When I was young(er), I was Dustin Hoffman - or at least people thought I was. People would ask me if I was, and sometimes I would even give my autograph. Ironically, I also worked for a lady named Mrs. Robinson, strictly business relationship, of course. Actually, she was Jewish, but “Jesus loves you more than you will know.” I thought of this when I saw that it is the 50th anniversary of the film “The Graduate” with Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft. In the film, Hoffman, a recent college grad, is given non-stop advice on what he should do, what job, what career is the best for him and is constantly asked what he wants to do with his life. He is given advice such as “There's a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?” In the film he falls in love with the daughter of Anne Bancroft, who finds out he is also having an affair with her mother, and well, Hoffman’s entrance into adult life is a complicated mess.
So I think of all the graduates at this time of year. The number one question young people are so often asked is “what do you want to be?” Mostly, that question is meant to get to what type of career or work a young person is going to pursue. Gone are the days when a young person just did what his father and his grandfather did before him. In fact rather than staying at one job your entire career you might just be the butcher and the baker and the candlestick maker. In our culture at 18 or 21 or 22 yrs of age, it can be hard to know what you want to do for the rest of your life.
A better question might be not what do you want to do, but what kind of person do you want to be? The answer to that will determine whatever you do. If you want to be an honest person with integrity, you can’t be a dishonest car salesman or a corrupt politician. So knowing what kind of person you want to be is a prerequisite to determining a career or vocation path. What kind of person you want to be includes your definition of happiness which, in turn, includes your values, beliefs, and principles. After figuring that out, the heart will know where to pursue a career or vocation.
So often people ask, “Why did you become a priest?” After all these years (29 and counting), I can hardly remember. Because I look good in black? There was nothing else really to do? The Eagles didn’t offer me a contract?! I guess when God speaks to your soul, it is hard for the mind to put it into words. “I just knew” seems to be the best way to describe the reason. I knew I wanted to be of service to God and the Church. After that, determining the rest was detail.
But the more important question today is why do you remain a priest? After all, the grandeur of the image of Bing Crosby in “Going My Way” has long since lost its luster. So why stay? Well, it is for the same reason that all of you stay, all of you continue to not excuse yourselves from the Body of Christ. It’s because we are all gripped with the love of Jesus Christ, and he will not let go. “Lord to whom shall we go…?”
So don't badger our recent graduates with “what are you going to do?” or “what career have you chosen?” but rather challenge them to articulate what values are important to them, what principles will guide their decision making and life choices and what kind of person do they want to be?
No one plans on becoming a person like the loveless Mrs. Robinson. That happens when we don't pay attention to the foundation we are building, the choices we are making, and the consequences of our decisions. In the end, we were made for God. That is the ultimate goal; what we do along the way are the details and road maps that get us there.
Pray for our recent graduates that they may discern what is truly the surest path to God for their lives.
Fr. John B.BACK TO LIST