Homily - St Therese's School Staff Mass Essendon 2019

30 January 2019 | General Interest

Lk 4.14-21

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day

What to say to a group like you lot, who engage a significant proportion of our Catholic population of young people, where their irregular presence in parish life or at regular Sunday Mass is a given?  To my mind, their Church is where they are with you, which is where they engage with each other in what’s hopefully a faith based environment. It’s the grass roots action that counts most, which is where we are!

And what about ourselves?  And who, me included, is not a little more than seriously disillusioned or disaffected with our Catholic Church leadership in Australia, and universally in so many ways, despite the best efforts of poor old Pope Francis at 82, to steer us in the direction of reality and accepting our common humanity as it is?  

We are a Church in crisis, in terms of facing the future for our young people, to whom you are committed to give direction and purpose, as well as educating them, in the best sense of the term. We are called to educe (from Latin educare) or draw out their talents and interests in all directions, well beyond the old 3 or 4 R’s of Reading, Writing, `Rithmetic and Religion, and I like Rhyme, as you know, and don’t forget Science and STEM and sport! A holistic approach never ends, and your challenge is to create an environment of Catholic (in the best sense of universal) values and ethos in terms of Gospel principles.

To me, good education is about encouragement to ask further questions, to realize and accept we’ll never have all the answers, and my old Monash Uni motto of “Ancora imparo” (‘I am still learning’) sticks with me always. When I did DipEd back in 1980-81, methods of Chemistry and Religious Education, I confess to having more difficulty with imparting RE than Chemistry! I admire and respect those who persevere in this challenging role! It’s always a challenge to engage and maintain enthusiasm and interest. (My main trick was to turn water into wine into milk, but I wouldn’t recommend drinking it at any stage of the process! Sodium into water always got attention with a bang too!) In that time, I discovered that educational theory goes around and around in a cyclical process, as there is no ideal method or ideology for input, but rather a need for engendering enthusiasm and interest. And so I theorize!

Jesus launches his public ministry here in Luke’s Gospel, in the Temple, but not with detailed rituals, nor a lengthy soliloquy or sermon, but a rather a relatively brief quote from the prophet Isaiah, concerning the basics of his mission, and so for all of us, who follow him, and hopefully lead our students and others, on that journey of discipleship in all of our lives.

As Pope Francis says: “Both Christian preaching and life, then, are meant to have an impact on society… The mission of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ has a universal destination. Its mandate of charity encompasses all dimensions of existence, all individuals, all areas of community life, and all peoples. Nothing human can be alien to it.” (EG 180).

And so, what difference can we all make?

For you and me, that’s as Gospel people, following Jesus, and believing in his enduring presence in our lives and our world, applying the Good News in Word, sacramental celebration and action. Your contribution to working together in the education and formation of our young people is critical for their future, and that of our Church and our society. Thanks to you all for your ongoing commitment and enthusiasm.

And for a final thought, some excerpts from a simple story based on a draft about enthusiastic teachers by my favourite author, guess who? Yes, Dr Seuss, and it’s titled “Hooray for Diffendoofer Day”!

john hannon           30th January 2019


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