Sunday 05 July 2015: Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
A prophet is despised only in his own country
'We all stand on sacred ground: Learn, respect and celebrate.'
This could have been a quote from the recent encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato Si, but is in fact the Australian Catholic Church's theme for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday, which will take place this Sunday 5 July.
In preparation for Sunday's liturgy, and in response to the gospel of the day, Mark 6:1–6, some briefing words were offered:
'Our land, known as Australia, is sacred. It is sacred in our beliefs, culture and spirituality. It is also sacred to our faith. We too find ourselves in Jesus' shoes — not accepted in our own land.'
These words present a link between land and faith, belonging and alienation.
Many Indigenous people come to Christian faith through their deep connections to the land. Many, also, have suffered the cost of being dislocated from their land. They identify with Jesus who found himself rejected by those he lived amongst.
One of the ways we can enter into the mystery of our relationship with the land is to acknowledge those whose land it is that we stand upon.
Many Indigenous peoples, here and overseas, have been dislocated and have lost connection to their ancestral lands; others have not. Some have been able to return and reconnect; many cannot.
However, all Australians can recognise that we share a long, unbroken history in this land, and honour those whose ancestors were the original inhabitants.
The theme for this year's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday reminds us that we stand on sacred ground. But we lose something of its sacred mystery if we lose touch with the land, its First Peoples and our past.
On Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday we will be invited to learn the ways in which we can live on this land in an enduring and life-giving way.
We need to respect and care for what we have been given and what we wish to share for future generations. We need to take time to celebrate the beauty of sea, forest and mountains, and all that is around us.
Fr Brian McCoy SJ, Provincial | Originally published in Province Express