I cannot help but think how the readings today sound like a Commencement ceremony. So in my daydreaming, I wondered what speech Jesus might give at the Commencement ceremony here at Creighton University if He were to receive an Honorary Degree. It’s kind of long as far as daily reflections go. But that’s what the Holy Spirit gave me for today. So here it is:
“Fr. Lannon, Creighton administrators, members of the Board of Directors, faculty and staff, parents and families, and especially to you, the Class of 2012, my Peace.
I would like to thank you for this honorary degree, but I’d also like to say, what took you so long? I could have gotten a real one when I was twelve years old. But better late than never.
My words here will be brief, for I have a special transport of a sort waiting for me immediately at the end of this talk. You’ll see. It will be worth sticking around for, believe me.
We are gathered here at something called a Commencement Ceremony. Thus, we celebrate the beginning of your ministry, not the end of mine. So as you leave this place of learning, this place where you get second chances and a sympathetic ear for your troubles, I have some challenges for you, and some words of advice.
Some of the things I will talk about today I have said in the past, in more antiquated ways. I have adapted them to your life and times, here in the Midwestern part of the United States, in the year of Me, 2012. (Smiles and pauses for laughter)
This institution was formed in the ways and mind of one of my most beloved disciples, Ignatius of Loyola. His charisms directed him towards the teaching ministry, in the spirit of the missionary, and as an advocate for the poor and marginalized. So in the past when I said to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature,” what Ignatius took it to mean was to get out there and listen first with the mind and the intellect, then respond freely and generously with the heart. You won’t get very far in this day and age trying to push your beliefs on others. Did I not preach in parables during my time of ministry? Did I not clearly observe those to whom I would speak, noting where their hearts were troubled or otherwise focused, and then use those touchstones as ways to talk about the Kingdom of Heaven in a way that immediately touched their hearts? Good news is not good news unless it is delivered in a way that touches the people where they live, literally. Don’t forget that.
I have also, in the past, spoken of signs that will accompany those who believe, namely, driving out demons, speaking new languages, picking up serpents with one’s hands, drinking deadly things without harm, and laying one’s hands on the sick as a way of healing. Many of you have lost touch with these signs, abandoning them as vestiges of the past with no effect on your world today. I would like to take a few moments to talk about each one, for if you ignore these signs, you miss out on much of what I meant, and much of what Ignatius of Loyola meant, in our ministries.
The driving out of demons, you might think is the most antiquated term of all, truly a thing of the past perpetuated by a group of largely superstitious people. Many people of today, likely many of you sitting out there, do not even believe in demons. Yet, there is evil in this world, and I don’t have to tell you that. You all believe that evil exists, since you see it and hear it every day in some form. So where does this evil come from? Ah, I see the puzzled looks on some of your faces. You believe in evil, but you don’t believe in demons. I’ll try to put this in a way that even people of your generation can understand. I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. All of these are hated by demons. They shriek when they come into contact with them. Especially the Truth. Their immediate and virulent reaction to the Truth -- the hatred and arrogance and inhuman and vile disregard for the sanctity of humanity, is the sign you are looking for. Not everyone has the temperament to drive out demons. These gifts are not given to all. But for those to whom they’ve been given, and that includes some of you sitting here, my challenge is to use the Truth -- not half-truths or contrivances made to make you feel better -- but the real Truth -- to drive out demons wherever you find them. It’s not for the faint of heart.
The speaking of new languages, you have all experienced during your time here. I’m not talking necessarily about the foreign languages you all learn as part of your study, though they are certainly part of this, too. At the beginning of each course, you have learned vocabulary and terminology important to your professions, to say things in a more precise, more profound way. Your discourse with those of your profession has become more powerful. Your challenge is to engage in the discourse, to speak the new language to those who will hear it, especially those who need to hear it. Engage the world as a professional, as a caring and well-trained professional, but don’t forget that your language should be nuanced by the ministry you have undertaken under the watchful eyes of the faculty and staff of this institution, in the spirit of Ignatius of Loyola. To many, the language you speak will be very new yet also very familiar at the same time. They’ll know soon enough that they are in the presence of a master in whatever discipline you have chosen to pursue.
The picking up of serpents, and the drinking of deadly things -- children in the audience, please don’t take this literally. Graduates, in your education, you have learned how to interact with the world, and especially the dangerous elements of it, in a knowledgeable and safe way. This is part of a well-rounded education. There are dangerous, yet powerful machines out there, and technology that can either do miraculous things for -- or horrific things against -- humanity. There are risky places where you must use all of your cunning and skill to avoid harm. But with your training, the risk is worth it. Do not be afraid to go into the dangerous places, those places where your trained hands are needed most, and do what you have been taught to do. For that is where I am needed most. That is where you are needed most.
And finally, the laying on of hands for the healing of the sick. You have here, I know, schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, Pharmacy, Physical Therapy, and Occupational Therapy. For all of you, the results of your efforts are direct. Most of the people with whom you will work will get better, and you will see it happen. Blessed are you!
But how about the rest of you? How about you biologists, you lawyers, you accountants, you musicians, you sociologists, you philosophers, just to name a few. How about all of the rest of you? Never forget that the laying on of hands, which is nothing more than applying your professions in a sacred way, a healing way, is always THE way, to minister to those hearts and souls with whom you have been entrusted. It may mean lower profits, or less prestige, or a few less possessions, but it also means that you are an agent of healing, a Christian trained in the mold of Ignatius of Loyola, and that sets you apart.
So I see my transport is here; this cloud forming above me is no accident. Some good men and women, from among your faculty, staff, students, and administrators, will stay around to answer your questions about some of the things I have spoken about today. They are the ones in the white robes. Wave to everyone. There you go! I encourage you to talk with one another, to be travellers together on your road to Emmaus.
I wish you all my peace, and not so much success in the future, as I wish that you all may continue to grow in heart, mind, and soul to serve your brother and sister in whatever capacity you have been taught here. And to that, I say, farewell.”
Now that’s a Commencement ceremony I would like to see. Maybe I just did.