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Father Muench Says...

Seeking a graduation speaker

June 22, 2022

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

It is graduation time again. Each year, I must admit that I do the same thing. I try to imagine what kind of a graduation talk I would give to a high school group or a college graduation ceremony. Yet, I know I am getting a bit old to be chosen for such a challenge. However, I do use this time of year to listen to the graduation talks that are being given, recorded and shared on the internet.

My friend, Msgr. Dennis Duprey, suggested a good one, so I listened to this graduation talk that is shown on YouTube. This talk was given by Dr. Peter Keerft at the graduation ceremony at the Franciscan University. He speaks of finding the real truth in many of the ideas often used in graduation talks.

So, I looked up my column from last year at graduation time. Last year, I began by remembering that I had forgotten most of the talks at my graduations. However, today I remember that truly impressed me. It actually was not a graduation occasion. It was the homily that was given by Msgr. Joseph Bailey on the occasion of the first Mass I celebrated as a priest. In so many ways, this homily started my priesthood with a challenge that set me on the path of as a dedicated priest. I can honestly tell you that this homily continues to have a profound influence on my life as a minister and priest of the Lord.

Each year, I try to decide who would be a good graduation speaker for today’s college graduates. I often chose from the Gospels. This year, as a good graduation speaker I have decided on the Good Samaritan – that actual person from the parable of Jesus. As you remember, the Good Samaritan helped the Jewish man who was set upon by robbers and left bloody and beaten.

I am certain you remember the Lord’s Parable. A man, a Jewish man, was beaten and left by the side of the road. A priest passed on by. A Levite passed by. However, a Samaritan stopped to help him. This was the rather surprising part of the story to those who listened. In those days, the Jews and the Samaritans had nothing to do with each other. They literally had nothing to do with each other. And the prejudice between these two groups was great.

In this parable, the Samaritan stopped and patched up the man’s wounds even though he was a Jew. This Samaritan took the wounded man to an inn where he would receive care, and he took care of the expense himself. Jesus carefully crafted this story to teach the people that such deep-seated hate and prejudice was unacceptable. That is why I think this Good Samaritan would be such an interesting graduation speaker.

He would help us understand why he did what he did. I suspect he would simply begin by saying, “Of course, I was going to help him. Why not? It was the right thing to do.” I believe he would tell those graduates in a very powerful way that you will make your life and your world a better place by acting as he did. “I knew this was exactly the right thing to do.” I can see that he had a message, a spirit for our young graduates to live by.

Have you ever been helped by a Good Samaritan? I can tell you that I have – many times and by people I was truly surprised would take the time to help me. God has sent many Good Samaritans into my life and into my parishes. I continue to offer my gratitude to God for giving me the opportunity to be a Good Samaritan. May there be many Good Samaritans graduating this year.

I pray for these young people as they graduate. I pray that they use well their opportunities to make our world what it should be and find an example in the Good Samaritan.

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