VCE GRADUATION MASS ST COLUMBA’S HOMILY 2022
YOUR CONTINUING JOURNEY IS AHEAD – GO FOR IT!
Lk 24.13-35 Jeremiah 1.4-10
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 151 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 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 to get where you are, not to mention the increasingly difficult and uncertain times you have been through with COVID, but here we are now.
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 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 with a faith perspective on which 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)
And from our readings today, good old Jeremiah, one of the more miserable prophets, starts off with much uncertainty and reluctance to take on his role in challenging the people to wake up to themselves and get back on track with living good lives, according to their faith in a God of life, goodness and love. He is being given encouragement right at the start of his call to prophetic ministry, which is no easy task, given the fear and rejection he faces, but then accepts his role and does his best, guided by his faith.
Then we have the journey Gospel of “The Road to Emmaus”, which is a metaphor for our journey of life, with all of its twists and turns. These disciples of Jesus are totally lost and disillusioned, heading away from all the action, thinking that Jesus’ mission has been a total failure in human terms. Yet, at the end of the story, they realise all is not lost, that Jesus lives, and that his presence is recognised in the breaking of the bread, which we now do in faith, celebrating Eucharist together as a community of believers.
So, go to it, in whatever direction you aim for, and wherever the opportunities for life and love might take you, ‘fidelis et fortis’ (‘faithful and strong’)!
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)
Leaving school you might long to get to your destination. Know that the journey is important, too, if not moreso, as I can tell you from my own life experience!
john hannon 17th October 2022