Congratulations to our Graduates …

Posted on June 15, 2023 by Rev. Pam Reidy under Inspiration, Miles Funeral Home
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Crossing the Threshold

In the last few weeks many people have attended baccalaureate and graduation ceremonies for high schoolers and college grads.  Tuesday, June 6th I had the privilege of speaking to local graduates  at Wachuett Regional High School’s baccalaureate.  As I prepared my remarks I thought about the sacredness of crossing any threshold, but especially stepping into the world when leaving school.  I share my remarks to the Wachusett seniors here, as we at Miles wish the many graduates we know a happy graduation and a bright, happy future. 

Dear graduates, at this moment, you stand on a threshold. As with any gateway you can enter from either side. One portal leads to the past, the other to the future. Each offers distinct grace, the past releasing gratitude, the future unlocking unimagined possibilities. This evening, standing in the middle, you possess the power of the past and the luxury of the future. In this imaginary doorway, we pause to consider the sacred nature of your commencement.

Looking back there were books, tests, and assignments that you delighted in and those that you loathed. There were subjects and teachers you anticipated with dread and others who lit your mind like a bonfire. There are long-forgotten facts, memorized only for a test, and discoveries that continue to shape you academically and personally. Through it all you were given an opportunity not simply to learn, but to acquire wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge that has journeyed through the heart. Wisdom applies knowledge in service to others and seeks all things good.

In addition to academics, your education provided a laboratory for rich lessons in being human. As you cross your threshold, I offer three notable figures, who through knowledge and experience developed wisdom, but to gain wisdom, each had to cross a considerable threshold.

Siddhartha Gautama, later known as the Buddha, was born a royal in Nepal in 564 BCE. His overprotective father shielded him from everything, especially suffering, old age, and death. Stepping over his threshold into the reality from which he was protected, Buddha boldly embraced the cruelties of existence, resulting in a life of compassion, even-mindedness, and loving-kindness. He became a beloved teacher of  “the middle way,” an ethical lifestyle based on moderation and loving kindness.

St Paul, also known as Saul from Tarsus, grew up working with his hands, learning a trade as a tentmaker. He was a devote Jew and a member of the Pharisaic movement. Threatened by the changing face of Judaism, along with other Pharisees, Paul frequently murdered Christians. He  found a way over his threshold, and became one of the most prolific authors of New Testament theology. He is best known for his definition of love…Love is Patient, Love is kind…

Our third notable figure was introduced to me by Maria Harris, one of my favorite college professors. More than 40 years ago I took a theology course with her that began this way: “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, as I look out at you, I think that perhaps now you might be old enough to read Alice in Wonderland.” She then announced that the only textbook for the semester was the 1865 fantasy novel, originally entitled Alice’s Adventures Under Ground. It was written by Reverend Charles Dodgson, using the pseudonym, Lewis Carroll. Who knew it was a theological discourse on the spiritual journey? Not me. O how wise Professor Harris was! She immediately had us hooked! 100% of the class did the reading. I offer Alice of Wonderland as the third notable threshold crosser.

Alice descended a rabbit hole to find a mysterious underground wonderland. She encountered creatures that defy all reasonable expectations. She had incoherent adventures involving a Hatter, a Hare, and the Queen of Hearts.  In a seemingly irrational place, Alice grappled with the question that makes one wise, “Who in the world am I?”

Buddha crossed the threshold of inexperience to learn compassion, Paul crossed the threshold of hatred to find love, and Alice crossed the threshold of preconceived judgment to experience awe. Most importantly, each found their authentic self. In so doing, they became wise. They offer us a pathway to follow, but it requires bravely stepping over our own threshold.

At some point, each stood where you do now, facing the unknown, risking what they had for what could be. Paul was directed by an unexplainable forceful voice and light, Buddha moved to silence under a tree, and Alice was led by a white rabbit. Through the seemingly illogical each found wisdom. So, a word to the wise, the journey may not end up entirely as you have planned. Consider what they have learned: unimagined possibilities can make you wise.

The number of times you have walked through a doorway is too many to calculate. Education, your family, teachers, social relationships, and community support have made you comfortable with passing from place to place. You are about to step into the future. Your best self is waiting for you on the other side.

Over two thousand years ago Buddha taught the Metta, a practice of meditation generating loving-kindness. The idea of Metta is to hold another in your heart, directing goodwill toward them. Buddhists practice the Metta beginning with their soul, expanding the intention of lovingkindness outward. In the spirit of the Buddha with loving-kindness let us bless each other for crossing the threshold….

May you be filled with loving-kindness, May you be well, May you be peaceful and at ease.  And may you be happy.

One last thought, for the rest of your life you will be asking this question “In this mad, crazy world, Who am I?” So that you remain open and ready for the unimagined possibilities, I recommend traveling with a copy of The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland.

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