National University of Ireland Maynooth Mass for the Opening of the Academic Year
Homily Notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin, Saint Patrick’s College Church, 7th October 2013
“I am very pleased to be able to celebrate this Mass for the Opening of the Academic Year, which the Chaplaincy has organised, and to greet staff and students of NUI Maynooth and of Saint Patrick’s College Maynooth. I greet especially those who are beginning life at College this year. College life is a new challenge for you and we pray that the path that is opening out for you, as well as for those who are more familiar with College life, will be a happy and a fulfilling one, one filled with blessings.
We have listened to the word of God. The first reading from the Book of Numbers contains that beautiful blessing which expresses the hope that the Lord’s graciousness will look upon us and will protect each of us and grant us peace in our lives. Being in College can be a wonderful experience, but not for all and not always. Academic life can bring with it stress and pressures. There can be great gregariousness and fun, and in the midst of that noise and diversion there can also be loneliness and isolation. My first prayer is that you will all work to form a true College community in which there will be a sense of keeping an eye out for anyone who is troubled or is going through a troubling moment and there will be a sense of solidarity.
Each of you has his or her own talents and no-one should find themselves in a situation in which they doubt that fact or find themselves put down by another. In times of difficulty, remember that God’s graciousness is stronger than human small-mindedness and intolerance.
The second reading and the Gospel have a common thread and it is about love and good works.
The Christian life, which you are called to lead in these years at College, is not just about your own personal development and fulfilment. There is a tendency to evaluate academic life in terms of educational excellence and this is important. You are privileged to come to study here in Maynooth in a place where academic standards are high. You can walk around a campus within an extraordinary mix of two institutions. One is centuries-old and marked with all the symbols of tradition and classical education. The other is a modern state-of-the-art campus with all that modernity can bring. You seem to have some of the best of different worlds.
The readings however challenge you to go beyond a narrow definition of academic excellence. The Christian life cannot be understood just as self- realisation. It is also about how you use your talents and your abilities as a service to others.
The reading from Second Corinthians reminds us that we receive from God, blessings and the talents that we need for ourselves and for every circumstance of life. However, it also reminds us that the talents that we receive are not just for us but have to be shared for the good of all. The reading speaks of almsgiving and giving to the poor and it reminds us that it is our good deeds that will not be forgotten. As you reflect on your future it is important to think not just of what you want to be, but about who you want to be: what sort of a person you want to be and how you would wish to be remembered or looked on as a person in the deepest sense.
The reading does not stop with reminding us of the need to give to the poor; it talks about “providing seed for the sower, in order to make the harvest a larger one”. It is about not just giving, but of sharing so that the other can grow. We live in what is called a knowledge economy and a knowledge based society. In the past knowledge was hoarded and the one who had knowledge was the one who had power. Today, growth comes through sharing knowledge and ensuring that knowledge is placed at the wider service of humankind, so that the harvest of humanity can be the largest one and be of benefit to all.
This I believe changes the way in which each one of us addresses our studies so that best of what each of us possesses is placed at a service of responsibility and commitment for the common good.
Where does faith and belief come into the picture? The Gospel reading stresses the great commandment of love. It requires the believer to bring that reality of love and caring and solidarity into every dimension of their life. Personal success and social commitment are not mutually exclusive. There are many ways in which living your faith and the values that derive from it can enhance and enrich your professional life.
Values belong to the real world. Values are what change the real world. Values can lead us to see the realities of the world in new ways. Society requires values which transcend and which lead to the true and the good. Pope Francis when he talks about the inequalities that exists in society around the world uses the term “globalisation of indifference”. Our challenge as believers is to work for something different to indifference, the opposite of indifference, which means reaching out beyond our own interests and personal fulfilment, to being a person genuinely moved and concerned about the situation of the world we live in and willing to change it for the better.
In your studies then you should look towards developing a sense of cheerful solidarity and hope. You should never be afraid to set your ambitions high. We should always maintain an attitude of hopefulness, through a life of the simplicity, and thoughtfulness and tenderness and so be authors of a different humanity, a humanity not of indifference but of care. ENDS