Homily: St Mary of the Angels’ College Nathalia opening Mass, 2018

St Mary of the Angels’ College
9th February, 2018

Philippians 4:4-9 Mark 7:31-37

The beginning of a school year is always a busy and exciting time for students, parents and teachers alike. 2018 is no different and we welcome all to this Mass today. In particular, we wish all students, parents and teachers a wonderful year, full of learning and opportunities.

And so, I am pleased to be here today to celebrate Mass for the beginning of the school year at St Mary of the Angels. I wonder how many of us have asked ourselves: What will this year bring?

We do not know, do we? It will likely bring us its usual times of work and play, experiences of learning, newness, success and challenges, all things that are part of school life. Today we remind ourselves that God is concerned with what we do, what we say, and what we think. The letter to the Philippians from which we have just read the first reading, is filled with exhortations by the apostle Paul to the people at Philippi about having a good attitude. In this text, the apostle gives some specific advice on how to maintain an attitude well pleasing to God.

In fact, St Paul writes full of great joy alongside practical advice for everyday living and relationships. He says that our strength will come from living with joy, looking on the bright side, even when things happen that try to steal our joy.

We have the word ‘happy’ and ‘happiness’ here describing a wonderful state of mind, knowing that God is very close, and we have nothing to fear or be anxious about. If we do have particular needs or concerns, St Paul says simply, ‘pray for it’, and then wait for the peace that God gives — a peace beyond words and understanding that will help us get through whatever it is we are facing. He urges us to fill our minds with good things! The challenge is how to sift through the vast array of things demanding our attention, and consciously put aside anything that is draining of energy and stops us living our life together to the full. By the way, that doesn’t mean getting out of school or homework! Concentrate on what is life-giving and rings true. It also means listening carefully to one another.

In a world that can be toxic to self-directed thinking, follow your inner guide and advance confidently in the direction of your dreams. Be resilient to peer pressure, prejudices and delusions and to potential nonsense that can masquerade as 'truth'. We are all challenged to commit to using our limited time on earth wisely and schools such as St Mary of the Angels is a place where we are well equipped to learn how to do just that.

Then today’s Gospel reading offers us an invitation to become humble instruments of healing in Jesus’ hands by giving voice to the voiceless, the needy and the marginalized in our society. It also invites us to open our own ears to hear the word of God and to allow the Holy Spirit to loosen our tongues to convey the Good News of God’s love to others.

Now, I wonder what message you heard from the Gospel today. In this passage we hear that Jesus heals a man who is deaf and dumb. When we read this account at the spiritual level, we see that he cures those who are deaf to the Word of God and hence unable to speak it clearly. How relevant this message is to our own time!
In this incident with Jesus, as in so many others, the person who was incapable of making the necessary approach had the support of others, in this case referred to but otherwise unidentified. Their hope and faith were effectively expressed in their begging Jesus to help.

So how do we apply this message to ourselves today? Are you listening to Jesus? Are you talking with him? Are you obeying him? Or are you cut off from God, like this deaf and mute man who was cut off from the people around him?

Perhaps you are not talking with him like you used to. You are not listening to him like you used to. This morning Jesus says to you, “Be opened!” Open your ears to the wonderful truth of God’s word all over again. Today when we pray the Our Father together, say it aloud for the whole world to hear.

Lasting happiness is always closer to the experience of acceptance, contentment and inner peace, than it is with consistent pleasures which can be fleeting and unsustainable. True happiness is found through service to others and abides in an open and compassionate heart, and this agrees with St Paul’s earlier advice!

Remember, Jesus healed the deaf man. If we are too busy we can be deaf to the real meaning and joy of life and deaf also to what the Lord is saying to us. Jesus cannot speak to us if we are not silent enough to listen. In fact, Jesus took the deaf man aside in private away from the crowd. We can go aside in private with Jesus so that we can hear him speak to us.

May the Lord bless our year with happiness and peace, and may you discover with joy, new gifts in yourselves, and celebrate the giftedness of others. And for everyone in the school community of St Mary of the Angels, may you be open to the joy and love of God to shine through you at home, in school and with friends throughout 2018.


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