Graduation, which is the ending ceremony, is also called commencement. Commence means to begin, and so the graduates are celebrated as those beginning their new lives.
One might think that one makes the Spiritual Exercises in such a way that there ought to be an ending ceremony and a commencement or graduation. Baptism is our beginning and our resurrection is the eternal ongoing fulfillment of that life. It never ends, and so too with the exercise of our spirits. No person who has begun the Spiritual Exercises can say that they “have made” them. We have been concentrating on our beginnings and the work of the Holy Spirit never ends. The working of the Evil Spirit never ends. The workings of our own fallen selves never end.
We are similar to a garden whose weeds seem to multiply the more we pick them. Our spiritual weeds have always been there — “some enemy hath done this.” What has been going on during this retreat is a process of becoming aware and not discouraged or negative about those weeds of which we have become aware.
We are commencing, then, to let God continue to attract us to the ways of Jesus. We will always have our own ways, which may dissect and contradict his ways. We have watched him walk our ways and have heard his call to insult the ways of this world and our cultures of violence, greed, and power. We have admitted that we live in a tension between God’s call and the many other calls that are so attractive. We have prayed that God would take our gifts of liberty, memory, and will. We have become aware that we will slowly, and maybe not so slowly, want to find ways to take those gifts back. This is not a cause to be frustrated or feel hypocritical. We are loved by being created, loved by being called, loved in being saved, and loved by being on pilgrimage.
We are those who believe that keeping on keeping on, is what God loves us into doing. Will any graduate live what she or he hears during the graduation speeches or even all that he or she has learned? We walk off the stage of this retreat knowing we will return to find out where we have gone and to hear his call again to be the beloved of God.