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home : bishop : columns

6/9/2016 9:00:00 AM
Graduation time

The lyrics of a song, popular about 50 years ago, described a romantic relationship as "step by step, I fell in love with you." The first step was "a sweet hello" and, like the progression of grammar school grades, it all led up to the seventh ("I took a chance") and then the final step: "true romance."

"Graduation" comes from the Latin word for "step." It is -- or should be -- part of the step-by-step educational process of achieving...what? Excellence, good grades, a diploma, a promotion to "the next step?" What exactly is the goal of an education?

C.S. Lewis suggests that the aim of education is to fall in love with the truth, named in the Gospel of John as "knowledge of the one [God] has sent" -- but, as Lewis also observes, that is a gift from heaven, an "acquired taste."

A true romance with truth can only be "step by step," and it never ends with a graduation to "the next step." The last step is always the next first step, as any grammar school student transitioning into high school or any high graduate starting college soon learns.

It would be wonderful if, after the first "sweet hello," every seeker after truth found "true romance," but the steps don't follow as neatly as the rhythm of the song.

The "romance" is actually God's courtship of those who have tasted the tidbits of truth along their academic way. The extent to which they have been attracted to the truth -- their awards, degrees, diplomas and medals -- is really the extent to which God has "romanced" them. They do not so much absorb truth as truth absorbs them.

The philosopher St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) once wrote, "who seeks the truth seeks God, whether they know it or not." The word "education" means to "draw forth." Since we are all made in the image and likeness of God, that truth of God's life reflected in us can only be drawn out of us as we direct our attention to the source of all that is, and all that grounds the creation of which we are a part.

The study of math, science, language arts, human history and development are all reflections and variations on the ongoing love of this good and ever-creating God.

Meeting up with truth is a progressive "step by step" relationship, rather like faith itself, with its very personal source. It's a marriage of our muddled minds with God's pure, unconditional love -- which, as the foundation of all that is, is rightly called "truth." It's the marriage promised at the fulfillment, when God will make a bonfire out of the spark of the light begotten of light that is already seeded in the searcher at his or her creation.

But, like every marriage, every commitment, every friendship, it's also a struggle.

As the season turns and another time of spring growth advances to summer and harvest, every one of us graduates, in a way. Our next "step" is always a struggle with the sacred summons of the Savior who, as life, is the way to truth and the one, dependable, true way.

For those who mark this year as your "stepping stone," your next "step" on the way toward truth, remember that a "true romance" doesn't end on graduation day or at the prom. Neither does the courtship you have experienced with truth end when the last strains of "Pomp and Circumstance" subside.

It is not for the pomp and circumstance of a single day that the "sweet hello" was sounded. It was for the wedding march, the lifelong process, the procession that you committed to when you began your education, and that you will never find finished until truth takes hold of you and carries you into the kingdom you are now called to build with Him.

It's a trek; it's a struggle. But, then again, lest we forget, the truth showed His face on the cross. Graduate, then: Take the next step, difficult and challenging though it may be, remembering that truth Himself showed His face in struggle. Acquire the taste for God and never lose it. This is your next step into the realm of the truth who sets you free.

(Follow the Bishop at www.facebook.com/AlbanyBishopEd and on Twitter @AlbBishopEd.)

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