It is an honour and
a privilege for me to be asked by the Refern Community,
of which I have been a part for the past 30 years,
to offer you a reflection today.
Firstly, I want to
acknowledge the original owners of this land, upon
which this church has been built – land which was
stolen through violence and force, and which has never
been returned yet.
Before I enter into
the Liberation Theology of the breaking of Christ's
Body and the sharing of the spilling of His blood,
I also acknowledge the breaking of the bodies and
the spilling of the blood of the Aboriginal people.
Minds and bodies are still being broken and blood
is still being spilt. It is hard for me to confess
to an unconfessing church, but I ask the Aboriginal
people for their pardon for the part I have played
in their crucifiction. I am sorry for the suffering
I have caused you and I want to make amends, because
I am sorry. I know I continue to cause you suffering
in my ignorance ….
Teach me. I also
apologise for the failure of my institutional church,
to recognise their need to be sorry also. For me this
makes the Sacrament of the Eucharist more complete
– the symbol of brokenness. The breaking of bread
with broken people.
St Francis the Poverello,
canonized by the Catholic Church and acknowledged
by so many faiths, reminds us as Christians to be
another Christ. St Francis had a change of life when
he stopped and kissed the leper. Christ calls us to
enter into relationship with him in the poor. I believe,
without this relationship with the poor, we will not
know the real Christ.
Ted Kennedy one night,
was called by an Aboriginal man to go to a squat where
his mate was sick and dying. Ted went, stepping on
broken floorboards, stepping over excreta and vomit,
to the man. Ted was asked to tell this dying man,
“that there is a God”. This was a turning point in
his life! Ted realised he has to show Christ, not
just talk about Him (a video, a tape or a book can
do this). It is only living as Christ lived, can we
show the living Christ. I see the Church presenting
two Christs – One a crucified, rejected, radical Christ,
the other, a cosmetised, clean, neat, Persil-white,
bleached Christ. Christ was called a drunkard and
a sinner because he associated with rejected people,
and so he was also rejected, by the “comfortable who
wanted to remain comfortable”, as Mum Shirl would
say. Ted challenged us not to be only for the poor
but with the poor! He said “There are too many priests
and religious, but not enough visionaries.” Visionaries
who will discern the needs of the time, and respond
in ways that live the Gospel authentically for our
I wonder who St Francis
would have been for us today, if he had moved the
leper on, and not stayed and kissed him. Christ, as
Arupe a Jesuit provincial once said, “had a preferential
eye for the poor”. We too need the inner eyes to see
the inner person, when we see the outer person with
our outer eyes. Do we look through Christ's eyes?
Christ was born in
a stable – It was not renovated for Him! Later, He
didn't choose to live in a palace with r oyalty. Where
can we find, in the Catholic Church of Australia,
the stable, where Christ is being born today? Kings
have their thrones, sitting higher than the common
people, their palace floors are covered with red carpet,
and their tables adorned with silver and gold. Yet
the Son of God had no where to lay his head. Francis'
greatest suffering was seeing his monks accumulating
material wealth, becoming self-indulgent, leaving
simplicity, replacing their sandals with slippers.
This brought about a division in the community. One
group wanted to maintain comfort, elitism and clerical
hierarchical structures. I see parallels in the Refern
Church today. The Aboriginal people are burdened and
excluded by this elite hierarchy, as are the community
who sit with them.
Once I was talking
to a man outside the Wayside Chapel, Kings Cross.
I asked, "Why don't you go inside and pray?"
He said, "It is too clean for me, and I am too
dirty." How do you think Christ would have reacted?
If I were to see this may today, could I say to him,
"Come to Redfern! You will be comfortable in
our acceptance of you, just as you are."
When I am called
to give account of my stewardship, what will Christ
ask? What will be His priority? He has already told
me "What you do for the least of my little ones,
You do to Me." I believe he will not ask what
I achieved or built, or what station in life I had.
Maybe it will be the reverse of this ± not
what I am, but who I am! So forgive me Father and
my brothers and sisters, not so much for what I have
done, but for what I haven't done. For what I have
said but for what I haven't said.
May the peace of Chirst continue
to disturb me.