This past Saturday, our Sarah graduated from James Madison University. If you know our family you know Sarah's cheering section was one of the loudest in the whole stadium. We all felt a special pride and happiness for Sarah. Here she is joyfully acknowledging us after her walk across the stage to receive her diploma.
I have to be honest that I personally experienced some very mixed emotions throughout the weekend. I was so very proud of my little girl. At the same time the fact that she isn't a little girl anymore made me a little sad. As I watched this beautiful, accomplished young woman getting ready to make her mark on the world I felt a little trepidation. Then I would see Sarah's glowing smile and it would warm my heart. Graduation is every bit as much of a beginning as it is an end. As Sarah's time at JMU ends she is beginning her journey out “into the world” to use Jesus’ words from this Sunday’s Gospel.
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely. I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.” John 17:11b-19
As parents experiencing the graduation of a beloved child, we have a little bit of the sense of how Jesus must have felt as He prayed to HIs Father about His spiritual "children". Maria and I have poured our hearts and lives into our children and we hope for nothing but the best for them. We, like Jesus, pray for them continually. At the same time we know from experience that life can be tough. However, because Jesus included us in His prayer I have great hope and expectation for each of our children. In Sarah's case, I know that her love for Jesus will carry her through whatever the "world" brings.
Congratulations Sarah! As you go out into the world, never forget that you will always be my little girl. (And God's, too!)