Mt 5.13-16                     Micah 6.6-8

As I look back on my Matriculation year of 1969, some 53 years ago now, and I am still in my 60’s (just), I wonder now how qualified I am to be talking to you young women about your experience of VCE (or VCAL) in 2022! It’s a daunting task, really, as things have changed so much in that passage of time, which, to me, still seems in some ways, like yesterday.  I remember the anxiety I felt prior to the 3 hour examinations, with Latin even having two 3 hour exams! Back then, it was all eggs in the one basket, with 100% of assessment based on those final exams, apart from Chemistry and Physics, which made some allowance for laboratory work at maybe 10%. It’s too long ago to remember!

Three years ago, I organised a 50th anniversary reunion of my year members at Essendon, and about 50 of 140 came along, not a bad turnup, after all that time. It struck me at the time, that I was one of the few not yet retired (nor a grandparent!), as in my game, you’re expected to hold out until 75!  And priests are a bit thin on the ground these days.

The thing that hasn’t changed is that your whole future is not tied up in an ATAR score, and it’s good that alternative routes have been available for those of you not aiming to pursue academic careers via university.  Many of my yearmates have been highly successful in all sorts of ways, and it wasn’t just those who had top marks who did well in life. There are no automatic guarantees!

You 119 lovely yound ladies have spent up to the last 6 years here in this school environment (after 7 years at primary school), where there has been a spirit of enthusiasm, commitment to learning and opportunities for friendships, which hopefully will continue into your futures, as you face the www (wide and wonderful world, or is it the wild and wicked world?! It is a bit of everything!) out there, beyond the school gates.  It has not been easy for you, having worked hard, not to mention the increasingly difficult and uncertain times you have been through with COVID, but here we are.

I found life at Melbourne University in 1970 a real eye-opening experience, beyond the confines of a conforming, and somewhat narrow,  Catholic environment, and soon learned that there are many diverse perspectives on life and faith, for that matter.  It certainly broadened my scope, before I went off to the seminary, later to encounter further challenges at Monash Uni from 1974, the latter’s motto worth remembering: “Ancora imparo” (“I’m still learning”)!

I often say that life is not a level playing field, sometimes not fair, and we all face the challenges of trying to make good choices, to do the right thing, to use our free will well and apply our well-informed consciences to the decisions we make.  For all of us, life is a search for meaning, and an unpredictable journey on which we are launched, never quite getting there, but making the most of the opportunities along the way,

You have been brought up to hopefully base your decision making, and finding meaning, in the Jesus message for a start, as, whatever one’s beliefs, no-one can deny that the Gospel message he gives us, in word and in action, is something that guides us in sharing our love and our lives with others, knowing that we are happier people if we look beyond ourselves to being of service to others.  Of course, it starts at home, and we must acknowledge the substantial sacrifices made by your parents in sending you to this college, out of concern for your education and personal development, with a faith perspective.

And while many of you might not be regular churchgoers, as I can see, when I find myself  (still in my 60’s!) among the younger attendees at church at St Therese’s of a weekend, I do believe that you all have your own spirituality, which has developed and grown over the years of your faith education and practice, with sacramental celebrations along the way.  The Eucharist, which we celebrate this evening, is at the centre of Catholic life and worship, and is meant to be spiritual food for our journey of life, so, hopefully, it is something you will consider as being part of your faith lives in the future.

In Confirmation, we talk about the fruits of the Spirit, which, again, no-one can deny, are positive attributes, which we would all do well to apply to our lives and relationships.  Jesus’ message of love is multi-faceted, and covers all aspects of our relationships, love of God, love of others and love of self, as we need to have confidence in our own abilities and develop them to be of service to others.   St Paul describes these fruits thus: “love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5.22-23)

Ave Maria:

The hymns and readings chosen for today’s celebration reflect that Franciscan spirit well: “For it is in giving that we receive” at the heart of it all.  Pope Francis has set a great example of living that spirit out in his mission as leader of our Church, calling for care for nature and the fragile environment in the world around us, as well as seeking mutual co-operation and peace in our conflicted world, particularly at present.

Old Testament wisdom comes to us from the prophet Micah: “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” It all sounds simple enough, but, don’t we know, more challenging to live out! (It was chosen as first reading only yesterday for the funeral at Essendon, of a very good and generous Christian man, Noel O’Brien, who died at 93).

Following directly on from the Beatitudes, the positive attitudes with which to live a Christian  life, with energy and enthusiasm.  Today’s  Gospel has Jesus using salt and light as metaphors. He speaks in simple terms, using examples the people of his day can relate to, salt for preserving and adding flavour, light to show the way, back when there was no electricity.

(These images also takes me back to the basics of chemistry and physics. From a chemical point of view, salt (sodium chloride) demonstrates classic ionic bonding, and hexagonal close-packed cubic crystalline structure.  And light is a good one, as it has properties of both a wave and a particle, depending on circumstances, so it reflects, so to speak, one of the mysteries of physics, with quantum mechanics and uncertainty.)   

Jesus ends up talking about our ‘good works’, to be demonstrated before others, in other words setting a good example to others by the people we are, in imitating his words and actions by the way we live our lives. It’s not just about exam marks, high achievements or economics. It’s about you and me as individuals who have a contribution and responsibility to make this world a better place by our presence in it.

I conclude my thoughts with an encouraging and positive parable:

“A Book for All the Stops in Your Life” – “I Knew You Could”

(by Craig Dorman, illustrated by Cristina Ong)

So, go for it, in whatever direction you aim for, and wherever the opportunities for life and love might take you, “Ad Veritatem per Caritatem” (“Towards the Truth through Charity or Love”). 

And, try to maintain your friendships, by keeping in touch, as Jac Radcliffe, one of my co-workers in the parish office, herself an Ave old girl, or should I say, past student, told me today.  She has just celebrated her 50th birthday last weekend, going away with 5 or so of her old Ave classmates from 1990.

john hannon                                                                         19th   October  2022


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