Homily: Commencement of School Year Mass Galen College Wangaratta, 2019

School Year Commencement Mass
Galen College
13th March, 2019

Jonah 3:1-10; Ps 51:3-19; Luke 11:29-32

Welcome to our Mass to ask God’s blessing on our 2019 school year here at Galen College. Already school has begun with some invigorating work and I am sure that even newcomers to the college community already feel at home.

I wonder what would Jesus say about our generation? In the Gospel we have just read, Jesus gave a rather stern warning to his generation when they demanded a sign from him. It was characteristic of the Jews that they demanded "signs" from God's messengers to authenticate their claims.

When the religious leaders pressed Jesus to give proof for his claims he says in so many words that he is God's sign and that they need no further evidence from heaven. Unfortunately, the religious leaders were not content to accept the signs right before their eyes. They had rejected the message of St John the Baptist and now they reject Jesus as God's Anointed One (Messiah) and they fail to heed his message. And we know that Jesus confirmed his message with many miracles in preparation for the greatest sign of all — his resurrection on the third day.

In the first reading telling the story of Jonah, the Ninevites recognized God's warning when Jonah spoke to them, and they repented. Jonah was God's sign and his message was the message of God for the people of Nineveh. Jesus often uses imagination trying to help his audience to catch on to the mystery of who he is. So he reminds them of famous characters in stories they already know well. He then tries to open their minds further by saying twice that ‘something greater’ is here in his person.

So, Jesus uses the popular story of Jonah to hint at his own resurrection. Jonah is swallowed up by the big fish, but after three days he emerges on dry land. Likewise, Jesus will die and be raised to life again. This will be the greatest sign of all that God is among us.

We all know the saying, "familiarity breeds contempt." And so getting back to the Gospel, Jesus contemporaries were in that situation regarding Jesus himself. He had already worked miracles, and his preaching and holiness of life were totally exceptional. Yet, some people were not satisfied, and Jesus rebukes them for seeking more signs.

This is an invitation for us not only to appreciate all that we have received in the Church, but also to share it with others. In these coming weeks, we will commemorate and re-live the truths of our faith in Lent and Easter. So we might ask ourselves, what will we do to share with others the true meaning of Lent and Easter?

And all of this fits in so well when we reflect on your school motto: faith and integrity. Let us have a minute or two to reflect on just what that means for us here at Galen College.

Integrity describes a state of your whole self, while faithfulness refers to an active commitment or course of action. A simple definition of integrity is doing what you say you will do. You might quickly ask yourself as a student, staff member or parent of Galen College: Does this describe me?

In viewing the many emphases of faith throughout the Scriptures, whether in the Old Testament from which we have just read the story of Jonah, or New Testament which tells us so much about Jesus, one thing is certain: faith is a basic and necessary quality of the believer. Moreover, Christians believe true faith to be not only belief and trust, but also faithfulness and loyalty. True faith is a total commitment to God.

So, at Galen College this year, we are together in a Catholic School. Besides reading, writing and arithmetic and all those other subjects, you will listen to readings from the Old Testament, such as the story of Jonah and you will read and reflect on the miracles of Jesus and this knowledge will stay in your brain. You will learn about his words, his actions, his death and resurrection. When you put knowledge of Jesus in there, your brain becomes the dwelling place of truth and integrity.

Furthermore, because this is a Catholic school, our hearts are very important to us. We learn here how to welcome Jesus into our hearts. We first did this in a special way when we made our first Holy Communion, and every time we receive Our Lord in the Eucharist. When we welcome Jesus into our hearts, he comes with all the people he loves.

And because Galen is a Catholic school our will is very important to us. Here we teach our wills when to choose the word "Yes," and when to choose the word "No." When we keep the commandments, we are saying "Yes" to doing what God wants us to do, and "No" to what God doesn't want us to do.

For example, that means, YES when we choose to speak the truth, to be kind, to help others, to go to church, to obey my parents; and when we say “no” to lying, cheating, hurting others, bullying etc. By making right choices, we become people of integrity and faith.

So here at Mass today we ask God the Father to send his powerful Holy Spirit upon us. The Holy Spirit will come and enlighten our minds with lots of knowledge, will fill our hearts with lots of love, and will strengthen our wills with lots of determination. In this way, we will have a happy and productive school year – and that is my best wish for all at Galen throughout the coming year!