Mass for St. Michael’s Day
24 September 2010
My dear friends,
Another school year begins. When we talk of the school year we think of pupils and teachers. But teachers are not our first educators. We get our first lessons and usually our most enduring ones from our parents.
Where I live, formals are common at this time of year. Recently, I was conversing with a woman whose son was due to attend a formal last night. She said to me sadly ‘I spent three hundred on his suit, I helped him with all the arrangements, drove him here there and everywhere and now he tells me he does not want me near the place as I’d only embarrass him.’ Not an untypical story.
Let me ask you to cast your memories back to Primary School. You came home with all your stories, spilled them out, wanted to hear Mammy and Daddy’s opinion. You talked to them, listened to what they had to say. You looked up to them and they had plenty of reason to believe that they were needed and appreciated.
The picture can change dramatically at second-level school. Teenagers become more independent. They talk more to their friends and there may be very little shared conversation at the family table. Parents may feel taken for granted and may think they are shown little respect. At worst they may feel used and unwanted.
This is Friday. Can I ask you to give a little thought over the week-end to your relationship with your parents which is a fundamental human relationship that influences so much else? Can I ask you to put this question to yourself – would I find it acceptable to be ignored, to be used, to be taken for granted, to be treated with disrespect and ingratitude? Whatever answer you come up with I challenge you before midnight on Sunday to make an opportunity to say to your parents in whatever way you choose – Mum, Dad, I appreciate what you have done for me. It will warm your home and light up your house. If you say you cannot do it, can you say you love God and your neighbour?
I was very taken by the Communion Reflection which you have chosen for your Mass. I was especially struck by the line – The world says “Get” you say “Give”. Which will we follow? You could hardly ask a more fundamental question.
My dear students, you can say to me – we are growing up in difficult times. Our parents are under severe financial pressure and many of them are not secure in their jobs. They have to work long hours and have little time or energy for themselves or for us. We are at school but we are educating ourselves for what! Will there be jobs for us when we finish or will we be forced to lay about or to emigrate?
If you were to put this to me I would have to say I understand and I sympathise. But then I have to ask – is this a time for whimpering? Or is there ever a time for wimps? You are young. Your are energetic. You have the world at your feet. You have good teachers to guide you and marvellous facilities at your disposal. If the previous generation has messed things up you have the time, the strength and the opportunity to change the world for the better.
That’s why you are here to-day to find the warmth and the light, the warmth of love and the light of knowledge. The world says “Get”. You say “Give”. Which will we follow? In giving us the universe God has not left us to stumble and fumble in the dark. He has given us torches in the prophets and the ultimate light in sending us Jesus Christ his Son. He has taught us the Way and walked it with us.
His message is a positive and encouraging one. Give and you will receive in equal measure. Give your love and respect to your parents. Give your co-operation and your trust to your teachers. Give your time and your energy to your studies and your pastimes. Have a special care for those who are less fortunate than yourselves. If you give you will live more fully and the world will be a better place for all. Your own world will be a much more comfortable and happier place to be.
The world shouts “Take” and you whisper “Share”. What will we do? The Eucharist that we are about to celebrate gives us the answer. The Eucharist is our family meal which gives life and direction to the family of believers. Christ says I have given my life for you. You do the same for one another. Develop your talents and put them at the service of one another. Don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. Don’t let greed entice you to try and take more out of the universe than it has to give. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that we can have everything if we accept credit and let to-morrow look after itself.
The Eucharist says “Give” and “Share”. You can trust that advice because it comes from God. Lift your spirits, raise your head. Say to your parents, your teachers and to God Himself – I appreciate what you have given to me and what you have done for me. As your Communion Reflection says – We are young. We are many. We are people with a future. Lord, you call us gently “make a difference, follow me and change the world”. May he bless your year’s work with success.