Australia Day 202016 Jan 2020
Hymns, readings, reflection and prayers of petition for this year’s Australia Day.
Hymns: Gather Your People, Bob Hurd; Jubilee Hymn to the Holy Spirit, Michael Herry; Who Did You See? Christopher Willcock; Come to Set Us Free, Bernadette Farrell.
Readings: Isaiah 8:23-9:3. The Lord is my light and my salvation – Psalm 26(27): 1, 4, 13-14. 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17. Matthew 4:12-23.
Australia Day refers to the day Europeans began settling with a view to stay. For more than 60,000 years, this ancient land had been held in careful trust by First Nations peoples. Their deep knowledge of the land and communal relationship to country is a precious inheritance passed down throughout countless generations.
But the colonisers did not recognise the native title of the First Nations peoples. We did not reverently beg hospitality. Far from it. Our settlement took land shamelessly. We brought violence across the ever-expanding ‘frontier’, with massacres commonplace from Tasmania to Myall Creek (NSW), Forrest River (WA) to Cape Bedford (QLD). Diseases spread. In time, generations of children would be stolen from parents, a sign of destructive disrespect of First Nations cultures and the deep prejudice of many of our institutions.
The 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart announced a common desire among First Nations peoples for a Makarrata Commission to bring about a process of truth-telling – a truth-telling which would prepare the way for Treaty. The stories of dispossession, loss and trauma are embedded in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge. The traditional relationship to Country now includes reverence for places of frontier massacres and other sites of painful memory. Now today’s Australia of First Nations peoples and settler migrants alike needs to tell a more truthful founding story. The Uluru Statement was an invitation from the traditional owners of the land to the rest of the nation: let’s build a reconciled future based in truth and the healing of political and communal relationships.
Prayers of petition
Creator God, we ask for the grace to attend to your creativity at work in this land. Lord, hear us.
Father of all, you call all peoples to yourself. Bring together our First Nations peoples and settler peoples to write a new chapter in Australian history based on reconciliation, healing and mutuality. Lord, hear us.
Spirit of life, you call forth a response of concern for one another and for creation. Build a new reverence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge of land and communal relationships to Country. Lord, hear us.
Spirit of freedom, you sing within all First Nations peoples. Give us open ears to hear their voice so that we may be filled with a desire to let peace and justice flourish in this land. Lord, hear us.
Christ our brother, you encourage us with the words ‘the truth will set you free’. Help us hear the truths that First Nations peoples want to tell about the painful history of dispossession and trauma, that we may walk forward in solidarity. Lord, hear us.
Jesus, friend of the earth, you awake within us a desire to care for creation. Call together all peoples who walk upon the lands of this continent, that we may do so with tender hearts and lightness of touch. Lord, hear us.
These prayers and reflection were first published in Madonna magazine Summer 2019/2020 issue.
Image: Darling Basin, GettyJames O'Brien is an Editorial Assistant with Jesuit Communications.