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Tuesday, 30 October 2012 08:56

Homily: Graduation Mass, 2012

Written by Bishop Les Tomlinson
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Graduation Mass - Catholic College Bendigo
Monday, 29th October, 2012

Congratulations to all our graduates here this evening!  I hope that you are really proud of yourselves and your accomplishments in completing your schooling. But let’s not forget all the people who also share in that pride –- your mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters; your grandparents and friends – your teachers; all of whom took this journey with you in ways both seen and unseen.  So this is their day, too.

Furthermore, this is a time when we can pause to be thankful for the excellent system of Catholic Education we have in Australia and in this Diocese of Sandhurst. It is an opportunity for us to express our gratitude for the thousands of people who have a part in running our schools. There may be some short comings in our education systems, but as we gather here for this Mass, we witness the progress that our children make in our wonderful schools such as Catholic College Bendigo.

Graduates, your parents will remember when they saw you as a small child when you were exposed to something new that you had never seen before or that you didn’t understand. They saw your immediate curiosity. They could almost see the wheels inside your head spinning. You wanted to know more. You had a hunger to learn. You moved through your early stages of learning and “graduated” from home to school and then years later came the milestone of graduating from primary to secondary school. Here we are now, celebrating an even more meaningful graduation which brings you into another important phase of your life.

Your studies will have raised your awareness that living in 2012 we are no longer isolated from what happens in other cities, other states of Australia, or even on the other side of the world.  We see that so many of today’s challenges are borderless: from the economy to terrorism, to climate change; and that solving those problems demands cooperation with others.  Just in the time since you started school, you’ve witnessed terrorism touch our western world, you’ve seen the cost of war reach into our communities.  The media have shown the unimaginable devastation and suffering in the aftermath of a tsunami; a hurricane; and so close to us in the terrible Christchurch earthquakes in New Zealand. You have also experienced the canonisation of St Mary MacKillop, who was once a young girl, about your age, graduating from a Catholic School in Melbourne.
We know from Mary’s life story that after leaving school, she was challenged by the poverty and helplessness of the poor of her time. She was challenged to find ways of educating and helping others.  Her life’s journey presented many challenges, but she persevered against great odds to attain her goals. Her trust in God, her faith in her beliefs was steadfast. She made mistakes, but she never stopped learning from them and moving forward. Throughout the ages we have stories of the lives of the saints and their struggles to achieve their goals and live a meaningful life. As Catholics, we have many such models in the lives of the saints. One of these, St Francis of Assisi was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant. For a time, he lived the high-spirited life typical of a wealthy young man. However, prayer—lengthy and difficult—led him to a self-emptying like that of Christ and throughout his short life he achieved much.
As you move into adulthood in this interconnected world, as a graduate of Catholic College Bendigo, in whatever profession or work you undertake, like Francis and Mary MacKillop, you will be challenged to find ways to make the world a better place. You will also be challenged to keep your Catholic beliefs and to continue to trust in God. I urge you to pray. Talk often with God. Speak to Him about your goals, pray that He will guide and support you. Perhaps you might reflect on the beautiful prayer of St Francis to form some of your goals in this regard: Pray with Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

As you communicate your goals to others, some may admire your idealism, but warn you to lower your sights, to scale back your ambitions, to settle for something less. They may be worried that you’re in for a letdown once you realize that it can take years and even decades for your best efforts to bear fruit.  We live in a culture that can communicate to us that our lives should be easy; that we can have everything we want without a whole lot of effort.
However, we all know that creating anything meaningful takes time.  So today, graduates, I have a request to make of you, and that is:  Keep doing your best at whatever study and work you next take on.  Keep giving of yourself to others in good and supportive friendships. Keep engaging with your community. Keep close to your mother, father and family. And above all, keep close to God.
Success and achievement in our society is measured by graduation – not just from school and later on perhaps at University but from events and experiences. We are very often focused on the goal line, the end result. We press on through events and life to get to the completion of whatever task is before us.

So now, at your graduation from secondary schooling, this is my challenge to you:  Be a lifelong learner.  Embrace curiosity as you did from childhood. Continue to set your goals in life and remember what you have learned at this school in this important phase of your Catholic schooling.

Do you recall the story in St Luke’s gospel when Christ is first calling the Disciples? That word means to be a student of, a learner. Jesus is calling them to be a student of Himself, a lifelong learner of God. Jesus did not call these men up because they had graduated from the Christian Faith. It was not for their knowledge or for the perfect way in which they lived out their faith. Jesus saw a willingness to learn.
St Luke tells us that ‘As Jesus prepares to send his disciples into the world he prays for them. He gives thanks for the time of instruction, he asks for their protection, and looks forward to the amazing ministry they will do in his name. John 17:6-19
Dear  Graduates, , this prayer becomes our own  as those here with you now : as parents, family and friends,  send you forth with our congratulations and  blessings  into important new chapters of  your lives. May the Lord bless you and keep you safe in His care.