My favorite moment of graduation is that moment when the graduate, after receiving the diploma, looks out into the crowd to loved ones with pride and gratitude. In that moment, after years of focus on personal growth and accomplishments, the focus shifts outward to the world. With fresh outlooks and youthful energy, the graduates go forth, each with unique gifts, to change the world.
Fr. William A. Barry, veteran Jesuit spiritual director, speaks of a moment in the spiritual life that occurs after one experiences God’s love and forgiveness and becomes confident in his love. This moment strikes me as being akin to that moment at commencement when the focus shifts outward:
When people actually meet God, when God’s operative in their lives, that’s when transformation occurs in their lives too…they begin opening out to God’s world…and that is a real moment of shift that, all of a sudden, instead of the image being God holding onto me and hugging me…it’s Jesus and me looking at the world together and seeing what he sees.
“Jesus and me looking at the world together.” I love this imagery. I imagine Jesus saying, “Are you in?” This is the vantage point from which faith becomes action, the real moment when “the rubber hits the road.”
Fr. Barry elaborates on the process of going forward from this “moment of shift” in his book, An Invitation to Love:
God invites us to join in the great adventure begun with creation, to cooperate with God in bringing about the kingdom of God in which human beings live in harmony with God, with one another, and with the whole created world. The kingdom of God is not about some heavenly realm outside this world; it’s about this world in which we live. How we live here and now has enormous consequences for all of creation and for God. (7)
The key to bringing about the kingdom of God, Barry says, is love for God and neighbor. When we look out into the world through Jesus’ eyes, we see how God sees each person and all of creation. And, since God is love, what we see is God’s great love for all of humanity and creation. When we come to see through eyes of Love, we interact differently. We understand the great responsibility with which we have been endowed: to bring love to each problem we see in the world today. Like graduates with a fresh outlook, we are each called, with our unique gifts, to go forth and change the world.