Homily: Catholic Education Sandhurst: Leaders’ Mass

Catholic Education Sandhurst: Leaders’ Mass
Sacred Heart Cathedral
18th February, 2016
Esther 14:1,3-5,12-14; Matthew 7:7-12    

Catholic Schools exist to educate and form young people in discipleship: offering them experiences of following Jesus as members of the Catholic community. As we commence a new year, it is timely to reflect on your Leadership in Catholic education which is both a privilege and a challenge.

In Catholic education we don’t just drop educational facts into the minds of our students; we engage them and encounter them in the different facets of their lives. Certainly, we accompany young people and lead them to grow in knowledge, but also we help them to understand and value their relationships and in particular we focus on assisting them to build their relationship with God, by praying to him, by learning to speak with him as their friend.

We have an example of the power of prayer in today’s reading from the Book of Esther. As Queen of Persia, Esther prays to God to stretch his protecting hand over his people and to help her particularly in the task she has to do. She acknowledges her weakness and understands that, without God’s help, there is nothing she alone can do. But she reminds God of the promises he made long ago to his chosen people, chosen as a “lasting heritage”. Esther’s prayer is one of pure petition.

She knows that she and her people are totally in God’s hands. She does not threaten or try to manipulate God, or bargain with him. She leaves the outcome entirely to him.

Also about prayer, today’s gospel sounds marvellous. “Ask, and it will be given to you; search and you will find…” At first glance, it seems all I have to do is pray for something and I will get what I ask for. And yet, we all know from experience that that is simply not true. What is happening? Is Jesus telling lies?

Of course not! The problem is not that God does not answer our prayers; the difficulty is that we tend to ask for the wrong things. The purpose of prayer is for us to become more deeply aware of what our real needs are.

The things we ask for in prayer can be very revealing of our relationship with God and with others, it can be very revealing of our values and our wants (which can be very different from our needs).

Our deepest prayer of petition will be to ask God to give us those things which are best for our long-term well-being; those things which will bring us closer to him and help us to interact in truth and love with those around us. It is a prayer to be the kind of people we ought to be. It is difficult to see that prayer not being answered.

During this Lenten season we are called to take a little time out of our busy lives to sit in silence to reflect and pray to our Lord to ask for whatever we need to help us through these 40 days. We are called to question ourselves: have we truly prayed to ask our loving Father for what we need?

We are called to look at Esther’s prayer as a model for our own. We are encouraged to ask, seek and knock as a way of acknowledging our total dependence on God. And no matter what we’re asking for, we are called to, like Esther; leave the outcome totally in our Father’s hands. As Principals, as senior leaders in Catholic Education in the Diocese of Sandhurst, we are called today to reflect upon our own prayer style; and to pray to God about our work in Catholic education. However, we are called to trust in him enough to leave the outcome in his loving hands.

Pope Francis has described the mission of schools as “to develop a sense of truth, of what is good and beautiful.” We engage our young people socially, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. In doing this we ensure that our schools continue to make an exceptional contribution to the mission of the Church in this Diocese; and in so doing, they contribute to the benefit of society. And I repeat, this is our privilege – and our challenge! And with this challenge, we need to pray earnestly for God’s help, and in particular for the guidance of the Holy Spirit!

The quality of education in our Diocese is good and it is widely appreciated. However, I believe that with your prayer, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, your leadership, competence and skill can be sharpened, so that you face the increasing challenges of your work and indeed your life, with a peacefulness of spirit and an incisiveness of mind and heart, which will further benefit our young people.

Let us commend ourselves to the Lord, and, during this Mass, deepen our relationship with Him who alone can guide, strengthen and sustain us in this great task of Catholic education.