Be a disciple of Jesus Christ - Graduation Mass of St Patrick's Catholic College, Launceston

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At this Graduation Mass I would like to address the graduating class in particular. This Mass marks a significant moment of transition for each of you, members of the Class of 2017. Tonight you could for a moment recall you first days at school. What has possibly seemed and is in fact a lifetime for you has now come to an end. Your years of schooling have reached their climax. A new chapter begins for your life. In your years at St Patrick’s you have been part of a community – a community of students and staff. Your daily life has been an immersion into this community in all its variety of elements. On your journey through schooling your parents have accompanied you, celebrating your successes, 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 Patrick’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 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 Patrick’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 at critical moments in our lives. 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 in certain directions.

As we are celebrating this Mass this evening we have just listened to a reading from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. His words are very appropriate for this occasion: “I, the Lord your God, I am holding you by the right hand.” Perhaps we may find this a little hard to accept. Does God really care that much for me? I would answer, based on my own personal experience, that it is absolutely true. Each of us are individually created and individually loved. God is always by our side, whether we recognise it or not. God is faithful, absolutely faithful to each of us. This faithful love is not dependent on us, on whether we deserve it or not. God’s love for you is constant. God will always be by your side no matter what happens in your life.

This simply is who God is. He is a God of love; a God who creates; a God who is full of compassion and kindness; a God who wants to individually guide each person. God will always be faithful to you. The simple question is: will we be faithful to God?

The reading continues: “I tell you, do not be afraid, I will help you.” Hear it again: “I tell you, do not be afraid, I will help you.”

Hang on to these words. Believe them. Trust in them. If necessary, test them – whatever life may throw up.
You may have – and I hope you do have – many good times, times of success, times of achievement, moments with great and exhilarating experiences, the joy of wonderful friendships. But there will also be dark times. There will also be times when passions drive us to do things that are wrong. There will be failures and hurts and disappointments. We may experience deep sadness and even loss of hope or purpose.

In these moments of darkness, of anger and isolation, there is One who is there. One who waits. One who will help. Hear the words again, “I tell you, do not be afraid, I will help you.”

Do not let go of God in your life. Indeed as you are about to step forth into your future decide to rely not just on yourself but, far more importantly, learn to rely on God. Consciously choose to unite your life and your future with God.

To do this, choose to be a Christian. Choose to unite yourself with Jesus Christ. Choose to become a disciple. Choose to be faithful to him by participating in the life of the Catholic Church. Go to Mass, receive Holy Communion, go to Reconciliation. Be a man or woman of faith. Make prayer a daily part of your life. Read the Sacred Scriptures. Be a believer and hold fast to your trust and hope in God.

Whatever we may pursue in life, whatever ambitions we may have, whatever we long to achieve, will only find its full meaning and their full fruitfulness in and through 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 means a change in direction, a reorientation of one’s life. That change in direction is 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 goodness. We need to believe the words of the Prophet Isaiah which we read tonight.

Tonight, my dear graduands, your future opens up before you. You say farewell to St Patrick’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 significant moment, as your future lies before you, make a basic but critical decision: choose to be a Christian. Choose Jesus Christ and invite him into your future. Choose to live your live in union with Jesus Christ. Let your prayer be, “Jesus, I choose you, come into my life and enter into my future.”

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Thursday, 14 December 2017