This Mass is a highlight for me each year, and I am sure it is one of the most significant events in the College’s program each year. For those graduating it is a fitting finale to your years at St Patrick’s.
This year it is being held on a significant date in the Church’s liturgical calendar – The Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The readings tonight speak of sin and redemption, of being chosen by God, and the young virgin “being full of grace”.
The first reading gives the account of the sin of Adam and Eve, and its consequences. Human life is marred by sin. Life is hard and our relationships fraught. This is the human condition. But the reading also carries a promise that God will come to the aid of humanity. In the second reading St Paul speaks of being “chosen in Christ”, something the Church applies in a special way to the Virgin Mary. In the Gospel tonight we heard of the announcement of the angel to Mary. The salutation we use as the beginning of the Hail Mary. She is described as “full of grace”.
The Church honours Mary in this feast as immaculate, free from any sin, a perfect vessel to receive the Son of God.
Tonight we are celebrating a very significant moment in the life of the graduating students from St Patrick’s. Your years of primary and secondary schooling are now at an end. So far in your life you have known little more that life revolving around the classroom. Tonight marks the significant transition.
I am sure that during this year, while your studies have been a focus you have already been surveying the future. The question that has occupied you and certainly has occupied your curious parents is: what will you do next year? Suddenly your life opens up before you. The normality of daily schooling and the safe patterns of life are now falling away.
The future is exciting, yet daunting, and possibly not a little confusing. Perhaps you are not so sure about what you will be doing next year. They say that many young people today will end up working in a job that has not yet even been thought of. So the future holds many uncertainties as well as so many possibilities.
This time of transition and the decisions you have made or are about to make is a time when you set your goals.
Tonight I would like to pose the question: what do you see as your life goals?
Perhaps at present finding a satisfying career is uppermost in your mind. This is understandable. Another goal is that you would want to secure financial independence. A third goal, which is probably in your mind, is the desire to travel, to see the world. Though I like to say to all young Tasmanians leaving the island – come back!
These are natural goals and probably uppermost in your mind.
I would like to propose another goal; a goal which is one of the most important goals for your life. It is a goal which is appropriately called a vocation, a calling. Indeed, it is a fundamental human calling. It is actually what we human beings we designed to do. It is in our nature, in the depths of our being. It is the way human life is meant to be lived.
It is a goal which when embraced will dramatically shape your future. It is a goal which offers a path to some of the most exalted moments of human life. It is a goal that will open to you some of the highest experiences of being human.
It is a goal which will radically shape your personality and bring forth new aspects to your character. It will demand a radical self-giving which will stretch you and call forth the best in you. It will be a self-giving that is not in any way an imposition, but rather an invitation to orient your life away from yourself and be directed towards others. It will be a self-giving readily embraced because it is something you want to do.
That life goal is marriage. And that goal, that calling, that vocation to become a husband or a wife, will open up a new and most wondrous goal – that of having a family.
While tonight it may seem a distant goal and one that you cannot quite get your mind around, it is a goal that I recommend you embrace even tonight as your future – unless you are called to be a priest or a nun (and if this is the case you can see me after the Mass).
Marriage and family is the natural setting for human life. It is what the wise Creator has destined for men and women. It is the way in which human beings bring forth and nurture the next generation.
In the Book of Genesis God said to Adam and Eve: “be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth”. There will be no greater thing that you do with your life than be the procreator of a new human being. Nothing will give you greater joy that holding your newly born child in your arms.
At the end of your life it will not be your successes and achievements, your travels and experiences, that will count the most – but the love you have given and received in your marriage and family.
Tonight you give thanks for your years at school and for those who have contributed significantly to your growth. Now your future opens before you.
During the year I attended the WYD in Krakov. There Pope Francis encouraged young people to have confidence that God is with them and calls them. He said to the young people, “God expects something from you. God wants something from you. God hopes in you. God comes to break down all our fences. He comes to open the doors of our lives, our dreams, our ways of seeing things. God comes to break open everything that keeps you closed in.” God indeed comes into our lives, as He did with the virgin Mary. He does call.
My dear graduands, go forward into your future. Know that you do not walk life’s journey alone. There is One who is with you and will never leave you. He is One who will call forth your best self. He is the One who will remind you of the most important of life goals. He is the One who will show you a path to fullness of life. He is One who will never abandon you, and waits for you to turn to Him. That One is Jesus Christ.
A young woman, Mary of Nazareth, said yes to what God asked of her. And her life was richly blessed. Say yes to God. Walk your journey into life with Christ, follow him. Invite him tonight to accompany you as you set out to find and achieve your life goals.
Archbishop Julian Porteous
Monday, December 5, 2016