Prospering in the Next Chapter in Life

2014 Golden Apple

Last Saturday, our local Catholic universities held their commencements and in the coming days, Archbishop Carroll High School and Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School will have their graduation celebrations.  As the word “commencement” suggests, this moment is not an ending, but the beginning of a new chapter in the lives of these young women and men.

In addition to hearty congratulations, as is customary, I would like to offer a few words of advice to our new graduates.  Many of you will continue your schooling – either going on to college or graduate school – while others will now put your education to work and begin your careers.  Either way, as you look to the future, making plans for your life, the counsel I offer is the same.

Much of the world will tell you today that success is measured in material terms – how much you earn and how much you have.  But true success and happiness are not found in accumulating worldly goods or in how much temporal power you have.  Money will not save you in the end.

What is most important in life – you no doubt already know deep down from your personal experiences – is to love and be loved.  “Man cannot live without love,” wrote Saint John Paul II in his first encyclical. “He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it” (Redemptor hominis, 10).

Love – and the fullness of joy that comes with it – is found in what is rightly called the Good News.  It is obtained in forming a relationship with and remaining connected to Jesus.  If you or I or any of us are to flourish and bear fruit, we need to be a part of the living reality that is the love of God in Christ.  That is the true measure of success and I urge you never to accept less.  Always recognize that with the transformative power of God’s love in your heart, you not only can make a difference, you can change the world for the better.

With the celebration of your graduation comes the recognition that we do not proceed through life alone and for that we are grateful.  We give abundant thanks that accompanying you on your journey are your parents and other family members, your teachers and friends, and above all, God.  In a particular way, please join me in expressing gratitude to the following teachers from the Archdiocese of Washington who we honored last Thursday with a 2014 Golden Apple Award:

Each of these educators received a golden apple, pin, certificate and monetary prize in recognition of their exceptional service.  In addition, on behalf of our entire local Church, I say thank you to a wonderful couple, Jack and Rhodora Donahue, and their Donahue Family Foundation for their wide-ranging support of Catholic education here and throughout the country, including establishing the Golden Apple Awards.  They are a testament to the true measure of success, which is found in giving of oneself in love to help others.

Each one of you newly-graduated men and women has your own gifts, talents and abilities.  Jesus calls us to be part of a world of justice, truth, kindness, compassion, wisdom, peace and love – and each of you, in your own way, has something to offer to help make our society better.  Because of your Catholic formation, you bring a vision of life and purpose rooted in the Gospel and enlightened by your faith.  Be prepared to recognize and accept the fact that you can change the world.  Now it becomes your turn.