Today’s sharing is the homily I preached during the Auckland Diocesan online Mass for Anzac Day also featured below.
Just like our Easter ceremonies this year, our celebration of ANZAC Day will be a very different one unable to attend any of the dawn services and wreathe laying ceremonies. For many people this may have been a time of grief not being able to join with others to remember fallen friends and family members. Those touching scenes of grandparents, parents and grandchildren in the early hours of the morning standing with pride, displaying medals of honour to remember family and all the fallen will be absent from our screens this year. For the most part, the social aspect of the day will be missing too.
We make the most of what we have and join in prayer in this Eucharist from our chapel and connect with you at home to remember those who bore witness to faithfulness by giving their lives for those they loved. We remember those connected to our own families. My father lost two of his cousins in the 1st World War and the only grandparent I ever met fought during the Gallipoli campaign. We remember and give thanks for the relationship and bonds forged between Australia and New Zealand as well.
This Easter reminds us of Christ’s gift of peace and peace is always in the forefront of our thoughts when we celebrate this day and all those who sacrificed their lives. Our opening prayer puts it beautifully, resurrect them in our true homeland and perfect that peace for which they longed and died.
Our Gospel story of the Disciples battling the wind and waves on the lake in the dark is relatable when we think about those who experienced the deprivation, darkness and horrors of war. They underwent huge battles personally, physically and emotionally. We hear that Jesus was not with his disciples. Maybe this was the experience of many soldiers who felt Christ had abandoned them. This was Christ’s experience from the Cross. Maybe this has been your experience at times too with what you may have had to battle with in life.
When it comes to war time, I am inspired to know there were chaplains of various denominations who must have been a huge comfort and support to so many in their hour of need. Christ through the sacraments of reconciliation, anointing and Eucharist was at the very heart of their sufferings and struggle. What about mates and medical personnel who would have supported and encouraged each other through their words, actions and shared faith?
Jesus walking on the water is the first instance in John’s Gospel where he displays who he really is, and he reassures them ‘It is I. Do not be afraid.’ To whisper and repeat those words in our heart of hearts is a huge comfort for whatever we are dealing with in life. To know that God never abandons us even if it feels like it at times.
Certainly, for the disciples the second part of their journey proved much easier with the presence of Jesus than the 1st part when he was absent from them. We hear that they reached the shore at the place they were making for in no time.
What was the place the Anzacs were making for? What is the place we are making for? A war to end all wars has not eventuated. We as human beings are still battling the winds and the storms of injustice, inequality, greed, oppression and tyranny triggering war and stifling freedom.
The little and big successes in peace making both personally and on the world stage and choosing non-violence are to be acknowledged and celebrated, the self-sacrifice towards those still affected by war and outreach to displaced peoples is an inspiration. All these examples and many more is the light of Christ breaking through into our darkness, renewing hope and enabling us and our fellow travellers not to give into despair. Our boat is heading towards the shore. Our trust is in him whose voice cuts across the violence of the storm, ‘It is I. Do not be afraid’.
I wrote ‘Sons of Gallipoli’ in 2003 after visiting Gallipoli that year. I sing it for all the fallen and for you. You can also listen and sing the lyrics along with the You Tube clip below.