Graduation Mass for Australian Catholic University

Graduation Mass for Australian Catholic University celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart at St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne on Sunday 12 May 2013 at 4.00 pm

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The vivid picture of Our Lord departing from the Apostles rings in our ears.  His words "You are witnesses", remind us that the life-changing events of our life relate to Jesus dying, rising and preaching the Good News to all peoples.
Far from being the end of the story, it is a challenging beginning for the life of the Church in which we are intimately involved.  Sister Verna Holyhead, in commenting on the Ascension, suggests that older icons of the Ascension depict Jesus' feet dangling from a cloud, and a small group of disciples huddling underneath, gaping upwards.  She says that we see those disciples as representatives of future generations who still need to gaze into the mystery of Christ for more wisdom.
Jesus is the victorious leader.  We are under his feet and under his care.  The Ascension also involves the mission given to each of the Apostles and the loving care which God gives to each of us to develop our talents in our chosen field.  As we ponder the Ascension we see also that the Church's mission continues the mission of Jesus, just as Saint Luke emphasises that all Jesus said and did was under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
A Jewish Rabbi, Abraham Heschel, said "The world is dark and human agony is excruciating, but the believer casts a light by which the heart is led into the thinking of the Lord's mind."  And William Barclay, in his commentary on these readings, says "The Church is represented as the complement of Christ.  Just as the eyes of our mind cannot become effective without the body, the tremendous action of Jesus cannot be made effective without the work of the Church.  Christ is the head but we are the hands and feet.  Christ is overall but graciously empowers us to participate in the process." 
Notice upon his departure that after explaining all that had been promised was being fulfilled, Jesus blessed the disciples, promised them the Holy Spirit and commissioned them to continue his mission.  In Luke's Gospel, quoting Isaiah, this is "To bring the Good News to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, give the blind new sight, to release the imprisoned and to announce a year of favour from the Lord."
So, like the Apostles we are challenged to consider the depth of our commitment today and every day, the quality of our service, and Jesus encourages us to rely on the gifts of the Holy Spirit whose power and grace are just as they were to Jesus' followers.  The same Spirit guides our understanding of what we have read today and helps us to bring the faith we profess into our lives.
A University Graduation is a time of tremendous achievement.  After years of hard work and reflection the Graduands, with the recognition of their gifts, are placing their personal skills, dedication and commitment at the service of others in the teaching and caring professions. 
My dear friends, as I congratulate you for what you have achieved I also urge you, like the Apostles, to see that the Lord depends on you to fulfil the mission of spreading the Good News, working under the Holy Spirit and of carrying forward the work of your professions.  A University has a tremendous task to expand our mind and our experience of life and to fit us in every new way for the work of service of our community.  Service implies intellectual gifts, it implies love, and it implies commitment and determination.
Today, believing in yourselves, confident although perhaps a little nervous at what you have undertaken, you go forward with a new sense that what you have learned fits you to walk with other women and men.  Be grateful for your gifts and use them well even if an occasional mistake will make you wonder.  You have gifts which are not shared identically by everyone else.  You therefore have a God-given ability to enrich the world in which you live and work.
Continue to go forward with an enquiring mind, with faith and love in the power of Jesus to sustain you.  Be aware of the need for constant prayer and reflection, so that your life and its contribution will be seen in fitting perspective.  You can enrich the world in which you live and serve.  God loves each of us uniquely in a way that we cannot even begin to imagine.  His love is constant; his truth is the basis of our life.
As intelligent beings, if we reflect about ourselves and our God and bring our work to him in prayer, the service we render will be enriched with a tremendous and lasting integrity.  We will make a significant contribution to the lives of those for whom we care and we will grow in knowledge, experience and love. 
Learning is always a great discovery.  Do not be afraid of being ready to learn.  It would be an awful mistake to feel that you have achieved everything.  The person who is always ready to learn finds that life is always fresh.  We will then be able to convey the love and enthusiasm which sustains our service and lead others to be aware of the gifts we are given.
May the Lord who commissioned the Apostles to continue his work also see in your work love, commitment, generosity and hope, and in these you will find joy, as did the Apostles.

+ Denis J Hart
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