Homily: SSEB address, November, 2014

12th November, 2014

Ephesians 4:1-7. 11-13 John 17:20-26

Our readings tonight prompt a reflection on the role of the SSEB which is defined according to the three principles of subsidiarity, participation and co-responsibility and is expressed through cooperation and unity within the Diocesan school community regarding the vision, mission and activities of Catholic Education. (The Catholic School, Congregation of Christian Education, Vatican 24/6/1977, nn 70-73).

We have heard St Paul writing to the Ephesians of the conditions for true unity in the Church: we need to live a life that truly reflects the Gospel, with modesty, meekness, patience, bearing with one another in a loving way.

Then there is the reminder of the presence of the Spirit and the binding force of true peace. Under the Spirit, there is one body, one common hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father “who is over all, works through all, and is in all”. These are the elements we must have in common. They give us our unique identity.

At the same time, this does not mean uniformity. There is room for a great deal of variety, as each one is called in a different way to serve and build up the community. St Paul is saying that real unity only happens when people with different characteristics and callings, with different responsibilities work together towards one goal. 
In this way, we grow together in the faith and knowledge of God’s Son and so “become fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself”.

Even when St John’s Gospel was written, divisions had already appeared, and so we find in our Gospel for this evening, a part of a prayer from Jesus’ long discourse at the last supper. It is above all a prayer for unity.

Jesus’ prayer was that God would be made known to the world through all of his followers – including us. He prays that we would be one, as he and the Father are one, so that our oneness would be the revelation of God’s presence to the world. Oneness in the midst of difference becomes a sacramental presence of God’s life in the world.

That does not mean, however, that we lose our identity or individuality. Jesus does not stop being Jesus and the Father stop being the Father because they are one. Jesus and the Father are one because they love and give themselves to each other.
At the heart of our Catholic identity is Jesus Christ and the salvation of the world, and his communion with God the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Catholic educators, who authentically manifest Catholic identity, will have Christ at the heart of their ministry. Those who work in our Catholic Education are now his face, his hands and his presence in the world, as they continue his ministry of teaching, of educating in our faith.

While the challenges are still many … there is nothing more inspirational than for a Catholic school to affirm courageously and confidently its specific identity, owning it and rejoicing in its vocation of service to society and the Church.

May we rejoice in the assurance that Christ is with us in our work for Catholic Education, continuing to pray for our oneness, our unity: and let us continue to work for greater unity in our Catholic faith. The witness of the Gospel depends on it.

Bishop Leslie Tomlinson