The following homily was delivered by School President, Fr. Aristotle Dy, S.J., during the Grade 6 Thanksgiving Mass last 19 March 2015 at the Multi-Purpose Center of Xavier School.
By a happy coincidence, dear graduates, you are marking the completion of Grade School on the Solemnity or Feast of Saint Joseph, patron saint of the whole Church. Because he is the husband of Mary and the dad of Jesus, he is also considered the protector of the Church. It’s a very big role given to him, especially if we consider his life story.
We know that Joseph was asked to take Mary as his wife even if she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit, that he accepted this mission because of a message from God, and that he later took his family to Egypt and back so he could protect them from evil forces. In the Gospel today, we hear about him looking for Jesus when the boy stayed behind at the temple in Jerusalem. He always paid attention to what God was asking from him. He is a quiet hero in the life of Jesus. He is a model especially for all dads to emulate, but it is not only your dads who can learn from St. Joseph.
Joseph was just a simple man, a carpenter who wanted to live a quiet life; he wanted to get married and start a family. He probably didn’t think much of himself despite belonging to the royal line of King David. There was no more royalty in his time. He was a man with simple dreams in life, and yet, when God reveals a bigger dream for him, he sets aside his own ordinary plans so he could rise to the new demands being placed on him.
Isn’t that also where you find yourself? Some of you are getting awards at the ceremonies later, but most of you may think that you are simply going up to high school. You may think it is nothing special, you are just moving on in your studies. Like Joseph, you may have very ordinary plans for yourself.
It is somewhat like Stanley Yelnats. Remember him? As you know, he is the main character of the novel entitled Holes by Louis Sachar. Stanley was wrongly accused of stealing a pair of shoes, and is sent to Camp Greenlake, a juvenile detention facility. The warden of the Camp made all the boys there do only one thing all day. They dug holes that were five by five feet wide, day after day. What a boring life. What a cursed life! Stanley saw himself as someone out of place, cursed because of his great-great grandfather’s failure to fulfill a promise.
You could say Stanley was a loser. He ended up in jail for something he didn’t do, and he spends his days digging holes. But wait, the story is actually about how Stanley becomes good friends with Hector Zeroni, and how they together figured out that the Warden had a special reason for making them all dig holes. The warden was looking for a kind of treasure, and it becomes Stanley’s mission to figure out the connection between the treasure, his ancestor’s curse, and what he could do break the curse and make life better.
In the end, he was a hero for finding the treasure and escaping the camp with Zero.
The two help each other to reach the top of a big mountain, and because Zero is very weak, Stanley carries him up this mountain.
They survive and are able to find the treasure taken from Stan’s ancestor so many years previously. The contents of the treasure suitcase are very valuable. Stan is able to put things right and Hector is reunited with his family.
From an ordinary, unremarkable, even cursed life, Stan Yelnats became a hero for his family and even for others. He and Zero applied their sense of wonder and curiosity to the task of finding the treasure and being liberated from the oppressive camp.
Now, of course, Xavier School is not Camp Greenlake. You don’t spend your days digging holes here, although some of you like doing that in the football field. You are here to feed your minds and your bodies, so that you too can become heroes for your families, your school, your country.
You must never think that you are ordinary and have no great dreams to pursue. Look at Joseph, the ordinary carpenter with a simple plan in life. He listened to God’s dreams for him and became the father of Jesus, our Savior. Consider Stanley Yelnats, the boy who ends up in jail but manages to find a treasure, lift the curse on his family, and liberate himself and others.
You too must be open to what God and life still has in store for you. Your studies will become more difficult in Junior High School, but just think of it as Minecraft or the Rubiks Cube. There is an order in the universe, an order in the way people communicate, an order in the way the human person exists in the world, and you are setting out on a journey of discovering the beauty of the world we live in.
I pray that you work hard, do well, and serve others, for this is the best way to thank God, your parents, and all the people who love you and provide you with everything you need to prosper in this world.
St. Joseph, pray for us.