Friday 12 February 2021

Humble Listening and Reconciliation

Today is the 13th anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations by the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. The motion that day was supported unanimously by both Houses of Federal Parliament. I remember this day well as I had just begun teaching at Xavier College in Melbourne and we stopped all of our classes to participate in this historic moment in our nation’s history, where our elected leaders acknowledged and apologised for the enormous hurt experienced by indigenous Australians, especially those who belong to the Stolen Generations.

As I reflect on our nation’s ongoing journey of reconciliation, I recall the seminal moments of the 1967 referendum, the 1992 High Court Mabo decision recognising Native Title and the 2008 National Apology. The recent debate about whether January 26 is the most suitable date for our national day of celebration is a reminder that we are still on the journey of reconciliation. A key element of any process of reconciliation is a disposition towards humble listening, being willing to sit with another and listen deeply to each other.

As I mentioned in the first Viewpoint of the year, throughout the 2020s, the Jesuits and all of our works globally are committed to four universal apostolic priorities (UAPs), including to walking with the poor and the marginalised in a mission of reconciliation and justice. In announcing the UAPs, Fr Arturo Sosa SJ, the Superior General, said that “care for indigenous peoples, their cultures and their basic rights occupies a special place in our reconciliation and justice in all their dimensions.” As we remember the National Apology anniversary, it is worth reflecting on how each of us can continue to contribute to the ongoing journey of reconciliation including ways in which we can better listen to the voices of indigenous Australians within our national political discourse.

Next week, we begin the Season of Lent with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. There will be liturgical celebrations for the staff and students throughout the day. With our current COVID context, the ashes will be distributed differently this year. Rather than receiving the ashes on our forehead, the ashes will be sprinkled above our head. This novel distribution of Ashes will still serve as a sign of repentance as well as a reminder of our humanity, as we hear anew the words,“Repent and believe in the Gospel”.

Lent is a time of preparation for the great celebration of Easter, the foundational event of our faith celebrating that Jesus has risen from the death and triumphed over sin and death. Lent is a penitential time, a time for each of us to be more deliberate in our relationship with God through acts of fasting, almsgiving and prayer. It is a time when we are called to reflect on the movements of our heart so that as we approach Easter our relationship with God and with our neighbours is renewed, strengthened and deepened. I will say more about this next week.

In the meantime, some of you may enjoy visiting ignatianspirituality.com/lent which outlines a number of different resources to help you in your Lenten journey. The US Jesuits have also created an Ignatian Guide to Lent – 40 days of Ignatian Spirituality which you may find helpful. You can sign up for this by visiting jesuits.org/Ignatian-Lent.

Wishing you every blessing.

Fr Tom Renshaw