My homily for Australia Day 2021 as preached during the 9.30 am Mass from Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hamilton.
This day, this 26th day of January, is a day with many meanings. For various peoples, it will mean one thing over another.
For some people, if you believe things I’ve been reading in the press of late, this is simply the last public holiday of summer, a last hurrah if you like, before returning to the normality of what it is that we do on a regular basis, day by day.
For others, it’s a propitious day on which they join their lot to ours on this anniversary of the concept of Australian citizenship, which only came about in 1949. And so there will be many a citizenship ceremony celebrated this day, as is right and proper. For them, it’s a day of special celebration.
For others, it is a day of celebration, when we look at all those things that Australia has done and celebrate those.
For others, it’s a day of lament. A day when they look back, with sorrow, at things that have gone on in the past, stretching back to 1788, when 11 ships sailed into what would become known as Sydney Harbour, and all those things that have flown from that singular event.
For others, it’s an occasion for jingoistic nationalism, where they quite literally wrap themselves in the flag, and then go out and beat people over the head if they dare to disagree with whatever they happen to be promoting this year. It is a sad thing when we see that, but it is part of what we see on this day.
There are others for whom this day is an excuse to engage in a culture war to make sure that only their view of Australia is promoted. And anything that smacks of opposition to that is denounced as woke or PC.
All of these things take place on this day. And some of them are even valid.
But for those of us who profess the Christian faith, this day is about none of those, and about yet all of that. Because for us, this is a day I would like to suggest, as it is for any national day that features in our liturgical calendar, a day when we look forward to the future, to the unfinished project that is the Commonwealth of Australia.
We know this concept well. The kingdom of God is something that we are called to proclaim and contribute to bringing about, and yet we know it will never be finished in our lifetime. It will only reach completion in the second coming of Christ at some point of God’s choosing.
We, as Christians who live in this Commonwealth of Australia, then have a role to play. Because of how we approach the coming of the kingdom, we’re also called to do the same thing for the coming and fulfilment of this wonderful experiment called the Commonwealth of Australia.
To say that there is more yet to be done, that it is not yet completed, that there are things we should look back on with sorrow and lament and say we can do better. And then commit ourselves to making things better.
It’s not a simple day where we say “Yay, I’m Australian”, but a day when we say “yes, I am Australian, there are things to celebrate, there are things to lament, and there are things yet undone”.
And my task is to remind people of that, that there is yet more to be done. And ultimately, it is a project that will not reach completion in my lifetime.
It can be a challenge to do that when faced with some of the commentaries you see in various media circles as if the Commonwealth of Australia is and for all time has been determined.
As Christians, we know that is simply not the case. If we believe what we proclaim, if we believe what we come here each and every Sunday to proclaim, then there is yet more to be done. And we have a role to play in it.
To look back at what was but also to look forward to what yet might be and play our part in bringing that to fruition. Only then, can we truly say we are celebrating Australia Day because it is yet unfinished. And it’s a task that has been entrusted to all Australians to bring to completion
And so, my dear friends on this Australia Day, we look forward to the project being completed at some point in time and for us playing our part in making it real, a little bit more during our lifetime, thanks to the contribution that we as Christians make in this nation. So let’s be about that task and celebrate all that is yet to come.