Homily: CEO Commissioning Mass 23rd January, 2018

CEO Commissioning Mass
23rd January, 2018

2 Sam 6:12-19; Ps 24:7-10; Mark 3:31-35

Welcome to Catholic Education in the Diocese of Sandhurst in 2018! We gather today to ask God to bless our work as we commence the New Year. By accepting a job in Catholic Education, recently or some time ago, you are inserting yourselves into the life and mission of the Church, and you have taken on an awesome responsibility.

After all, we speak of the Church as the Body of Christ, but the Church is us, and for the principals, staff, children and young people in our schools, the Church is you – not exclusively you, but certainly you.

So, you have accepted a serious responsibility to be the face of Jesus, and the voice of Jesus, and the compassionate glance of Jesus, and the forgiving heart of Jesus, for all those entrusted to you – by their parents, by the Church and by the Diocese of Sandhurst.

As we commence this new year, I am especially mindful of the myriad demands which will challenge you as you work with schools in overseeing Catholic identity and mission in the Diocese; as you evangelize, catechize and form our young people yourselves and with others; as you program, teach and assess educational outcomes and Religious Education; as you plan and conduct quality liturgical and prayer experiences; as you collaborate with, support and strengthen relationships with parishes. Furthermore, I know that every effort will be made to continue outstanding contribution to classroom teaching and curriculum innovation.

So, what message is there for us in today’s Gospel reading? At first it seems almost incomprehensible. However, consistently with St Mark’s approach elsewhere, Jesus outlined his message by his actions before he spelt it out in words. And he asked nothing of his disciples that he had not been prepared to ask of himself. Like Simon, Andrew, James and John before him, he, too, had left everything in his single-minded dedication to the Kingdom.

What Jesus is clearly saying is that being on the “inside” is not just a question of location, but of relationship. That relationship is by identification with the Way of Jesus. To be a Christian is to enter into a new family, where everyone is seen as a brother or a sister. The “insider” is defined simply as “anyone who does the will of God”.

Why did Jesus, on this occasion, seem to ignore his own relatives when they pressed to see him? His love and respect for his mother and his relatives was unquestionable. Jesus never lost an opportunity to teach his disciples a spiritual lesson and truth about the kingdom of God. On this occasion when many gathered to hear Jesus, he pointed to another higher reality of relationships, namely our relationship with God and with those who belong to God.

Jesus used the occasion to make the comment that his true family –was indeed as St Mark writes ‘whoever does God’s will is Jesus' brother and sister and mother. We can picture members of the crowd, no doubt more eager to hear what he had to say, ranging themselves in a circle round Jesus.

Jesus had already been inviting those who heard him to the totally new life of members of the kingdom of heaven. Then, born into that new life, they would be his brothers and sisters in a new way. This is the invitation which he still extends to all of us. We are mindful too, that God gives us many opportunities for developing relationships with family, friends, neighbours, and co-workers.

So we might reflect that the essence of being a Christian is to widen our relationships – of trust, affection, commitment, loyalty, faithfulness, kindness, thoughtfulness, compassion, mercy, helpfulness, encouragement, support, strength, protection – all the qualities that bind people together in mutual love and unity.

As we work together in the Catholic education family, we need to respond to the call to strengthen the bonds of mutual support and unity. Then too, deepening collaboration between school and parish is a perennial challenge. They must not be separate silos into which we put students, parishioners and energies: they are different faces of the one evangelising mission and so must complement and support each other.

In the Dioceses of Sandhurst we have always believed in educating the mind, body and soul. Simply put, we strive to provide a safe and supportive environment in which students not only achieve good education, but also practise all of the core values and Gospel truths that will lead to both personal and professional success. As a result, our students will have all the tools they need to become good-hearted, productive people — as well as doctors, lawyers, business people or anything they put their minds to.

As recently as January 5, Pope Francis said that educators are faced with “cultural challenge” which should be the basis for primary education, when children are still young, he said, explaining that Christian teachers, whether they are in Catholic or state-run schools, “are called to stimulate in the students an openness to the other as a face, as a person, as a brother and sister to know and respect with their story, with their merits and defects, their richness and limits.”

Pope Francis said this also means forming youth who are open to, and interested in the reality around them; who are capable of tenderness and free from the “widespread prejudice” which insists that to be worth something, “you must be competitive, aggressive, harsh toward others, especially toward those who are different. Unfortunately, this is “the air” that children often breathe, he said, adding that the remedy is to make it so that they can breathe “a different air which is healthier, more human.” In summary, the Pope said that he wants Catholic educators to ensure our schools are oases of peace, beacons of hope and places of high-quality teaching and learning.

As we accept our crucial role as educators in our Church and in our society today, let us promise to diligently fulfil our various roles in Catholic education, by witnessing to the teachings of the Gospel, committing to serving the needs of the students in our care, and seeking to contribute to the wellbeing of all who belong to the education community.

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