Homily: Commencement of School Year Mass Marist College Bendigo, 2019

Commencement of School Year Mass
Marist College Bendigo - Sacred Heart Cathedral
7th February, 2019

Isiah 58:6-11; Matt 5:1-12

Welcome to the beginning of the new school year at Marist College, with all your thoughts of new possibilities, your enthusiasm to learn new things and your gratitude of heart, as students, staff and parents together, 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 Marist 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!

The prophet Isaiah reassures us that God is indeed present and continually gives us a big shout-out to remind each of us, ‘I am here! I am here!’

Furthermore, our first reading also reminds us that good works will bring the blessing of God, provided they are done from love of God and people, and come from the heart and soul by the Holy Spirit.

This is tremendously important for all of us to remember! But it is not something we keep at the back of our minds - it calls us right into the Marist theme for 2019, to be HOLY TODAY !

To be holy today invites us not to rush through life too quickly and miss what is really going on around us. It is about seeing with new eyes, contemplating the ordinary moments of life and recognising the beauty and wonder of life. When this happens, in the most human of our experiences, we see that God is with us.

As a Marist school community let us take great comfort and encouragement knowing that God is with us, a God who continually draws us to true happiness through experiences of encounter and love in the blessed ordinariness of our lives.

In addition, this is so well illustrated in St Matthew’s account in today’s Gospel reading of the Beatitudes. This is a fascinating comparison between the vision of Jesus and the various alternative visions which have been proposed over the past two millennia and by which we can be tempted still today.

It is always a joyful experience for us to read and reflect on the Beatitudes! Jesus proclaimed them in his first great sermon in St Matthew’s gospel, preached on the shore of the sea of Galilee. What does he tell us? He shows us the way to life, the way that he himself has taken. In proclaiming the Beatitudes, Jesus asks us to follow him and to travel with him along the path of love; the path that alone leads to eternal life. It is not an easy journey, yet the Lord promises us his grace and he never abandons us. If we open the door to Jesus and allow him to be part of our lives, if we share our joys and sorrows with him, then we will experience the peace and joy that only God, who is infinite love, can give.

These beatitudes show us that the kingdom of God belongs not to the powerful and the arrogant, but to those who are gentle, who hunger for what is right, who show integrity in their intentions and actions, who are merciful and kind, who are peacemakers and bring people together. At the present time, when there is so much fascination with success, power, possession and celebrity, these beatitudes provide a moment to reflect on what is deepest in our lives.
I am fairly certain that already 2019 has been in your thoughts and already most of us have much anticipation about the year ahead. Perhaps we should also be aware that as we begin this new school year we will experience challenges!

We will be 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 as our reading from Isaiah reminds us, that “getting right with God”, begins by stopping the wrong we do towards others and “getting right with God” continues by actually doing good and loving things for other people. Of course, this also means that we do not remain in our comfort zones and we do not merely go with the flow, but we take up the challenge to live with truth justice and integrity.

The desire to be happy is in each of us; to find happiness and peace, joy and contentment in life. At different stages of life, we may look for it in different ways. Nevertheless, remember, in Jesus, who reminds us that he is always at our side; we meet one who is full of deep empathy and compassion for others.

This year’s Marist theme, Holy Today, comes from Pope Francis’ 2018 letter to the world called Rejoice and Be Glad. It reminds us of the invitation given to each one of us to see the holy in ourselves, in others, and in our world: to see as God sees.

Pope Francis emphasizes that unless each of us offers the best of ourselves, the world will never be different. Today and every day we are called to a down-to-earth holiness that challenges us to be fully the person God has created us to be. Another way of saying this is to be our best selves!

As Jesus changed people for the better through his encounters and interactions with them, let our communication and relationships also affirm one another. Let Jesus’ stance towards the weak, the struggling and the excluded, be our inspiration in addressing injustices wherever we see them happening.

Today’s readings lead us also to reflect on the wonderful School Motto of Marist College Bendigo : Christus Vita Nostra : Christ is our Life ……. My hope is that we will all reflect on this throughout 2019, as we remember also the strong assurances from today’s readings. Here at Marist College, may we grow and become known for our capacity to accept the call to be Holy Today , to become our best selves and to make a difference to one another.