Homily: Marist College Commencement Mass, 2018

Marist College Commencement Mass

8th February, 2018

Jer 29:10-14; Lk 4:16-22

Today we ask God’s blessing on the beginning of the school year and this is always a time when there is some excitement about new teachers, new students, discussion of holidays and generally looking forward to new experiences through listening and learning, and being immersed in an exciting curriculum.

You come to begin another year at a time when many people in our world are challenged by economic hardship. Families are burdened by struggles and some families are divided. The one great constant in family and personal life is that God loves us and wants the return of our love in the midst of all our trials and challenges. Our first reading today is about that.

I don't think that reading the book of Jeremiah is on your curriculum; but I hope one day you will read it. It's one of the most neglected books of the Old Testament; and yet, I believe that it's also one of the most powerful. Jeremiah was a prophet who was called by God to preach a very unwanted message to God's chosen people at a very critical time.

God had been sending repeated warnings to His people through Jeremiah and through others of His prophets; but the people wouldn't listen. They deeply resented the message and kept resisting it. This story is about God restoring his relationship with his people and them coming back to him in faithful love. It not only calls for trust, but for prayer, love and worship. God not only promises to love his people and be faithful to them, but he asks them to be faithful to him, to love him to draw near to him. God also does have plans for us–about the growth and restoration of our own relationships with him.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus came to tell us of a truly good, wholesome and right way to live. He taught us that we are made in the image and likeness of God, that there is a God-given plan to human living and that we are all capable of making our way through life as a family — responsible for each other and responsive to God’s law.

In today’s gospel, St Luke tells us that in Jesus’ first public address in the syngogue, where he explained who He is and what He has come to do. Before this point, through the first thirty years of His life, Jesus had lived in obscurity in Nazareth.

However, in his first public speech in his hometown, Jesus upset some of the people. Some turned against Jesus. He was inviting them to the practice of the purity of their religion, and many did not want to change their old ways – just like the people challenged by Jerimiah. In fact, prophetic voices being rejected by their own people is a phenomenon only too common in our own day. And it was something Jesus foretold would happen to his followers, simply for being his followers and proclaiming his vision of life. In the meantime, let us make Jesus’ mission statement our own. It is what being a Christian means.

When I read school mission statements, I am struck at how individual- and pupil-centred they can be; speaking of opportunity and educational excellence and the personal realisation and fulfilment of the pupils. The mission statement of a Catholic school cannot stop there. Talents and gifts are there not just for us; they are there for the good of society. The Catholic school must imbue its pupils with a sense of responsibility for placing their talents at the service of others and of society. The Catholic school must enable its young pupils to engage with others and to work with young people from non- faith backgrounds and to explore together, to respect each other and to work together for the good of society.

Therefore, it is very pleasing to note a summary at the end of Marist College Mission statement, that in the Marist tradition this College will strive to help young people, whatever their faith tradition and wherever they are in their spiritual search, to grow to become people of hope and personal integrity, with a deep sense of social responsibility to transform the world around them. With Mary as a model for life, students will be nurtured to have a passion for social justice and a commitment to bringing hope to those on the margins of society.

We should expect our schools to be different. Part of the reason they exist and why we gather in celebration at our school today is because here we find a community that accepts values, that recognizes the importance of virtue, and that attempts to model what a good and just, caring and faithful society would be like.

In reality Catholic schools are a gift to the whole community and are recognized as centres of learning that foster personal development and growth, enriched with a sense of self-fulfilment and worth and guided by basic and essential moral values.

So, you might ask: Why do we go to school? To discover Truth, to know Truth, to live Truth. Jesus, the Great Teacher, journeys with us, leads us to school to the discovery of Truth. Today, we gather together in Jesus’ name to ask for his grace to discover Truth. And we follow Jesus literally, truly present to our school in our journey to discover Truth together in 2018 and beyond.

My wish for Marist College this year is that you will have a clear vision of what you are meant to be as a Catholic College and that in the two-way process of being teachers and pupils you will contribute readily to a similar realisation of your abilities, your potential, and of your faithfulness to God and the authentic preparation for life which a full Catholic education can give.

So today, at the beginning of 2018, I have a request to make of you, and that is: Be truthful in all that you do! Keep doing your best at whatever study and work you take on this year. Keep giving of yourself to others in the kindliness of good and supportive friendships and keep nurturing strong faith. Keep close to your mother, father and family. And above all, keep close to Jesus. As you commence this important school year, May the Lord bless you all and keep you safe in His care.

 

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