Summary: This is the baccalaureate address I gave to my son’s high school graduating class of 2004.
Baccalaureate Service 05/20/2004
In a few short days, you will be busy doing something you have looked forward to for a long time; no, not graduate, not get out of school, and not leave home. You will be opening up graduation gifts. If you are like most graduates, you will receive many gifts; some monetary, some material, such as things you will need at college, and some intangible gifts such as love, well-wishes and support. You will receive many and various gifts and congratulations and you will probably be overwhelmed. If you are a girl, you will spend hours writing nice thank-you notes. If you’re a guy, your mom will probably spend hours writing nice thank-you notes which you will sign and she will buy the stamps for and mail so as not to be embarrassed by her son’s lack of appreciation or rudimentary social skills.
We all love to get gifts. We do not always like to write thank-yous. The bigger the gift however, the more likely we are to thank the giver. However, the biggest and most important gifts that we have ever received have come from a giver that is largely taken for granted and seldom thanked. These are the gifts we have received from God. And, whether you realize it or not, what you are, what you have accomplished and what you will accomplish in the future is a gift from God.
St Paul tells us in I Corinthians, chapter 12:
"There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served. There are different abilities to perform service, but the same God gives this ability to all for their particular service. The Spirit’s presence is shown in some way in each person for the good of all. The Spirit gives one person a message full of wisdom, while to another person the same Spirit gives a message full of knowledge. One and the same Spirit gives faith to one person, while to another person he gives the power to heal. The Spirit gives one person the power to work miracles; to another, the gift of speaking God’s message; and to yet another, the ability to tell the difference between gifts that come from the Spirit and those that do not. To one person he gives the ability to speak in strange tongues, and to another he gives the ability to interpret what is said. But it is one and the same Spirit who does all this; as he wishes, he gives a different gift to each person." (I Cor. 12: 4-11 Good News Translation)
The central message of this scripture is clearly that God is the giver of our talents, and He has distributed these talents among us in various degrees according to our gifts.
You all have different abilities. You all have different skills. You all have different talents. You know that. Not everyone excels in all things. Everything you have, whether it’s a skill, a talent or even a disability, is a gift from God. God has granted to each one of us, a unique ability to do something; something that no one else can do quite like you. Many of you will use your God-given gifts to succeed. Some of you will use your academic skills to get a degree and a good job. Some of you will use your athletic skills to get through college. Some of you will use your musical talents to enrich your lives. Some of you will put your technical skills to good use. Some of you will use your gift of caring and healing to help others. Some will use your mechanical knowledge to build things. Some of you will serve your country; some will grow our food. Some of you will not use your gifts to the fullest extent. A few of you, though, may hide your gifts as if you are ashamed or afraid to use them. Matt. 25:14-29 tells us the story, or parable, of a master who had 3 servants… (read verses)
Don’t be like the foolish servant who, in the parable of the talents, hid his gift from his master because he was afraid of losing it. You should be like the wise servants and invest it and make it productive. Some day God will want to settle up with you for the talents he has given you. What will you tell him? God gave to each and every one of you a gift and His thank-you would be that you use wisely the gift he has given you; to it’s fullest as if you truly appreciated it. He wants you take what He has given you and multiply it. God does not want you to waste your gifts, hide them or use them in a manner that does not bring satisfaction and glory to its giver. The way you can thank God for this greatest of all graduation gifts is to use your talents for the service of mankind. In other words, simply to make this world a better place for your having been here; make a difference in someone’s life other than your own. Now God isn’t against having success in life. He isn’t against making money or being famous. What he does want, however, is for you to realize that everything you do, everything you achieve is due to the gifts and talents He has given you. He doesn’t want you to write him a personal thank-you note. That isn’t enough; it could never be enough for the magnitude of the gift He has given you. What he does want is for you to show your thanks by loving your neighbor as you love yourself, by hugging a child, by being a friend, by giving to someone in need without expecting something in return, by treating others with respect and by being humble in all you do. Don’t ever ask, “What’s in it for me”? God will take care of you. God doesn’t care how great or successful you are for in God’s eyes we are all equal. What God does care about is how great or successful you can make someone else feel.