Homily: Catholic Education: Leadership Commissioning Mass, 2014

Leadership Commissioning Mass
Thursday, 20th February, 2014

Readings of the day – James 2:1-9; Mark 8:27-33

There has been much media attention given to our present Pope’s focus on the poor and the needy and so it is timely that our readings today help us to focus our thoughts on faith, equity and social justice in our leadership roles in Catholic Education.

We find St James really spelling it out for us that because we are ‘heirs to the kingdom which he promised to those who love him’, as well as members of our human family we should practice that family love in our everyday dealings. As James put it:  the supreme law of scripture is that ‘you must love your neighbour as yourself’. The implications of that in our everyday lives may well do with some scrutiny.

Through his life, Jesus puts biblical justice into practice in proclaiming the Beatitudes. Jesus bonded with all those who were sick and dying, with sinners, and those living on the fringes of society. But he did not neglect others as well.  He dined with the rich and the mighty as well as with the poor and downtrodden.  He teaches us an authentic spirit of inclusion of all people.

We see some alignment with James’s words when educational researchers today tell us that to live in the increasingly globalised world, we must all be able to comfortably interact with people and confidently move across cultures, as well as the virtual and physical worlds. To do this we all need a deep understanding of the interconnectedness and interdependence of all human beings.  In addition we need to develop a set of global skills to appreciate and accept people from other cultures and have the emotional and psychological capacity to manage the complexity of living and working in our world of today and tomorrow.

This is a continuous challenge for all leaders in education. I am reliably informed too, that recent trends for Australia, showed that while students in this country perform better than the OECD average, results are slipping and are bedevilled by equity issues and that more than a quarter of Australia’s young people are not fully engaged in work or study after leaving school and this has worsened over five years.

As Catholic educators we must be vigilant and work on any issues that will better the lives of all our young people, especially by nurturing their understanding of our Catholic faith.    It is said that: “To follow Christ is always right; but it is never easy.” Jesus was actually foreshadowing the path that Peter has to go through when He said that He must suffer greatly and be rejected. If we really are full blooded followers of Christ we must expect sufferings and rejections also. We may suffer when we stand for what is right, we may be rejected when we push for what is moral.

So, why does Jesus want to know what people think about him? Why does he want to know what his disciples think about him?  Jesus wants his disciples to become aware of what is hidden in their own minds and hearts and to give voice to their conviction. At the same time, however, he knows that the judgment they will express will not be theirs alone, because it will reveal what God has poured into their hearts by the grace of faith.

This is what faith is all about! It is the response of the rational and free human person to the word of the living God. The questions that Jesus asks, the answers given by the Apostles, and finally by Simon Peter, are a kind of examination on the maturity of the faith, of those who are closest to Christ.

So, who is Jesus for you?  Peter, always quick to respond, professes that Jesus is truly the Christ. Through faith, Peter grasped who Jesus really was. He was the first apostle to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Peter's faith, however was sorely tested when Jesus explained that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and die in order that God's work of redemption may be accomplished. Jesus tests each of us personally with the same question: Who do you say that I am?

At the beginning of our work in Catholic education in 2014, maybe we should ask ourselves: Who is Jesus for me?  This is indeed a question and answer that really matters!

 Bishop Leslie Tomlinson