“Lions, tigers and bears, oh my!” To all of you who are graduating from middle school to high school, or from high school to college, or from college to graduate school, let me warn you about the lions, tigers and bears that you will encounter as you embark on your new journey.
Graduating from one level to another is definitely an exciting time, but it also comes with a feeling of sadness, and maybe even a feeling of fear, as you say “good-bye” to one chapter of your life and face a future that is unknown.
For the last few years, you’ve been living in “Kansas,” so to speak, surrounded by family, friends, classmates, teachers, etc., who have walked with you every step of the way and who have made you feel loved, appreciated and respected. When you walk down the aisle with all your classmates at your graduation ceremony, all of the people who have been in your life up to this point will flood your mind with positive memories, causing you to be filled with tears of joy and sadness at the same time.
Hold on to all those memories because you will need them as you make the transition from “Kansas” to the “Land of Oz,” or from your old school to a new school. For the last few years, you have been the Leaders of the Pack, the Upper Classmen, the Juniors and the Seniors. But now you will have to start all over as Freshman, living in a whole new world with sophomores, juniors and seniors.
Like Dorothy, who found herself in a strange world, there are going to be days when you will feel lost and all alone. But do not be afraid, because your family and friends who have guarded and protected you throughout your life will always be there to support you. Do not be afraid, because your teachers who offered you wisdom and advice, will always be there to reach out to you. And do not be afraid, because our God who gave you life will always be there to fill you with strength and courage. “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” John 16:32
Like Dorothy who found herself at the crossroads wondering which road to take, you are going to find yourself with many forks in the road, with many paths to take, with many decisions to make. But know this: Deep within you, you have the greatest compass of all, none other than Jesus Christ himself. Do not be afraid, but continue to call upon the power of the Lord to go before you as your light, to stand beside you as your best friend, to walk behind you as your backbone support, and most importantly, to live within you as your Lord and Savior. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5
Like Dorothy, who ran into the Wicked Witch of the West, beware of the evil one in this “Land of Oz,” whom we call Satan or the devil, the one who is going to try and discourage you from going home to the Kingdom of Heaven. “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith. … The God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory through Christ [Jesus] will Himself, restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little. To Him be dominion.” 2 Peter 5:8-10
In the Land of Oz there are going to be many times when you will fill like you are on top of the world. But I can also guarantee you that there will be times when you will feel like the “lion” without courage, like the “tin man” without a heart, and like the “scarecrow” without a brain. But do not be afraid because among you is the Great and Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 12:6
If or when you end up feeling like the “lion” without courage, draw closer to the Lord with the words that St. Paul gave to Timothy: “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self- control.” 2 Timothy 2:7
If or when you end up feeling like the “tin man” without a heart, listen to the voice of God from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel: “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts.” Ezekiel 36-26-27
And if or when you feel like the “scarecrow” without a brain, pray for the wisdom that God gave to Solomon in the Book of Kings when He told Solomon, “I will do as you requested. I give you a new heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you in wisdom.” 1 Kings 3:12
Graduates of 2019, you are definitely going to run into some lions, tigers and bears along the way. But with the courage, the heart and the brains that you have been blessed with, get out there and show the world what you are made of. Let the world know that you are on the Yellow Brick Road of faith, and that no matter how many Wicked Witches of the West you run into, you have our Lord within you who is going to lead you to that rainbow and the Kingdom of Heaven!
Graduates of 2019, congratulations! You have definitely earned your diplomas and degrees and are ready for the next major step in your life: jumping into the world with the rest of the big dogs.
Rev. Vialpando is the priest at St. Marguerite Catholic Church in Tooele.