Dear Friends in Christ,
On 16 October 2015 the annual Education Mass (organised by our Education Centre) was celebrated – a Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit – in a packed Cathedral Church. This gave me the opportunity on behalf of the Diocese to thank Almighty God for all those engaged in Catholic education and formation and the handing on of the faith of the Apostles in all its aspects.
It was impressive to see a full St Peter’s Cathedral for the concelebrated Mass, with newly qualified teachers, those recently appointed to headships and deputy or assistant headships, and other categories who were all publicly acknowledged with their respective certificates.
Gratitude was also expressed to several retiring heads and deputies, now stepping down after long years of service to the Catholic community and its young people. The coming together for this Mass and the social gathering afterwards gives everyone a wider perspective on their teaching and educational vocation as well as a sense of unity, and an awareness that they form part of a much larger community of faith.
As a diocesan family, we have a great deal to be proud of and much to be thankful to God for. Here is my homily for the occasion based upon the readings given for this Mass of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:22-27. John 15:26-27. 16:12-15):
‘“The Paraclete will bear witness to me; and you also will bear witness.” (John 15:26-27).
The apostle Paul uses remarkable language in that extract from his letter to the Romans. He speaks of the whole of creation groaning and in birth pangs until God’s full revelation and purpose is finally revealed. Likewise, we believers who have already the first fruits, or initial installment of the Holy Spirit, groan and look forward in hope to the fullness of our redemption, body and soul.
We are looking forward, but have not yet arrived! What is the great Apostle getting at here when he speaks of creation having birth pangs?
In the same context he mentions the presence and the role of the Holy Spirit who comes to assist us in our weakness, to help us to pray and so see things from God’s perspective. What is more, the Holy Spirit intercedes with the Father on our behalf when we simply cannot find the words to say. How consoling!
So the Holy Spirit helps us to make sense of the complex and constantly evolving world in which we find ourselves as teachers, governors, catechists, students, and guides to the young, all in the service of the Catholic faith.
It was that same Spirit which the Lord Jesus in the gospel promised he would send his disciples to enable them to be his witnesses. The Spirit will lead them, and us, into an ever deeper understanding about Jesus and the things of God. He would lead those disciples, and us, into the way of truth, which is what the human spirit ultimately desires.
Christ does not renege on his promises, he keeps his word, and so his family which is the Church, the school or academy of believers, has the guarantee of the Spirit’s guidance, inspiration, enlightenment and so much else at every moment in history. We have the assurance of the Spirit of Christ on our journey, we therefore have nothing to fear.
Let us return to that puzzling passage from St. Paul. We human beings and believers need to remember that we too form part of God’s creation and our divine creator has great things in store for us. We are all too conscious that we live here within the bounds of limitation and weakness, yet so often our desires and our aspirations, shall we say dreams, far transcend much of which we are actually capable.
We are a people in waiting – waiting for the fullness of life gained for us by Christ through his suffering, death and resurrection. As teachers, catechists, governors, past or present, we have the call from Christ to be witnesses to his gospel and to his truth. With that call comes the accompanying gift of his all-powerful Holy Spirit to guide our steps on every part of what is a noble educational journey in all its forms.
St. Paul hints at creation being a process, with a beginning and moving to that final destination – beyond our power of imagination – which God intends for it. In our different vocations we each work to establish the kingdom of Christ. Our work is a privilege and is blessed, but will necessarily always remain partial and incomplete.
God will indeed complete it and bring it to perfection when all will be made new, in the full revelation of God’s children, according to Paul, and in that new creation we and those whom we guide and accompany will hopefully one day experience the truth of St. Augustine’s famous words, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” ‘
Until next week – may God bless you all,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster