Homily for St John's College 7th Anniversary Mass - 16 September 2010
Last Saturday evening I attended a dinner to celebrate the 50th anniversary of a primary school. I was PP at Brighton where St Kieran's School is 50 years old this year. I was at Brighton when the school thee celebrated its 25th anniversary. That made me feel ancient! More important than that, however, was that the occasion made me realise that anniversaries have something to say to us apart from just being an opportunity for a party!
We are a Church for whom memory is paramount. We have been asked by Jesus at the Eucharist to do this in memory of him, his life, death and resurrection. Our sacred scriptures are but the memory of a faithful people of what God has done for them. Our Catholic Tradition is a sacred task of handing on the life giving story of Jesus held in the collective memory of the Church over the centuries. Our veneration of the saints gathers the memories of the lives of people who have lived the Gospel and have shown us that not only is it possible to live it but that such a life is full of opportunities and joy.
The story of the Good Samaritan is one story from the Gospel that holds a special place in our memory (Luke 10:25-37). It has captured the imagination of many people, Christian and otherwise. It contains a central piece of Good News that sometimes we fail to see. We fail to see because we only hear a simple story of the importance of doing a good deed for one's neighbour. But who needs a Messiah or a Church to tell us that?
To educate literally means to “draw out” from a person all that they are capable of, all that which is good and true. More than ever today education is less about imposing a set of facts or truths on students. Even less so is religious education about imposing information. It is about drawing from people the goodness and the truth of the Spirit that is within. Jesus educates the lawyer beautifully in the parable we heard tonight. The lawyer asked a question to test Jesus. It was not an honest inquiry. He already had his pat answer which he knew from his religious background. Would Jesus give the right answer? Jesus turns the question around and asks him what the Law of Moses says. Jesus assures him that the reply he gives is right. Do this and you will live.
So his test of Jesus has failed. So he tries again. “And who is my neighbour?” he asks. And so the parable. Jesus draws out from this antagonistic lawyer an answer which opens his mind and heart to an awareness of another world altogether, namely, the kingdom of God. We are still struggling with that question today in a world which has forgotten this story in favour of other gospels. Gospels which find salvation in putting up more walls and barriers to others rather than breaking them down and welcoming the stranger as we would Christ.
It is also the founding story of the Good Samaritan Sisters who established the Schools in this parish. St John's is an inheritor of that tradition. We are celebrating the spirit that has been with us for seventy years tonight. That tradition itself draws inspiration from the Benedictine tradition of listening to the gospel and listening to each other with the “ear of your heart” as the rule of Benedict says. Memory is central. It is central not so that we might the more easily impose answers on people but that we might be disturbed by those memories and think and act differently.
Who are we in the parable? Are we those who walk by the injured traveller? Are we the good foreigner? Or are we the injured traveller? I feel that many of us these days would identify with the injured man. We are in need of oil and wine to heal us. Our often violent and confusing world leaves us half dead. The powerful don't even notice. We can be left for dead on the cross. We can only let ourselves be healed by God.
May St John's College continue it's educational mission to help students, parents and teachers, to discover the divine Spirit who is within and who is the centre of our existence. This Spirit heals us and reconnects us with each other.