By NEMS Daily Journal
It’s graduation season, both college and high school, and that means an emphasis not only on what is past but what lies ahead. Many will be the graduation speech that refers to the word “commencement” as the more appropriate way of looking at the milestone.
A graduation isn’t so much an end as a beginning. It provides the opportunity of a clean slate, a whole set of new possibilities, as many commencement speakers will remind students as they enter the next phase of their lives.
These truisms are well-worn, but no less true because of it. There are only a few pivotal points in one’s life – a graduation, a marriage, a new job or career, the birth of a child, a well-planned retirement – where the opportunity exists for a fresh start and a new perspective on things.
Unless, of course, one takes one’s faith seriously and accepts the gifts of grace and forgiveness as they are offered. In that case, each day is a commencement of sorts.
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,” said the Apostle Paul. In the Christian view, this is not a one-time event; it happens over and over again. Each day we are made new by the Holy Spirit, cleansed from sin and given a fresh slate. We “graduate” every day and see before us new horizons and new possibilities. The past does not bind us, whatever its baggage and burdens.
This is a faith that believes that God is active in our personal and corporate lives and that nothing that has happened before should dictate what happens in the present and future.
The Book of Common Prayer’s ordination service contains a prayer that sums up this activity of God through the church as the Body of Christ:
“O god of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were being cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new; and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through all things were made, your son Jesus Christ our Lord…”
At the heart of the Christian life and faith is the idea – the secure knowledge – that the opportunities for new beginnings are limitless, that the failures of yesterday don’t dictate the state of our souls today. This is the central reality of human existence: the enfolding love of God that, in forgiving the one who seeks it, wipes the slate clean.
In a merit-based world where we are judged by our performance on so many levels, this is both hard for us to believe and a source of unremitting joy when it is embraced. We don’t deserve it, we can do nothing to earn it, but we stand as its beneficiaries nevertheless. That is the essence of the gospel, the good news.
In effect, every day is a graduation, a commencement, a new beginning – by the grace and love of God.