By Father Glenn J. Comandini, STD
The year was 1970. The lyrics of Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water filled the air as we, classmates, were singing from the bleachers of our middle school’s gym, following the reception of our eighth grade diplomas. The eerie verses of the song echoed a foreboding, if not, haunting perspective on the world which awaited us in the next segment of our educational journey. The Vietnam War was very much alive. There was racial tension in the air following the riots two years earlier. All types of rebellions were occurring on college campuses nationwide, with discontent manifest through loud protests, some initiated by walk-outs, others by sitins. And it seemed that with each passing day, the hair on teenage boys was growing longer while tolerance for “the establishment” was measurably shorter.
High school graduation was on the heels of Watergate. It was 1974 and most of us, boys, had to register for the draft though few from my class were called to military service. The tail end of Vietnam was in sight and college was the destination most of us had chosen for the path to follow during the next four years. We sang no hymns. There were speeches by the Principal, the valedictorian and salutatorian, however, many of us do not remember a word of what they said. Most of us were busy passing our yearbooks around, which we had tucked under our disposable caps and gowns, for final entries that we cherish among
our memoirs to this day. After we processed out, we could not wait to hang our tassel, our visible sign of victory, from the rearview mirror of our cars.
College graduation in 1978 was a mass production with names called, followed by graduates receiving empty diplomas, due to the sheer numbers and time restrictions. These would be distributed later in person or, if we could not wait, by mail. It seemed that less work went into the speeches aired that day then had been the case in eighth grade. Parents and siblings filled the bleachers as one at a time, we mounted the temporary stage erected on the football field, which for many of us was the first time we ever saw this area, and received the jackets which would soon house our diplomas. The late ’70′s were a time of care-free days, similar to the Belle-Époque of Paris in the 1890′s. Yes, we were going to hit the pavement running in quest of pursuing our dreams.
So where was God in all this? Proud of the children he created and redeemed through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, God was smiling from above. It’s remarkable that his Son, Jesus, who never had a formal education, never received diplomas, never wore a cap and gown or gave a speech at a commencement exercise would have a greater impact on the world than any other human being. Jesus never identified himself as Messiah, Savior or God. Jesus never preached himself. He preached the
Father and the Father’s Kingdom. He spoke to the Father in prayer. As the God-Man, Jesus offered his sacrifice of the Cross to the Father in atonement for our sins. And his sacrifice was ratified by the Father’s raising his only Son to new life in the Resurrection.
Through this redemptive act, Jesus reconciled the world to the Father. At the same time, he transformed the dream of eternal life and deliverance from evil into a reality for all peoples. As promised before his ascension, Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit, who animates and sustains the Church. It is this Holy Spirit who empowers us to bear witness to the presence of Jesus in a world that all too often looks more fallen than redeemed. As such, the verses of Bridge Over Troubled Water are still appropriate in the uncertain “high alert” climate in which we live. Through the lens of faith, however, we bear the conviction that Jesus is still in control and that no problem is greater than God’s love.
As you hang your tassels from the rearview mirrors, remember that your accomplishments bode well about what we can expect for our world tomorrow. In Jesus’ name, we congratulate you, Class of 2017. Your graduation gives us pause to reflect on the circle of life shared by one and all. In retrospect, graduation past and present, it’s all good.