Choose to be a Christian - Graduation Mass at St Mary's College 2017

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > Choose to be a Christian - Graduation Mass at St Mary's College 2017

This Mass marks a significant moment of transition for each of you, members of the Class of 2017. For some of you, your whole education has been here at St Mary’s, beginning in the primary school. You have grown up from that little girl embarking on the adventure of schooling to now being a young woman ready to move out into the world. For however long you have been at St Mary’s, you have been part of a community – a community of students and staff and parents. Your daily life has been an immersion into this community. On your journey your parents have accompanied you, celebrating your successes and encouraging you in times of struggle. They have wanted the best for you and tonight is a good moment to say thanks to them for the blessing of being educated at St Mary’s.

Now comes the moment of a parting of ways. Yes, many friendships will last well into the years ahead, but each of you will choose a particular path for your future.

It is the time for some important decisions. What will you do next year? You may have decided on a direction, or you may still be uncertain. This is a very important time in your life as you make key decisions that will shape the direction your life will take. As you make these decisions you will be drawing on all that has shaped and formed your mind and heart over the years you have been at St Mary’s. Indeed, it may have been a key experience at school – a subject you did or a teacher who taught you - that has enabled you to map your future path.

We must all make significant decisions. These decisions set us on a path. Then, it is true, the path that we follow will further shape us. In later years, you will reflect on how your life has unfolded, noting moments of decision that led you to certain directions.

As we are celebrating this Mass this evening we have been given two Scripture passages. These passages are being read across the Catholic world today. What can they offer to us on this occasion?

In the Gospel Jesus asks, “What is the Kingdom of God like?” Jesus began his preaching by declaring that the Kingdom of God was close at hand. His whole teaching right to the very end was about this Kingdom of God. And he often sought to use images to explain what the Kingdom of God was. It is a difficult concept to understand.

What does Jesus mean when he speaks about the Kingdom of God? It is important that we understand because it was a foundational concept for the Lord. Let me put it this way.

The message of Jesus was a simple and yet radical call to open our lives fully and completely to God. Jesus urged his listeners to let God into their lives, if you like, to enter a spiritual Kingdom where God is the King. Now the people that Jesus was speaking to were a religious people and they knew about God. But Jesus was aware that they had not really opened their lives to God. They knew about God but had not let God become the animating principle of their life.

Jesus says that the Kingdom is like a small mustard seed that a man “threw into his garden”. Then it grew to be a large tree. Or, he says, the Kingdom is like leaven transforming a loaf of bread. God’s presence in our lives will be transforming. It will result in extraordinary growth.

In the other reading St Paul is speaking about the whole of creation groaning as though incomplete. Our lives are incomplete unless God is at the heart of our existence. St Paul is describing a certain thirst or a searching. God is the author of all there is. The universe itself can only find its full meaning and purpose in God.

So too our own lives. Whatever we may pursue, whatever ambitions we may have, whatever we long to achieve, will only find its full meaning and their full fruitfulness in God.

That is why Jesus said from the outset of his mission that the people must repent and believe. They must turn away from a life lived for themselves, seeking their own ends and purposes. Jesus declares that human life will only find its true nature when it is grounded in God. Jesus said that the people must repent. We stumble over this word, repent. However, the meaning of the word repent (metanoia in Greek) simply meant a change in direction, a reorientation of one’s life towards God.

The other word – believe – is important in that a person needs to believe that God really wants to enter our lives and lead us on paths of truth and life.

The parable of the mustard seed and the leaven is saying that if we let God into our lives then what seems such a small thing will grow into something great. Jesus is saying that God will do great things in our lives – if we let him. But we must not just try to have God on our terms. We must open wide our hearts and our lives. We must allow God full rein in our lives. Because He wants to do great things in us.

Tonight, my dear graduands, your future opens up before you. You say farewell to St Mary’s. This is no doubt tinged with some emotion. You remember all the good things that have come into your life through your time at the College. Now you are to mark out the path for your future. You will make decisions that will be full of significance.

In the midst of all the flow of memories, of thoughts, of emotions, of plans for the future, I would like to ask one simple thing of you tonight.

Tonight at this very momentous occasion make a basic but critical decision: choose to be a Christian. Choose Jesus Christ and invite him into your future. Choose to enter this mysterious Kingdom that he spoke about by saying tonight, “Jesus, I choose you, come into my life and into my future.”

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Tuesday, 31 October 2017