Dear fellow students, we are not here today because of our own merits alone. Our being here is an undeserved gift from God. There are hundreds of thousands of other young people in our nation and around the world who, possessing an equal or greater measure of our intellect and virtue, nevertheless are denied this gift of a college education due to economic deprivation.
Dutch scholar Abraham Kuyper writes that we who have been blessed with the opportunity to be full-time students have “received this great favor from our God.” In light of this, Kuyper says, “Woe to you and shame on you if you do not hear God’s holy call in the field of scholarship and do not exult with gratitude and never-ending praise that it pleased God out of free grace to choose you as his instrument for this noble, uplifting, inspiring calling.” If we truly embrace these sobering words, we will enter this school year in a state of profound humility and gratitude, as indeed we ought to do every year. If we consider how great a blessing we are receiving, we will see our education as demanding from us a lifetime of service, for anything less would be to squander God’s gift.
Whom shall we serve? Ours is not the task of changing the world, a charge never given to us by our Savior. We are not called to save humanity or even to love it, for indeed humanity is only an abstract concept. Rather, we must love those with whom we interact daily. St. Theophan the Recluse says that our question “what shall I do with my life?” was already answered when we “expressed the desire to stand at the level of human dignity.” That is to say, what we ought to do is what every human being ought to do, and that is the work right in front of us that needs to be done. St. Theophan writes that we need not think that we must “undertake important and great labors, whether for heaven, or…in order to make one’s contribution to humanity.” Rather, we need only aspire to do “that which presents itself to each one according to the circumstances of his life, and which is demanded by the individual events with which each of us meets. That is all.” What a sweet unburdening is found in these wise words, my friends.
Fellow students, let us endeavor to enter this school year filled with humble gratitude. Let us not fall prey either to the despair that says our work for others is not significant, nor the hubris that says it is world-changing. Rather, let us love and serve all those whom God has placed in our lives, and let us be ever diligent in our studies. Truly, to love well and study diligently is the work that God has seen fit to give us in this blessed season of our life.
Sources: AnotherCity.org, letterstotheexiles.com