Catholic Education Week is an annual celebration of Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Melbourne. Each year, thousands of students and staff gather at St Patrick’s Cathedral on the feast day of our patron saint for a special Mass with Archbishop Peter A Comensoli. Read his homily below.

St Paul was a funny kind of man. (Yes, St Paul; not St Patrick. I will get to him in a minute.)

But first, St Paul; he was indeed a funny man. Not funny, as in ‘ha-ha’, but funny in his ways. He makes you think, and he makes you wonder. St Paul was a Jewish Christian, who always treasured his heritage. He would often share with people his Jewish roots and Roman identity, but most particularly, Paul had found Jesus, and lived his life accordingly.

That is why, in our second reading today, we find Paul speaking to a large assembly of people in Antioch, who had come to hear him preach about living their lives in the way of Jesus. The crowd was a mixture of Jews and Gentiles – none, at this stage, were believers in Christ. But Paul’s kinsfolk were quite resistant to what he was saying, so he turned directly to the gentiles and offered them the Good News about Jesus. He did this, relying on the command of God to make him ‘a light to the nations.’

And here’s the funny bit, the thinking bit – this was the first time that the Christian faith was brought explicitly and deliberately to the non-Jewish peoples of the world. In that moment, standing among the Gentile people of Antioch, Paul understood that he was to bring the message of God’s salvation to everyone and anyone. Wow.

St Patrick, in his own time, also realised this. He left his home and heritage, as a Roman citizen of Britain, to share the Good News about Jesus’ death and resurrection with a people who had not yet received this word. Patrick was a foreigner – and immigrant – among the Irish people. But he learned to understand that he, too, was being called by Jesus to be a light to the nations, this time in Ireland. St Patrick started small, sharing his message among households and small communities, but his light was enough for Ireland to eventually became a Christian country with millions of believers.

Patrick’s light was sufficient to gradually illumine a whole nation, and then – via other missionaries – this message spread to other parts of the world, including to our own city of Melbourne. One hundred and seventy-five years ago this year, it was among the Irish immigrants that the Catholic faith was planted here in Melbourne. Think of all those fellow Christians, like yourselves, who first learnt about Jesus Christ, and then shared their belief with others. There have been millions of them, including you. Like St Paul before him, St Patrick was a funny fellow – he saw that he could be a light to the nations, and we are the recipients of that light.

Not only are we 175 years young as the local Church in Melbourne, but this Cathedral dedicated to St Patrick celebrates its 125th anniversary this year. See those massive golden windows all down the sides of our Cathedral? Each of them is made up of thousands of tiny diamond-shape glass panels. The light that shines through them makes for this beautiful glow. None of those tiny panels could do so all by itself – it needs the coming together of them to allow the light to glow through. You are like those tiny golden diamonds – by yourself you might feel small, but together, and in faith, you can glow for all to see.

On our Patron’s feast day, might you shine with the light of Jesus Christ, and share that light with others, as St Patrick did.

Feature image: Archbishop Peter A Comensoli with students and staff from Emmaus College.