Homily for Votive Mass of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop on the occasion of Gilroy Day at Gilroy Catholic College, Castle Hill, 25 May 2017
It is with great joy that we are gathered to celebrate our Gilroy Day and later on to bless and open our new library building. They say ‘from little things, big things grow’. This college began with a small number of staff and students. But thanks to the immense parent, parish and community support, it has grown to what it is today. We, the present generation, who enjoy the fruits of the harvest that the past generations toiled in tears must ensure that this legacy will prosper well into the future. Thus, today we are gathered to pay respects to our pioneers, to express our deep gratitude to their vision and dedication, to draw inspiration from them and make a better future for our children.
The proud history of Gilroy College began with a vision and a determination. St Mary MacKillop had a saying: “Never see a need without doing something about it”. The parents of the Hills District many years ago also saw a need and acted on it. They worked hard to bring their shared vision to birth. In doing so, they highlighted for us the importance of setting our hearts on God’s Kingdom and working towards its realisation with generous abandon and passion.
The scriptures today teach us to live our lives grounded in faith and manifested through unreserved generosity. In the first reading, we hear this usual story of the widow who was asked by the prophet Elijah for a meal. It was a tough ask because it was the very meal she and her son needed for their own survival. Furthermore, she was a foreigner who did not know Elijah from a bar of soap. Yet as happened so often in the Bible, God’s love is shown through the unlikeliest of peoples: the destitute, the blind, the beggar, the leper, the tax collector etc…
The widow of Sidon showed herself extraordinarily generous by giving it all away in faith and she was rewarded with the miraculous jar. It reminds us of the story of the little boy who gave the loaves and fishes to Jesus, and he multiplied them for the hungry crowd in the desert. These stories foreshadow the self-giving love of the Eucharist.
When we act with courage and to do all we can in our power to help others, miracles can happen. This was attested to by the story of migrants and refugees who were generously accepted to our country. When we collectively rose to the challenge of living up to our tradition as a fair, compassionate, hospitable nation, the result has been an enhanced and enriched society that we are today. This also has been attested to by a great story of Gilroy College.
Today’s Gospel episode continues the theme of the uniqueness and radicalness of the teachings of Jesus. It contains some seemingly unrealistic and naive injunctions like do not worry about what to eat how to clothe one’s body. Yet it does not tell us how to provide for ourselves except by looking at birds and flowers. Sometimes we wished life was that simple and we could just go to the hills and sing our problems away. But we know singing Don’t worry, Be Happy or The Hills are Alive (with the sound of music) won’t solve our problems. We also know that Jesus was the most grounded man alive. He didn’t live on cloud nine. His poetic exhortations are a way to drive home the central theme: “Set your hearts on God’s Kingdom first and on his righteousness”.
What does it mean by setting our hearts on God’s Kingdom and his righteousness? Well, the example of Jesus shows us the way. It is to give ourselves unreservedly in faith in the way the widow shows us in the first reading. It is, in the words of another prophet, to act with justice, to love with tenderness and to walk with humility with our God. It is to resist any form of cruelty, evil, prejudice and injustice with prophetic boldness. It is to show empathy and generosity towards the poor, the marginalised, the downtrodden and the vulnerable.
Dear brothers and sisters,
It is easy for us to be preoccupied with our immediate needs. What Jesus teaches today is not that we shouldn’t be concerned about these things. Rather we should not be concerned about them in the same way the pagans or the people without faith are. If our faith makes a difference at all to the way we go about our daily preoccupations, it must permeate everything we do; it must give direction and meaning to every decision we make. In essence, Jesus challenges us to let the Gospel be our daily compass, to make his word and example our guide and to orientate all that we do to his purpose.
As we give thanks to God, to the pioneering men and women that gave so much of themselves, let us also be resolved to respond to the needs of our times, in the spirit of faith, hope and love. Let us pray with a deep sense of gratitude and humility for all that the Lord has been able to accomplish in the lives of our students, staff and parents at Gilroy, past and present. “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain”. Let us implore him to bless our efforts as we endeavour to work towards our future together with renewed clarity, commitment and enthusiasm.
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