Monday, 26 January 2015

Australia Day Homily 2015

Australia Day 2015

Homily (Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral, Waitara)

Let me begin by repeating the opening prayer for today’s Mass:

Grant, we pray, O Lord our God
That as the Cross shines in our southern skies,
so may Christ bring light to our nation, to its peoples old and new,
and by saving grace, transform our lives.

70,000 years into our human history, 227 years into our colonization, and 114 years into our nationhood, Australia is older than the rest of civilisation, yet still new in its culture and outlook. We remain a people and nation capable of seeing a new vision in this very ancient land. This strange mixture of old and new continues to make Australia what it is: a country that has three fundamental and overlapping layers of identity – our indigenous history, our Western legacy, and our immigrant inheritance. This three-fold identity is what God’s providence has bequeathed to us, Australia’s current generations; and it is from this identity that we are to shape a new vision in Christ, as we have prayed.

The perennial risk for Australia today is, I think, to forget to honour – or even reject outright – one or other dimension of our threefold indigenous, western, immigrant identity. When we have failed to recognize, honour and learn from our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander forebears, we have become a poorer and uncaring nation. When we have neglected to acknowledge the Judeo-Christian basis of our society, we have become a weaker and blindfolded nation. When we have scorned new arrivals to these shores, we have become a wary and ungenerous nation. The loss of any of these three layers of identity has led to the loss of our goodness as a people.

This is not the new vision that we have been given to reflect. God has endowed us with his goodness, so that his vision may fill our sights – and a new fire of the Holy Spirit might be lit among us. This is the great calling Christian Australians have been given for the sake of our country. We have Christ, who is incarnated in our very identity: Jesus has indigenous, western and ethnic looks; he has pitched his tent among us. As such, we Christian Australians have what is needed to see the new horizon of our future, because our faces have been formed by grace to show the face of Jesus to our nation and people.

To believe this is to hold that Christian Australians have unique gifts to give back to this country: the gift to hope for what is good, the gift to see what might be possible, and the gift to act with resolve. There are three current matters which strike me as signs for us to act accordingly. Firstly, over the next year or so, the question of constitutional recognition of our indigenous peoples will become a major political issue. We can and should be a strong voice in favour of this recognition as an act of justice. Secondly, the issues of religious freedom and freedom of speech will continue to play out in our society. We can be a firm voice of encouragement amongst those of faith who strive to speak with dignity and reason. Thirdly, and most pressing, two of our young citizens, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, are on death row in Bali. We can be a voice of compassionate support to them by contacting the Indonesian Ambassador in Canberra.

Australians can have a new vision in this ancient land, shaped by the hands and the face of Christ. Let this be our prayer today, and our resolve to act accordingly.

Most Rev Peter A Comensoli
Bishop of Broken Bay

26 January 2015

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