Reconciliation Week

June 29, 2016 | Reflections From Sr Mary

Over the past week, and including today, we celebrated five significant events which happened to coincide due to our liturgical cycle this year. We celebrated Corpus Christi last Sunday, Sacred Heart on Friday and the Immaculate Heart today but the other two may have passed us by – although Paul did mention them in his homily last Sunday. 

Last Thursday week, we marked National Sorry Day, the day when we remember the "Stolen Generation", our indigenous sisters and brothers who were taken from their families and whose lives – both theirs and their families – were affected deeply and tragically. 

This day of remembrance was followed on Friday by the beginning of National Reconciliation Week which ran throughout this last week and last night we watched that wonderful Vivid Festival of Lights projected on the sails of the Opera House celebrating the stories and art of indigenous Australia.

Sydney Opera House Vivid

As I was reading various bits and pieces about each of these days, the thought struck me that they have much in common and this commonality is worth some reflection in this particular year when they happen to occur one after the other. The commonality I am referring to is that each of these events and days we mark were born out of brokenness… and from this brokenness, good has come and continues to come as we gather, talk and work together to acknowledge and celebrate our blessings and connections.

The theme for this year's Reconciliation Week is "Our History, Our Story, Our Future." Reconciliation Australia has described these three elements in this way:

Our History reminds us all that historical acceptance is essential to our reconciliation journey. Historical acceptance will exist when all Australians understand and accept the fact that past laws, practices and policies deeply affected the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, often having devastating immediate impacts and causing much of the disadvantage that exists today. It is also a commitment to ensuring these wrongs are never repeated in the future.

Our Story reflects the fact that the journey towards reconciliation forms a significant part of Australia's story, as do the stories of both trauma and triumph told by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It also encourages each and every one of us to make reconciliation part of our own story.

Our Future reinforces that reconciliation must live in the hearts, minds and actions of all Australians as we move forward, in the knowledge that we believe in fairness for everyone, that our diversity makes us richer, and that together, we are stronger.

We could perhaps sum up these three elements by saying that when we remember, acknowledge and name our past, when we tell the stories of what happened then and now and join together to celebrate what is best in us all, we can move towards healing and a future full of hope. Out of brokenness, good can come if we continue to talk, share and work together.

Our History, Our Story, Our Future… aren't these three elements also at the very heart of our Eucharistic celebrations? Each time we gather, we remember and re-enact our history, we listen to stories of the past going back to the time of creation and culminating in the gospels and the days of the early Church. Through the breaking of the bread of the body of Christ and the drinking of the wine of his blood, we gain grace and strength to move into the future, continuing Christ's mission of love, peace, justice and healing. Out of the brokenness of that Last Supper night and the cross of Good Friday, good triumphed, and it is that good – the Resurrection – which stands as the beacon and heart of our faith today.

Our History, Our Story, Our Future… aren't these three elements also at the heart of each and every one of us sitting here? Aren't they at the heart of every human being on our planet? How many of us know a little or a lot about our family trees? We are people of our history, who we are, where we came from. And don't we all have photos in our rooms telling the stories of our families, various events in our lives, our travels, our friends? We so often remember the good times but are also aware of the difficulties we have encountered along the way, the messiness at times, our own brokenness and the brokenness of others whom we have loved or lived with. Very often, we tell these stories as we celebrate a birthday or sit around the supper table at night. Elizabeth is already planning her story for later in the year when we celebrate her 90th birthday. 

We are often thinking about the future, making plans and lists of things to do, hopes, resolutions? Is not the past, the present and the future, often the working and the fruit of our lectio as we ponder the Scriptures and allow them to shed light on our lives? Out of the brokenness of our own individual and collective stories, we long for a future full of hope, a future where we can be free to grow in love, happiness and peace. 

Perhaps the best way to sum up my ponderings on the three days that coincided last week is that we are all connected in far more ways than we think. The Feasts of Corpus Christi, Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart are predominantly a Catholic feastdays, Sorry Day and Reconciliation Week are National Days and are primarily focused on healing and reconciliation between our indigenous sisters and brothers and those of us from many nations who have come here more recently but the remembrances and themes of these days are common to all peoples if only we would connect. 

The writer E. M. Forster is often quoted as saying, "Only connect". The full sentence is: "Only connect! Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect." 

I want to suggest today, that as we come to the end of this Reconciliation Week we take the time to "only connect" in our thoughts, our lectio, our prayer. Connect with our own history and stories, the blessings and the brokenness, connect with the history and stories of our own community, our Church, our nation. 

And as we gather for prayer together many times a day, let us lay these thoughts before our God praying for reconciliation within ourselves, with one another, with those who may be different to us in any way, with creation and with the world. 

History has shown us that out of brokenness good can and does come. So, let us tell our stories and work together to bring forth that kingdom of God we all long for, a kingdom of peace, justice, freedom, hope and love. Let us….. Only connect

I would like to finish with a Prayer for Australia written by Lenore Parker:

God of holy Dreaming, 
Great Creator Spirit,
from the dawn of creation 
you have given your children the good things of Mother Earth.
You spoke and the gum tree grew.
In the vast desert and dense forest,
and in cities at the water's edge, 
creation sings your praise.
Your presence endures as the rock at the heart of our land.
When Jesus hung on the tree
you heard the cries of all your people and became one with your wounded ones:
the convicts, the hunted, the dispossessed, the children taken from their families.
The sunrise of your Son coloured the earth anew,
and bathed it in glorious hope.
In Jesus we have been reconciled to you,
to each other and to your whole creation.
Lead us on, Great Spirit,
as we gather from the four corners of the earth;
Enable us to walk together in trust from the hurt of the past
into the full day which has dawned in Jesus Christ.