Homily of Fr Adrian Danker SJ at the Catholic Education Conference 2021
“Go home” Jesus said, “your son will live.”
These are Jesus’s words to the court official who seeks healing for his sick and dying son. These are words of hope that today’s Gospel reading offers you and me.
They are hopeful, hopeful because they are Jesus’s promise that this court official’s son will live, and it comes true because Jesus always heals.
You and I gather across this island this morning in many schools, and we gather because we begin this day for our conference, the Catholic Education Conference of 2021.
We are each like the court official, because we come to this conference with different desires and different wishes; and we believe that in this day together, God will grant all our desires and all our wishes. He will grant them, as Jesus granted the court official’s desire for his son to be healed.
Whatever our desires or our wishes are, our readings tell us that we can hope; our readings express a core belief in our Christian faith, and this faith is filled with hope. We can believe in God, because we’ve all experienced the numerous examples of God’s goodness in our life, of God’s love for you and me.
Each of today’s readings expresses this reality of God with us, of God loving us.
In our first reading from Isaiah, God promises new things that will invoke in the humans a response of infinite rejoicing and happiness. There will be no more sad sounds of weeping all around them, only rejoicing in happiness.
In Isaiah’s description of this happy time, life is in abundance in both quality and quantity. What an inspiring and hope-filled promise of the fullness of life that God wishes to offer all of us – but this goodness, aren’t we experiencing it right now in our schools every day?
God’s Gift of Catholic Education
The hard work of the early missionaries and teachers has taken root and flourished, and so you and I enjoy what is school today in all our Catholic schools. Surely this is the goodness we have of being community, of being together in the schools, that we are enjoying God’s many gifts in our lives, and we are the recipients of this goodness that helps us to be better people, living purposeful lives by making a difference to all.
This is why we have come today, to celebrate, to celebrate God’s gift of Catholic education in Singapore, not just in our schools, but over the last 200 years.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus acts with great mercy and compassion. The court official comes to Jesus with faith, with faith that Jesus will heal his dying son, and Jesus heals the son.
This encounter between the official and Jesus is not for our hearing only, or even for our seeing as words on the page; this encounter is offered to you and me today as the experience of you and me in faith, knowing the love of God that works through Jesus to heal the official’s sick son.
It is an experience of our faith, that God will always save, that you and I, we experience even now as the Good News proclaims.
We have come, all of us in all our schools – we have come also to seek God in an encounter in this conference, in prayer and reflection, in learning and sharing, and even envisioning the kind of school we want to be as a place of grace. We are all hoping throughout the course of today for an encounter with God.
The good news that Jesus announces in today’s Gospel is that God will meet us, God will come to us and God will lead us forward as Catholic schools and as teachers and students, who come to know the love of God in our schools, and God will do this as God did so for the official who experienced God’s goodness through Jesus’ healing.
Our responsorial psalm today appropriately invites you and me to praise. Praise is the most human expression of gratitude to God; praise naturally springs from a grateful heart, and in gratitude, you and I want to say thank you to God for so many things, so many gifts that we have received. Especially for His mercy, that reminds us that we are always forgiven, because we are His beloved children.
In our conference today, we will learn how to recreate similar experiences of encountering God’s love, in order to praise God. Indeed, the psalmist who wrote this wonderful psalm created for us a space of prayer, a space of praise, and it’s precisely through the words in the psalm, that we have the space, this time to praise God, to pray to God and to truly give thanks.
This is what we hope to do today as well, to learn how to create these spaces of prayer, reflection and praise in our schools.
Signs of Love
Today God will give us many gifts through the conference, many moments in which you and I will experience the love of God. I wonder what you will see and hear, what you will taste, smell and feel, as the visible expressions and signs of God’s faithfulness meeting us through the conference, as signs of God’s infinite love, to bless us through this conference, as signs of God’s love, that moves us forth to allow others to share in the experience we’ve had in this conference.
For me, an example of God’s faithful love each day in school, is when my students and teachers wave “hello” or say “good morning” or even say “God bless you.” These are the simple ways my students say, “God is with us and God is good.”
You and I, we are all searching for God. We are searching for God in all the many things and all the many moments in our daily life, and this search is worthwhile, as worthwhile as the verse we hear before the Gospel: “Seek good, and not evil, that you may live and the Lord will be with you.”
This is the promise for all of us today. We are seeking the good and God will meet us in our search, and God will be with us and God will live with us. This is the promise God makes us.
Will you and I then, hearing this promise, celebrating this reality, encountering this God and recreating these moments of knowing this God, will we then celebrate the education we have, know the goodness of God in our lives, and like the psalmist, go forth and share the good news with many in our schools that we are in God’s holy presence? Let us pray we will, so that we can go home after this conference and live with God alone. Amen.