Archbishop Banach is the Apostolic Nuncio to Papua New Guinea. These remarks were offered at the missioning ceremony and Holy Mass for graduating students from Divine Word University in Madang on 11 October
THIS MISSIONING CEREMONY has beautiful overtones: it incorporates values coming from Melanesian cultures.
It is a time to thank God for the many blessings showered upon us and to ask for blessings as these young graduates go to their new employment, thus declaring that they are ready to serve their country.
The Catholic Church believes that the education of the young generations should be pro Deo et Patria – for God and country. In this context, I have three wishes to share with the graduates. These wishes are based on the name of the University and so I hope you will remember them throughout your lives.
1. Be alive in the Divine Word. The name of your University comes from the Catholic religious congregation that founded and operates it: the Society of the Divine Word. More properly, “Divine word” can refer to the Scriptures in general or, in particular, to Jesus who, especially in the Gospel of John, is presented as ὁ λόγος – Greek for “the Word”.
What can be more powerful than the Word of God? What other force on this earth or beyond it has the ability to create and transform the world like the initiating, sustaining divine Word? God spoke—and worlds came into being.
When God speaks, the Bible tells us, mountains move, valleys are filled, and highways appear in the desert. Once God calls a thing into being, it exists, it happens. And when God chose to speak a word-made-flesh into human history, Jesus became one with us in the same way he is one with God.
God’s Word is alive, scripture says, and it penetrates our hearts (Hebrews 4:12). This living Word can renew our hearts when they have grown tired of love’s betrayals, and this Word can transform our hearts when they become full of the darkness of our own poor choices.
Hopefully, through your time at Divine Word University, you have taken advantage of the opportunity given in every single moment to get serious about your faith, to say it and believe it and let it go to work in your lives. God’s Word was powerful enough to create worlds, remember: Surely there’s enough power in it to change your heart and mine.
And so, here is my first wish for you and your future. Let the Divine Word continue to reach into your hearts, enlivening them with the desire to share the adventure of Christian faith.
You have the responsibility to admit this active Word into your lives if we haven’t already done so; or to embrace it more deeply and deliberately if you have.
“The Word is near you,” Saint Paul reminds us (Rom 10:8). It’s all around us this morning: in the readings from scripture, in Jesus our word offered to us in the sacrament, in the words-made-flesh of every person here in this gathering. God’s Word is alive in our midst, and it won’t disappoint.
If you invite this transforming force into your lives, every dream God ever had for you will come true. I promise!
2. Be rooted in hope. The Divine Word is the source of our hope. Hope is the virtue of what we are now, that is, men and women of faith and charity, but is also the virtue of what we shall be. Hope is the moving of us toward what we are not yet; toward “what has not yet been revealed” (1 Jn 3:2) It is an openness to our future.
So hope is assured by the love God has accomplished in each one of us, by the Father giving us His Son, by the power and the love of God in the Resurrection of His Son and in the gift of the Holy Spirit who makes His dwelling within us.
In fact, in the Gospel we have just heard Jesus knew at that Last Discourse that his friends would be devastated and disillusioned by his death; that they would be afraid for their future, and that difficulties within their young community would disorient them. But he called them to an adult faith which is marked by courage, hope and generosity.
And that is what this gospel says to you today, as well. Whether you have that first job, acceptance in a graduate program, a position in a big company, or not; whether you are moving to Port Moresby, Brisbane, or returning home for a while as you continue searching for your first job; whether you are excited, confident, scared, or all three; Jesus will remain with you.
Just as He has walked with you during these years, just as He has given you hope when you were overcome with darkness, just as He has been your companion in your successes, your doubts, your friendships and your suffering; He will be with you now in your joys, your separations and your challenges.
Hope is openness to the future. A person who feels he has no love, no hope, that person is without a future, and that person dies. You can see the walking dead today in so many places of society, replete as it is with such pessimism and despair, and with people looking for love and satisfaction in places where they will never find it.
And so, my second wish for you: hope always! Yes, life after Divine Word University will present problems, challenges, sufferings. These are part of every life, but, in the Gospel today, Jesus, the Divine Word, gives the reason for hope.
He loves you and he wants you to remain in his love by living an ordered and principled and moral life; He wants you to be hopeful and joyful, and to love one another as He has loved you. Consequently, if you love like Jesus does, you can be hopeful that in all things you will be merciful, generous, and self-sacrificing. Never give up hope!
3. Be sent into the world. The Divine Word is powerful; it is the reason for hope. The Divine Word also sends you into the world. As Jesus tells his companions, he also tells you that you are his friends; more than disciples, you have become apostles who have been chosen by God to reveal God’s love in the world. And so, like his disciples, you are missioned to go out into the world and bear fruit; that is, you are to actively give witness to the love Jesus has given you.
Where are you to give that witness? The first reading from the Book of Kings, tells the story of the prophet Elijah at a difficult moment in his life. He is looking for dramatic proof of God’s power to save him and to right the wrongs he has experienced.
But God teaches him, as God teaches us over and over again, that God’s presence and strength are not only revealed in times of great upheaval or through dramatic signs or miraculous interventions.
More often, God is present to us in times of quiet, faithful devotion, and even routine of everyday. It is there that you are being sent to make a difference.
As you continue your life’s journey, my third wish is that you remember the legacy which is now yours as you prepare to leave Divine Word University. Your legacy is to remember that with the assistance of your parents and the faculty, your minds and hearts have been awakened to the truth.
Never forget that during your years at Divine Word University, you have been challenged to build God’s city in yourselves and in your world. Throughout your lives, with your hearts afire with love, reach out in service to those in need.
With gratitude and love, never forget the company of friends that you have made during your years here. By supporting each other, as you have done so here, continue your quest for genuine wisdom, with faith and reason to guide you on the path that will gradually unfold.
Finally, be loyal sons and daughters of Divine Word University which has played a significant role in your formation for life.
Jesus was sent by his Father to a world that had forgotten how to love. Your parents, and now members of the Divine Word University, send you into your world, into our world, in our time and place, where so many fail to love as God has loved us.
May you go with confidence that the love of your family and friends and, most importantly the Divine Word, will be with you every step of the way.
You are now sent: in the power of the Divine Word which can transform lives and the world. You are sent: to be beacons of hope that, because of the presence of the Divine Word, will provide sure harbours of order and safety in the darkness of the world. You are sent: into a world that is broken by violence and division so that, in faithfulness to the Divine Word, you can use your wisdom to try to make this world whole again.
You are sent to go and make a difference.