As over six hundred principals and staff from the Primary and Secondary Catholic schools, Australian Catholic University and Education Office in Ballarat gathered, the noise in St Patrick’s Cathedral grew from a whisper to a gentle roar. The sound of these school communities gathering after their summer break, to celebrate the beginning of the 2019 school year with a Eucharist, presided over by Bishop Paul, was exciting and heart-warming to hear.
The theme of the Mass this year was ‘Listen with the Ear of your Heart’ and as Bishop Paul, Fr Kevin Maloney (VG), Peter Sherman and Fr Anthony Nagothu entered the Cathedral, the members of the Assembly raised their voices in a joy-filled rendition of the well-known hymn “The Summons”.
Bishop Paul’s homily spoke on the value of listening deeply – with listening deeply it will be possible to hear the wisdom of God. The Gospel of Matthew says, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.” Bishop Paul encouraged us to have our eyes open so we can see the light of God and if we listen with the ear of our heart, we will hear God’s message.
Bishop Paul recognised and blessed all who are an integral part of the educational mission of the Church in the Diocese of Ballarat and commissioned them with a commitment from all to this special role. Each school and college from the Central Zone, along with a representative from the University and Education Office, was presented with a copy of the Gospel reading that was proclaimed during Mass. Bishop Paul invited schools to reflect upon this Gospel reading during the 2019 school year.
Thanks go to all in Catholic Education Ballarat who prepared the celebration and to all who ministered to the Assembly through music, song, proclamation and distribution of the Gospel reading.
Dr Susan Crowe – CEOB Education Officer: Sustainability, Liturgy and Special Projects
Bishop Paul Bird’s homily can be read below:
Opening of 2019 School Year – Ballarat Cathedral, 8.45 am, January 29, 2019
There is an Australian Aboriginal elder by the name of Miriam Rose Ungunmerr. She comes from the Northern Territory, from Nauiyu, also called Daly River. In 1975 she became the Northern Territory’s first fully qualified Aboriginal teacher. Later she became the Principal of the Catholic primary school in her home community of Nauiyu. She has done a lot to encourage the inclusion of visual arts as part of every child’s education. She has also promoted the value of quiet listening – in education and in life in general. The gift of quiet listening. Miriam Rose sees this as a gift that Aboriginal people appreciate very much.
For thousands of years, Aboriginal people have lived with Nature’s quietness. Miriam Rose writes that when we take some time to be in the quiet of creation, we can feel close to the Creator. She also writes that quiet listening will help us hear the words of Jesus. I’d like to quote a few lines from one of her articles: “We like to hear words of peace, like Jesus spoke. We want to listen and to pass on words that are true and good – like the words that have come to us through our culture and traditions; and like the words that come to us in the Gospel of Jesus. This is what I long for: that with these words to guide us, everyone will come to listen to the Sound of God.”
This morning we’re celebrating the opening of the school year. The theme proposed by our Catholic Education Office for this year is “Listen with the ear of your heart.” This would be a fruitful approach for us as teachers – to take time to listen, to listen deeply, to listen with the ear of our heart. If we listen deeply, we’ll be able to hear the wisdom of creation, the wisdom of the Creator. We’ll be able to hear words of peace, like Jesus spoke. Then we’ll be able to share that wisdom with our students. We’ll be able to pass on words of peace.
This would also be a fruitful approach to encourage in our students. Encourage them to take time to listen, to listen deeply, to listen with the ear of their heart, so that they hear for themselves the wisdom of creation, the wisdom of the Creator, the words of peace, like Jesus spoke.
In the first of our Scripture readings this morning, St Paul makes an extraordinary claim. He writes, “We speak God’s wisdom.” He believed that the message of the gospel was not merely human wisdom, it was the wisdom of God. It was a wisdom that had been revealed through the Holy Spirit. He writes, “We speak God’s wisdom. These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” On the day of his conversion, St Paul had seen a light from heaven and he had heard the voice of Jesus. He had a keen sense that the message he had received was not merely a human message, it was divine, and his role was to share that divine message with others.
We too have the opportunity to hear the voice of Jesus – through the Scriptures, through the people we meet, through the sounds of God’s creation. We have been blessed with the chance to hear the wisdom of God. As Jesus said in this morning’s gospel, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.” If our eyes are open, we’ll see the light of God. If we listen with the ear of our heart, we’ll hear God’s message.
As we continue the Mass now, I invite you to pray for this gift for ourselves and for our students. In the busyness of our lives, may we find times of stillness, and in this stillness may we come to hear the Sound of God.
Bishop Paul Bird CSsR