Every year, Catholics come together across Australia to acknowledge and celebrate the gifts of Australia’s First Peoples. This year is particularly important following the COVID 19 Pandemic and its impact on the ways in which we interacted and make contact with one another.
This Sunday also coincides with the start of NAIDOC WEEK (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) and this year the theme chosen is HEAL COUNTRY, it is short, sharp and challenging! It calls on all of us to continue to seek greater protections for our lands, our waters, our sacred sites and our cultural heritage from exploitation, desecration, and destruction.
If you listen carefully to this weekend’s gospel you will discover that Jesus, returning to his “native place’ was rejected in his hometown. For some reason He did not fit into their ideological view and thus did not deserve respect in their eyes.
I wonder if our own First Nations people have suffered a similar reception to Jesus in Nazareth. Their knowledge and complex cultural systems, created and honed over millennia, are often dismissed as primitive and irrelevant to our fast-paced world of today.
This could not be further from the truth, particularly as we become more aware of their continued care, love, and respect for ‘country’, grounded in a relationship with the creator that formed independently of Western influence.
2021 marks the 250th Anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in Australia. Yet the Spirit of God was poured out onto the original inhabitants of this great Southern Land many, many thousands of years prior. God’s Spirit could be heard through the singing of the birds, the cascade of the waterfall, the rustle of the wind and, most importantly, in silence.
As a Catholic Parish, at the start of NAIDOC Week, may we have the wisdom and grace to learn from those who have gone before us and appreciate, respect and learn from the spirituality and traditions of our First Nation brothers and sisters.