This week, the 8th grade students at my school celebrated their graduation. It’s that time of the year, after all. Graduation season is in full effect. First things first, if you are a new graduate, then congratulations! Graduation is not only a celebration of your past efforts paying off, it’s also an opportunity to look forward with hope at the next chapter of your lives.
Most of us, though, aren’t graduating this year. That’s kind of the thing about milestones, if everyone has them all the time, they lose their meaning. That being said, that doesn’t mean we can’t try to reflect a bit on what we have been doing and where we’re going.
In one sense, I am kind of graduating with my students. I am also leaving 8th grade for high school after this summer, having taken a job teaching theology at a local Catholic high school. It’s definitely exciting. Teaching at a deeper level, wrestling with the questions, putting myself in a new environment with new subject matters, there are no shortage of exciting changes coming. At the same time, these last few days have also been full of good byes and all the emotion that comes with leaving a place you’ve grown up(professionally) in and loved.
There is no doubt that the comfort of the known is appealing, but the reason we celebrate graduation, ultimately, is because we recognize that where we are at is, ultimately, the preparation for where we are going next. The known is comfortable, and that’s exactly why it’s dangerous. Growth isn’t comfortable. It’s painful, it’s new, and we don’t really know whether we’ll like it or not. To quote Pope Benedict XVI, though, “You were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” The only path to greatness is through change and growth. So, once again, congratulations on your graduation. Know that there are more to come. It may not always be easy, but it will always be good.
I’ll close it out with the graduation motto for our class of 8th graders this year, taken from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans: We know that all things work for the good of those who love God.