The Christ-like Silliman Graduate

The Christ-like Silliman Graduate

The Christ-like Silliman Graduate
by Dr. Jeaneth Harris-Faller
Delievered during the Baccalaureate Service on March 19, 2017 at the Silliman University Church

Scripture Text: Luke 2:52, John 14:6 

Members of the Board of Trustees, President Ben S. Malayang III, different heads and members of this community of learners, members of Silliman Church, parents, relatives and significant others of our graduates, graduates good morning. In 1990, 1999 and 2001 I was seated in one of those pews thankful to God that I was able to make it. And in all those three instances that I attended a baccalaureate service I cannot forget the feeling of joy and excitement. Do you feel that today dear graduates? However, you know that sometimes when we are happy and excited we have the tendency to forget the essence of the occasion or service like this. It is my hope that in the midst of your excitement you will at least remember something when you look back at this Baccalaureate Service.

As you are now seated there, look back quickly at those years till you were able to finish your course. What were the struggles and sacrifices you went through to finish? Who were with you in your journey as a student? In all those years of your studies, what is the most significant change you have seen in yourself? In all these did you grow in wisdom, in stature and in favor with God and people?

The text that was read to us is about an instance when Jesus was growing up. It tells us that when Jesus was twelve years old, his parents together with him went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. It was that after three days of searching that they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were so amazed including his parents because of his understanding and answers. And the last verse of the text says “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”
I chose this text because it talks about growing, and not simply growing in intellect or knowledge but about growing holistically. Awhile ago I asked you what is the most significant change you have seen in yourself in the last years that you were here in Silliman?

The vision of Silliman says: Silliman University is a leading Christian institution committed to total human development for the well-being of society and environment. It is Silliman University’s goal to provide opportunities for growth and achieve excellence in every dimension of the University life in order to strengthen character, competence and faith. Jesus is our model of growth and as you are about to leave the halls of Silliman it is important to reflect and examine what Silliman has contributed to your growth as a person. The world you will be going into is a world filled with problems. If you were so well provided and protected in the campus somewhere out there would be different, but what assurance will you be holding onto? You might say it’s the knowledge you have gained. And so I ask: Do this knowledge made you grow in your faith in and wisdom? Do this knowledge shape the character you now possess? Are these growth modeled after Jesus? How did Jesus who is the way the truth and the life grow? The Scripture says: Jesus grew physically, spiritually and mentally. It means that Jesus went through total development. It means also that Jesus grew holistically. The way Jesus grew is the way we must grow.
First Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life grew in wisdom. My dear graduates, you know that wisdom is different from knowledge. Wisdom is applied knowledge. But before you can acquire wisdom, you must have knowledge. So as Jesus developed in knowledge, He also developed in wisdom. To advance in wisdom is to grow intellectually or mentally. According to Webster Dictionary (And I quote)”Wisdom is the quality of being wise; the power of judging rightly and following the soundest course of action, based on knowledge, experience, understanding.”

Perspective “Wisdom is the ability to use our experiences and the knowledge we have gained to make right decisions and perform the right actions. Hence when you are wise you also become competent person. So I would like to equate this growth in wisdom to the so called expected outcome of a Silliman University graduate, which is competence. Competence is what is expected of you who are now about to go out in the world. If you are competent enough there is no doubt that you will be able to make it in the world full of perplexities. Furthermore, Competence is not simply being intelligent but it also means your commitment, it is also means that which enables you to act effectively in a job or situation. When you are competent you have knowledge that is sufficient enough for you to act in a wide variety of situations. This is also what we mean by being wise .Your competence will be tested in every responsibility, which will be given to you especially in the work you will be engaged with. So if you look back to the years under different professors, there are those you like and there are those you complain about because those professor were very strict, required lots of readings, kept on asking you to change or revise your papers or projects. However, you have to remember that most of these professors simply want you to be the best person you can be, a person ready and prepared to do the tasks once you are out there applying the knowledge you have gained in and outside the classrooms. When you are competent the people around you will always be pleased for having you as their employee or co-worker and later their boss. And we have to remember wisdom does not come in a silver platter the same as competence — you have to work for it. According to the young speaker during the Honors Day Atty Terence Callao, patience is necessary in order for one to succeed. Remember that like you Jesus became also a student. Jesus went through rigid study. According to the Biblical scholars Jesus like all other Jewish boys learn the Scripture at age 5, the Jewish law at age 10, and the Jewish commentaries on the Old Testament at age 13 and learn to fulfill the laws by age 15.

Going back to the text it says, after three days Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. Jesus was listening and asking questions. It means Jesus was learning and Jesus was teachable. I do not think He was there to impress them, or amaze them with His knowledge. He was there to learn. To listen. To ask questions. Jesus knew that before He could teach, He needed to be taught. He knew that the prerequisite to his ministry he will be doing was to learn first. Jesus’ story while he was growing up is a good reminder for all of you before you plunge into the new world — always remain teachable. Remember always that the best teachers are also teachable. The best teachers are those who want to learn from others. Do you want to teach? Well, the first step is to learn. To be teachable. As James – the apostle has said “Be quick to listen and slow to speak.” (James 1.19) I’m sure you’ve heard this: That the reason why God gave us two ears and one mouth is that God wants us to listen more than to talk more. Have you been teachable, have you been listening? did you, even at one time, engage your professors in conversation in and outside of the classrooms, if you have done so then you have every reason to say to yourself I am not afraid to see what is out there, this institution has provided me the knowledge and the skills and experiences that make me a wise and competent person.

