Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Anzac Day: Fr Chris Yates SSC

Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, originally commemorated by both countries on 25 April every year to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. It now more broadly commemorates all those who served and died in military operations for their countries. I share with you the Anzac Day Address given at Medowie, NSW, by Fr Chris Yates SSC, Assistant Priest in the Parish of Williamtown, Mallabula & Medowie in the Diocese of Newcastle. (You can visit Fr Chris' blog HERE.) 

Today we gather here as everyday people from our local community remembering other everyday people. There can be a tendency I think to imagine that the men and women of our armed forces who go to war are somehow superhuman or different to us. Well, for those of you here today who have fought in a battle, or lost a comrade or family member, you will know that heroes are everyday ordinary people; every day ordinary people who are placed in extraordinary circumstances. 

The war memorials across the world bear the names of people who loved and were loved; who laughed, cried, worked, rested, bled and died. We must never lose sight of this in an increasingly consumerist world. The lists of names on monuments must never be taken for granted or become just another type of street furniture; to do that would be to lose sight of the sacrifice required when war is declared and fought. It would be to treat the men and women who died, or who received life-changing injuries as mere commodities; collateral damage; an inconvenience of history. 

This is not how God views them or any of us. God values every hair on our head; He never ceases to care for us and never forgets the sacrifices that we make for Him. We are here because we too have this sense of value for life that is part of who we are and how we are created. This nation was formed not on the jotter pads of colonial bureaucrats, but as a result of the commitment to countrymen who died a long way from these shores in Gallipoli. This commitment flows from a sense of connection that we feel to other human beings. It stems from the value that we share for human life and our need to mark its passing with dignity and respect.

Of course, the Church does not mark death as a final moment or end to life. We believe that life is changed, not ended. That in passing to God’s nearer presence we remain alive in a different state of being than those we leave behind. ANZAC Day is then, not simply a day to remember lives lost as important as that is; but also a day when we are drawn to the hope that we can have in the resurrection to eternal life. This is the hope that brings us here; a hope that war would cease; that no more lives would be lost or devastated by it; that we would feel compelled to support one another through difficult and trying times.

We ordinary everyday people of Medowie come closer together by sharing these moments of unity and respect, in this we bring hope to one another and show value for our neighbours. In short, we become a community. May God bless us in this desire to bind together in memory, in hope and as one. Amen.


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