At this time of the year we give our young people a blessing as they leave the district to continue their education. You go from here with a blessing from us and with our gratitude.
We’re grateful for your contributions to parish life and for your presence which has always encouraged us. It will seem strange that you’re not here with us each Sunday but another generation of young people is coming along and you can take what you have learned here to the new places where you’re headed. You have so much to offer.
At this time we are celebrating the feast of St Thomas Aquinas (Jan 28), one the most towering intellects of all time – up there with Beethoven, Einstein, Madame Curie and Catherine of Siena. The faith you have inherited from your families and which you have taken into your own arms and souls is the faith of the simplest uneducated folks and also of the world’s greatest minds.
Do not be intimidated by any lecturer or fellow student who rubbishes your believing and practising of faith. Your faith will withstand any investigation.
Learn how to give a sensible, unresentful answer. Be strong. People want you to be strong, even those who mock you want you to be strong to see if it’s worth embracing faith themselves.
Be strong for each other so that others on campus, who believe as you do, can find strength. And be strong because there are many faith-filled teachers and other staff who are so impressed and strengthened year by year by strong faith-filled students. You can build up each other.
You are on a mission and it can be difficult at times to be true to your best self. It must be hard to die for Christ. Your call, though, is to live for him and that has its moments, too.
Everyone called by God is also sent by God; you are well loved and forgiven so you are called to inspire love and forgiveness wherever you find yourself. You have been healed by God so you are sent out as healers and you have been disturbed by the encouragement and power of God. Go and disturb others so they can have what you have.
Your mission field will be the lecture room and tutorial, the halls of residence and the flats, the pub and the party, the sports field and lab. Preach by the wholeness of your lives and, when asked why you are so energised for the good of the world, again be able to give sensible answers.
Sometimes you will fail and sin, how will you know? Here are some signs. If you start running with the pack and beating up on the weak ones you will need to rethink and be reconciled. If you join with everyone else in finding a small group to blame for all the world’s problems you’ll know you are in trouble. If your thinking seems more like the voices of talkback radio than the gospel, pause awhile, and start again.
Because you side with the underdog, refuse to beat up on minorities; resist racism and other mindless phobias – you won’t always be popular, but you know that already. If your believing doesn’t create a few upsets here and there then you’re probably not doing it right. Don’t look for trouble but living the gospel will threaten some others enough.
Pray everyday. No matter how you feel about things, make a thanks list in your head everyday and tell God about it. Get to Sunday Mass not out of fear but because it connects you with the greatest lover in all creation and with others who are gathering at the same time.
Find a Mass where your faith will be nourished. Offer yourselves as ministers. There are Masses that are a true celebration and where there is good teaching. You’ll find one somewhere.
Remember, home is where they will always take you in. Whether you succeed brilliantly and set the academic world on fire or just struggle along or if the whole thing turns to custard, this is home and we will welcome you. We bless you.