Homily: St Joseph’s College, Echuca , 2019

St Joseph’s College, Echuca
Friday 1st February, 2019

Heb 10: 32-39 Mark 4:26-34

Welcome to the beginning of the new school year, with all your thoughts of new possibilities, your enthusiasm to learn new things and your gratitude of heart, as we thank God for the opportunities laid before us in this new year of 2019.

We warmly welcome our new students, families and staff who begin their Brigidine journey with us this year. We celebrate today all the gifts we will share this year and we look forward to exploring and engaging in learning that unlocks all possibilities for each and every one!

In our first reading from the letter to the Hebrews, the sacred author says that neither he nor the Hebrews are the kind of people to pull back and so be lost. Rather they are the sort who remain faithful and so win salvation. It is this “pulling back” that the ‘Hebrews’ are threatening to do and so he is giving them many reasons why it does not make any sense for them to do so. The message for us is that we, too, must continue to move ever forward, remaining faithful to the core of the Gospel message and living it out effectively and meaningfully in an ever-changing world. Now that is quite a challenge, and I will expand on that shortly!

In the Gospel, both parables are images of the Kingdom of God; of God’s truth and love spreading among people all over the world. Both parables are taken from the world of agriculture, a world that would have been very familiar to Jesus’ listeners.

In the first, God’s work is compared to a farmer planting seed. As in the parable of the sower, the seed is the Kingdom. Night and day the process of growth continues without any human intervention. Whether the farmer is awake or asleep the process of growth continues. The seed sprouts and grows and he does not know how. The outcome is certain. Once the seed is ripe, it is for the farmer to bring in the harvest. And that is our task: to bring in the harvest which has been planted in the hearts of people. In the words of the other parables, it is up to us to throw the light which helps people see the truth and love of God already present in their deepest being.

In the second parable the Kingdom is compared to a mustard seed. Although one of the tiniest of seeds, it grows into a sizeable shrub in which even birds can build their nests.

Both of these parables are words of encouragement in those early days of Christianity, to a struggling Church, living in small, scattered communities and surrounded by hostile elements ready to destroy it. How amazed would the Christians of those days be if they could see how the seed has grown and spread to parts of the world of whose very existence they were totally unaware! The message for us here today is that we still need to have our trust and confidence in the power of the Kingdom to survive and spread.

And so, mindful of these readings and also our thoughts and anticipation about the year ahead, we begin this new school year with the awareness of our need to be challenged: challenged to learn and enrich ourselves, challenged to achieve set goals, challenged to expand our vision and to be all that we can be…. And like the early Hebrews, not to pull back from the challenge! Our quest for truth, justice and integrity means that we don’t settle for less; we do not rest on our laurels; we do not remain in our comfort zones and we do not merely go with flow. The example of Jesus teaches us that it takes courage to advocate for the rights of the minority against the tyranny of the majority.

In Jesus, we meet one who is full of deep empathy and compassion for others. Our discipleship has to do with meeting this God and serving him in the weak and the vulnerable. It has to do with enacting this in our lives and our relationships. It has to do with freeing people from injustice and enabling them to experience the fullness of life and love. I believe that the Brigidine Ministries have set the theme of ‘hospitality: welcoming all’ for the focus this year, so it is in teasing out the notion of genuine hospitality that we will learn more about enabling others, as well as ourselves, to the fullness of life.

Pope Francis challenges us to not cling to our status quo and our security. We need to go out of our secure shells and be all that we can be for one another, especially for those denied of justice and dignity. St Brigid, whose feast we celebrate today, valued the importance of people and relationships. Let us ask her prayers to enhance our ability to relate to others in an authentic and meaningful way. Let her commitment to care for and to empower the weak and the vulnerable also guide us in our daily accompaniment of one another.

As Jesus changed people for the better through his encounters and interactions with them, let ours also affirm one another. Let his stance towards the weak, the struggling and the excluded be our inspiration in addressing injustices wherever we see them happening. We pray that we may be people of passion for justice and compassion for others. May the values of the Gospel find a welcoming home in our lives and relationships. Here at St Joseph’s College, Echuca, may we grow and become known for our capacity to care and to make a difference to one another.

May St Joseph, your college patron and St Brigid inspire us in our challenges this year!