the law, they ground us, they do not let us do what we would like to do. That’s because love is not always the easy way. You may not understand that yet, but one day you will. So even when your parents are mean and nasty it’s because they love you - never forget that.
But there’s something else to it also. More than people having hope, people loving you and being successful. There is something more to education and careers, and all these questions. In fact it underlines all questions about your future. Two questions: What are you here for? And where are you going?
Two very important questions.
All Saints’ School wants you to leave today always prepared to answer those questions. You'll be told to learn things. In your learning always have in the back of your mind those two questions: What am I here for? And where am I going? And as your journey unfolds, these questions will be answered by the decisions you make. If your answer is that you are here merely to be successful, to do well academically, to get a good job, and to be popular (and who doesn’t want to be popular?) - if that’s all your answer is, then we at All Saints’ have failed you. If that is all that life seems to be about – success, popularity, getting a good job –then the education here has failed you.
No, our primary object here must be to give you a religious basis for your life. That is why it’s All Saints’ School and not Pennsylvania Avenue School. Our object here is to give you a religious basis for your life. You may not be Episcopalian, but what we hope is that you will have this religious basis. That is, that somehow in the plan of your life, God is at the heart.
So you have come into this chapel every Wednesday in the hope that you might learn to pray to God and to worship him. But even more importantly, one of the things we come to chapel for is to listen to God.
Many people will say to you, Listen to me. They will say, hear what I am saying! Some of them you must listen to - but you have a choice about listening to God. You can either listen to him, or you can shut your ears. And the weekly chapel service, is about reminding you to always listen to God in your life. So find time to listen to him in church, in Holy Communion, in the scriptures, and in the traditions of the Church, though they may seem bizarre and odd.
You know that each of your classrooms is named after a saint, and we sang that hymn at the beginning: “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God”. We do that because the saints are friends of Jesus. And so this brings me to the second question: Where are you going?
All Saints’ wants you to go with Jesus, like the saints who have followed him. All Saints’ wants you to be with Jesus in your life. And this is equally important as having a religious basis for your life. That you will answer the question, “where are you going” with: “I am going with Jesus.”
Just as you will receive all sorts of advice and directions as students and young people, so there are all sorts of religions and faiths to attract you - some of them traditional, some of them more new, some of them exotic, some of them boring. And I know that even on the best of days going to church can be boring.
But do not lightly abandon the Christian faith. You will be offered all these options, but remember when you think of these happy days here that this was a school based on Jesus Christ and his faith. If I want you as your Rector to know nothing else it is this: that Jesus is the Son of God who came to this world to show us that God loves each one of us. There’ll be many times when you think that people don’t love you or that you’re not particularly lovely – at those times remember one person will always love you as you are, even when you’re not successful: Jesus.
As you leave school today never forget that - because you will need to know God’s love for you for the rest of your lives.