In the end, these three remain—faith, hope and love-- but the greatest of these is love.
Seniors, these words from First Corinthians 13 will be read at your graduation by the salutatorian of your class, as is our graduation tradition here at JPII. And they seemed appropriate for this morning, the last time I’ll ever get a chance to address you formally, your last Monday morning headmaster talk.
Because when you strip it all down to its core, when you put high school behind you and walk the halls for the last time next Friday in senior walk, when you put aside your AP classes, your friendships, your teachers, your grades, your athletic achievements, your art or your singing or your playing, this time you’ve spent here at JPII--for most of you, these last four years--either stands or falls on whether you’ve become people of faith, people of hope, and people of love.
And by “faith” we don't mean someone who passes out holy cards and goes around quoting scripture all the time. The faith that I hope has grown in your life here at JPII is based first and foremost on a belief in God’s goodness –that he wants the best for you, that he loves you, and that he desires you to seek his will for his life. It’s a faith that believes if we keep the Lord’s commandments, he will keep us, and the key to a happy, full life is one in which we find God’s plan for our life and follow it. St. Augustine is right—Dr. Peper will tell you Augustine is always right—That God made us for his purpose, and that “our hearts are restless until they rest in him.” It is our school’s deepest desire that whatever spark of faith has been ignited here, that you stoke that spark into a flaming fire, to allow God’s grace in you to flourish and grow in whatever you end up doing with your life. Therein lies your future happiness. Therein lies happiness for all of us.
C.S. Lewis has a particularly powerful description of hope.
Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise.
"We do not want to merely "see" beauty--though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words--to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.
"At present we are on the outside... the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the pleasures we see. But all the pages of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Someday, God willing, we shall get "in"... We will put on glory... that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch.(C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory)
People of hope know that there’s more to this life than what we see. I hope that JPII has helped you develop hope for yourself, and hope in others. This life is not all there is, and I think when we live by that conviction, we’re able to appreciate the subtle signs that suggest there is a better world ahead. May you always be convicted of that, even during times of hardship.
“But the greatest of these is love. “
The foundation of everything this school stands for boils down to this simple truth: we are not made to live for ourselves, but for others. The message of the cross, the message of this Easter season, is that when we die to ourselves, when we put others first, when we can get to the point that we can say, as those bill boards around Nashville say, “I am second,” then our lives undergo a true transformation, a true resurrection, and out of that comes great joy. My deepest prayer for you, seniors, is that you can truly love others, and that you build friendships with those who truly love you, so that as Jesus prays for his apostles, your "joy will be complete.”
Seniors, most of you came to JPII as children. Then, you saw indistinctly, as in a mirror. All of you, one day, will see God face to face. In the end, three things remain.
“Seek. Find.” That's been our slogan this year for recruiting purposes. Seniors, keep seeking God and his will for you. If you do, you won’t find God. He’ll find you.
We'll keep you fondly in our prayers.
We'll keep you fondly in our prayers.