Homily: Galen College, Wangaratta, - Commencement Mass, 2013



26th February, 2013

‘The Gospel is our inspiration’!  Reading this on your Galen College website immediately one must be impressed at such a clear and focussed expression of faith.  The website technology is used wonderfully to continue this proclamation by explaining just how staff, students and parents together go about building a College community that incorporates Gospel values. Congratulations on taking this focus which also integrates the school motto of faith and integrity!

Today we ask God’s blessing on the beginning of the school year and are mindful of the wonderful history and earlier work of the Brigidine sisters and Marist brothers along with many committed lay staff that underpins this present school community of Galen Catholic College.

On Sunday and important Feat Days, as we pray the Creed together at Mass,  we focus on the mysteries of our faith and our relationship with the Lord. So in professing our faith personally, to each other, and to the wider community though the school website, we need to understand that believing in God means that we align ourselves with him and the acceptance of his word.

Pope Benedict has given us a great gift in announcing that 2013 as a Year of Faith. This commenced last year on the fiftieth anniversary of the second Vatican Council, and will end on 24th November this year on the feast of Christ the King.  In fact, the ability to say that we believe in God is a gift, but we need also to remember that it is also a commitment.
Believing in God, makes us both bearers and messengers of values that often do not coincide with the fashion and opinion of the moment in our world today.  Belief in God actually requires us to adopt criteria and assume forms of conduct that may not be part of the common mindset. Even the major and positive breakthroughs of science and technology have instilled in some people an illusion that they are so powerful and they do not need God, and there seems an increasing egotism which has created many imbalances in interpersonal relations and social behaviour.

That is why the readings in today’s Mass are a very good reminder to us all about the genuine practice of our faith. A ‘prophet’ tells people what God is saying,  and Isaiah who was such a prophet, lived about 700 years before the birth of Christ, but he prophesies so much of the coming of Jesus the Saviour, and his salvation.  In the first reading from the Old Testament today, Isaiah tells of the lack of sincerity and even corruptions prevailing among the Jews of that time and the necessity for severe reprimands.  This reminds us that we all inclined to temptation, and struggle at times to be good; but when we fail, we need to seek forgiveness, as only Jesus and his sanctifying Spirit can restore us to spiritual well-being.
Then, in today’s gospel, St Matthew tells us of a time when Jesus is most severe in his preaching. In the time of Jesus, the Scribes and Pharisees explained the Law of Moses, and enforced obedience to it. They made it their business to study the scripture, and were well acquainted with the language, history, and customs. It was a common practice for them to wear phylacteries, which were scrolls of paper or parchment, on which were written four paragraphs of the law, to be worn on their foreheads and left arms. However, Jesus challenged that some ‘did not practice what they preached’ and that their outer piety concealed their inner wickedness, as everything they did was done ‘just for the look of it’, in order to attract admiration: for others to see how good they were! These Pharisees wore extra-large phylacteries and tassels as signs of exceptional piety. Jesus warned quite strongly about this attitude of mind; the outward sham and their hypocrisy in religion. Put simply, it is good to excel in real holiness, but not to exceed in outward shows of piety in order just to impress others.

Therefore, as you commence your new school year, students, teachers and parents, you too will all be challenged to find ways to make the world a better place; to be confident in your faith and to live justly. However, like the disciples and the early Christians, you will also be challenged to hold fast to your beliefs and to continue to trust in God. I would suggest that you reflect carefully on your school motto and perhaps ask yourself: what does faith and integrity mean for me in my life in this Year of Faith? I urge you to pray. Talk often with Jesus. Speak to Him about your goals, pray that He will guide and support you.

So today, at the beginning of 2013, I have a request to make of you, and that is: Be genuine in all that you do! Keep doing your best at whatever study and work you take on this year.  Keep giving of yourself to others in the kindliness of good and supportive friendships and keep nurturing strong faith.  Keep close to your mother, father and family.  And above all, keep close to God. As you commence this important school year, May the Lord bless you all and keep you safe in His care.