Homily: Adult Faith Graduation, 2013

Saint Brendan’s Church, Shepparton
8th November, 2013

‘Keep doing all the things that you learnt from me, and have been taught by me, and have heard or seen that I do.  Then the God of peace will be with you’.  These words and many others in today’s readings combine to give us the theme: ‘Seek the Lord’ - Let hearts rejoice that search for the Lord.

These words inspire us and give encouragement to keep on seeking the Lord, to see his face and to live forever in the house of the Lord!

Well, my dear friends, let me say first how pleased I am to be with you as your Bishop, to celebrate this Graduation Mass with you. This is an extremely special event. The completion of your studies will have enhanced your knowledge of your Faith. Your reflection over the time of your studies on the various teachings you have had,  will have contributed to your vision for the future and hopefully these studies have provided you with a hope, security and confidence, because you have learnt more about Jesus and have come to know him better. As our response in the psalm emphasises: Happy are those who seek the Lord!

Your adult formation in our Catholic faith and in the social tradition of the Church may have given you additional inspiration and motivation towards that special care for the poor and disadvantaged and the belief that every young boy or girl is a child of God who must be helped to know Jesus and to realise the unique God-given talents they possess. Your graduation equips you more fully to engage significantly in the mission of the Church.

The very mission of the Church, from its beginnings in the upper room in Jerusalem at Pentecost, has been to engage with the culture of the time and to seek to penetrate it with the message of the Gospel. At the same time, the Church has drawn on that culture and its wisdom, in order to help articulate her own self-understanding and to facilitate her own life and practice. From the beginning therefore, faith and culture have interacted, even when in certain periods of history, the interaction was more hostile and combative than collaborative.

For many decades there have been voices raised against the idea of education in the Catholic faith, and from time to time, there are great challenges to the very idea of a religious education. There are a multitude of views about what education should be and how it should be carried out. There is the overarching secular tone of society today with its emphasis on materialism and consumerism and the growing acceptance of a relativist stance with regard to truth and morality.

The period from the Second Vatican Council has seen, with the establishment of the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome, the reaffirmation of the Church’s teaching on the dignity of the human person and our destiny in Christ. The Council was expressly a time of returning to the Church’s most ancient and secure sources; and of opening itself to the wider world. This was particularly focused on the Church’s self-understanding and renewal, and her salvific dialogue with the world. The Church looked afresh at the Scriptures and the Church Fathers in order to reflect on her own changing situation of being a missionary Church within an environment that was no longer a Christian culture. The Church needed to understand anew her own culture, with a history and a Tradition to transmit in a holistic way to her own future generations and to the world.

This process is ongoing and has been the underlying purpose of the Year of Faith that we are currently living in the Church. Pope Benedict’s explicit invitation was to discover anew the documents of the Council and also the Council’s primary fruit, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Catechism essentially represents a statement of Catholic culture expressed in the same structure as the New Testament statement, of the culture of the early Church – “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers”. (Acts 2:42)

And so, dear Graduates, I encourage you to see your graduation as an achievement, but one which seeks your response to St Paul’s advice, to continue to, fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honour, and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise.
The world needs your talent, your skill, your passion, your commitment. Go, you have a new call now, to live an informed, adult faith which makes a difference.