Commencement of School Year Homily – Part 3: Servant Leaders

This article is the final part of the homily preached by His Eminence Archbishop William Cardinal Goh at the Mass for the Commencement of School Year, held on 29 January 2023.



The second quality that we need to form in our students, Zephaniah and Our Lord make it clear, is humility. “Happy are the poor in spirit.” And St Paul in today’s second reading says, “Take yourselves, brothers, at the time when you were called, how many of you were wise, in the ordinary sense of the word? How many of you were influential people who came from noble families?” That is also important: humility. If we are not humble, we cannot lead.

In fact, the greater you are, the more humble you should be, because you do not deserve to be in that place, if the Lord has not chosen you. We should be humble that the Lord has chosen us to be leaders. A person without humility will not be a team player. A person who is arrogant will cause more problems in the end.

Humility is very important in leadership. Humility helps us to be grateful for what we are, for the responsibility that has been given to us. The truth is that sometimes, those of us who are in power, we are so used to the power that we have, and we forget that that power is not because of us – it has been entrusted to us. And so we need to use it well. We don’t use power for ourselves to destroy people – it is always for the greater good. So humility is important.

The next thing we need to ask for is not just humility – compassion. That’s why today in the Gospel, the Beatitudes speak about compassion. Compassion and justice. If our young people were to be leaders of tomorrow, we must have a heart of compassion. And I think today what the world needs most is compassion. Because God has been compassionate to us. As I’ve said, in today’s reading from St Paul, we are told that God has chosen what is weak by human reckoning, and we are the weaklings that the Lord has chosen. And so we need to feel with others; we need to feel for others.

The Heart of Christ

Those of you who are educators, don’t forget to feel for the weakest students. Don’t just focus on those students who are smart, intelligent and produce good grades, and don’t give you trouble. Yes, these are easy to handle. Very easy. I also prefer to have all my students like that. But there’s no big deal. You have done nothing much for these students. It is when you transform a student who is difficult, who has no vision, who is lost, who is wounded, who is broken, and you raise him up, then I tell you, you can be truly proud of yourself. And the students who have been changed and transformed by you, will be great leaders.

So it is very important, this heart of compassion – feeling with the poor, that is what all leaders must do. If we don’t feel for the suffering, the wounded, then we will not seek justice for them. To acquire these virtues, we need to be clear, we need to be focused on the Lord. That is why St Paul reminds us, “God has made Christ our virtue, our wisdom, our holiness and our freedom.”

I pray that educators, please, don’t just teach. You need to focus on our Lord. You need to acquire the heart of Jesus, the wisdom of Jesus. So that you will not see life as what everybody else sees in the world. We must see people with the gift of wisdom, to see the deeper realities of life. So that this world can be transformed, and these young people under your care. You have great power, with the grace of God, to transform them. The society depends on you. The future of this country depends on you, how you form these leaders for the future. Otherwise, the next generation of leaders will bring the country down, because they lack these virtues to rule, to govern, and to grow the country.

Last but not least, yes, it is easy to teach; but at the end of the day, I do ask you — as I do myself, as the bishop — we need to live what we preach. We need to be convicted of what we are teaching. Please don’t teach history if you have no love for history, because you are bluffing everybody. You cannot teach well, not matter how you do, you won’t teach well.

Whatever subject you teach, you must be excited, passionate. How can you inspire the students, the way they see you teach history, you also fall asleep, you will be a historical figure in no time. But if you are interested in the subject, if you are excited, you are passionate, you will bring out the beauty in the subject.

Actually, it’s not what you teach, it’s how you teach. It’s how you see the beauty in what you are teaching and they’ll say, “Wow, I’ve never seen the subject in this manner!” And once you’re excited, you give them the right attitude – they will want to learn. Most of all, I pray that you will be good people who will influence the lives of our students. May they look up to you and say, “I want to be like my teacher.” Please be their mentor in life, in love, in compassion and integrity.



This article is the final part of the homily preached by His Eminence Archbishop William Cardinal Goh at the Mass for the Commencement of School Year, held on 29 January 2023.