Secondly, is good to remember that Jesus did not only grow in wisdom but also stature. The word stature can be interpreted in different ways it can be growing physically, lik
e some of you who maybe during your first year you were so thin but if you look at you now, especially your belly, what happened, is this the result of the food from the cafeteria, ballots and tempura in the boulevard, or the bar hopping. Yes in the biblical perspective to grow in stature includes developing physically – developing a strong, healthy body. Jesus grew in that way. We have to grow physically because our bodies are to be instruments of our service (Rom. 12:1; 6:12-13) and temples of God (1 Cor. 6:18-20). However, “Stature” also means spiritual maturity and Spiritual Maturity is also synonymous with maturity in our faith. Now, when you came to Silliman who was God to you? Who is Christ to you? Did it change? Are you now more aware of God’s presence? Did you find fulfillment in Christian activities provided for you by this University? I believe this institution has provided opportunities for you to be spiritually mature. For example there are four services in this church every Sunday. We also provided a space for worship in the campus for students who are from other religions. In your respective college and in the dormitories, you have regular devotions and convocations. And every semester you have the University Christian Life Emphasis Month celebration. All these are there to help you have a deeper understanding of your faith, so that this faith will help you go through the rigors and challenges in life you will be facing once you are out there. About, one month from now, maybe 90 or 80 percent of you will be out there. There are things that will not go according to your plan, looking for job is not easy, working with people is always a challenge, being away from your loved ones is difficult, these experiences, sometimes, we cannot help to lose faith, not only in ourselves, but also in any potential outcome in our lives. Failures will come our way for sure and when we experience life’s monumental failures, it’s easy to lose hope. While life can be hard at the best of times, faith is the assurance, deep down inside, that things will get better. It’s taking the next step even when you can’t see the entire staircase. Simply put, life would fail to have reason if we didn’t have faith. It is faith that helps us believe that things would turn out all right for us no matter what the situation might be. Faith overcomes stress, anxiety, and fear. Faith, then, is just as important as the air we breathe. While the oxygen in the air nourishes the body, faith nourishes the heart and the soul. It’s the energy that courses through every single fiber and cell within our beings. It’s part of every muscle and every strand of thought. It is the fundamental foundation of our existence. Faith helps you to discover your purpose in life. As I have said, Growth in stature is spiritual maturity and spiritual maturity is maturity in faith. When we are spiritually mature it results to proper character development and worthwhile service to the Lord and others. This goal towards maturity in faith is what makes Silliman University Education unique. So, where ever you are, keep in mind you must become mature in your walk and in your talk. Once you are able to do this, you gain not only the favor of the people around you but above all the favor of God.

This leads me to my last point: Jesus who is the way the truth and the life grew in favor with men/people and of God. To gain God’s favor is to strive daily to obey God and live according to God’s commandments. It is living a life in service to God. To gain people’s favor is to develop socially. It has to do with your dealing with people around you to live with other justly and honestly. Character building – this completes the expected outcome of a Silliman graduate and this completes your being educated here in Silliman. Remember when you go out there, there will be nurses, accountants, engineers, teachers, journalists, pastors and others like you, but what makes a Silliman engineer different from the engineers of other universities? What makes a Silliman teacher different from the teachers who graduated from other University? What makes you Silliman Doctors different compared to other doctors who graduated from other medical schools, what makes you theology graduates different from other graduates of other seminaries? In short what makes a Silliman graduate different from the graduates of other schools? Again, the last growth of Jesus is growing in favor with people and God, which to me is equivalent to growing in character. And the character that we have seen in the life of Jesus exemplifies how we should deal with people. Jesus welcomes, accepts, forgives, loves and serves all kinds of people – He welcomes the publicans, he forgives sinners, he accepts the Samaritans. Jesus simply loved them (John 3:16). Above all Jesus always tried to influence those with whom He associated to be better people setting the proper example of character before them. He became the catalyst for change, change in those whom he met and the community he visited and lived with. How did we grow in character while doing our years of studies here? Did we become more selfish, always getting ahead or we become more giving? Did we become haughtier or kinder, more arrogant or more humble? Our competence and our faith are tested and manifested through our characters. Our society is already filled with people who are power-hungry, corrupt, dishonest, blood-thirsty, unjust and calloused to the needs of the people and many others. So the world needs people — professionals and workers who think of service than profits, persons who do what is just not the unjust. One who hates evil and avoids to be corrupted, one who fights for what is good, one who is honest in their dealings with people and in their work. One who is patient and perseverance, one who can wait for his/her promotion without resorting to “under the table”. One who is humble no matter how successful she/he becomes. These are just few of the Christ-like characters or qualities that you a Silliman graduate must possess and have to practice once you are already out there in the world.

Again, soon most of you will leave the halls of Silliman. The challenge for you is to be different and to make a difference. Surely, as you look back from the time you entered this institution there are many changes that happened in your life because of the different exposures and experiences in the classrooms, the church, courts, communities and the different cultural activities offered by this institution. Whatever you have gained now – – give thanks to those who became instrumentals for these changes. Thank them for the opportunity to become part of this graduating class of 2017.But above all thank God for blessing you with a Christ-like wisdom or Competence, Christ-like faith and Christ-like character. Having received these blessings say now to the person or persons sitting beside you: “Thanks God we made it!” Congratulations to all of you.