The annual Australia Day ‘lamb ad’ of recent years has become something of an eagerly awaited expectation for me. It’s so obviously Australian, even though it is always quite different. Perhaps it is the mixture of gentle irreverence with self-deprecating humour that makes it so; a ‘don’t-take-yourself-too-seriously’ jab at whatever have been the stories and causes of the previous year. So, this year’s lamb ad appropriately has taken the whole COVID pandemic, and simply turned it on its head.
I also love it, simply because no one outside of the Australian context gets it. I’ve shared it with friends from other countries, and they can’t understand the humour, nor fathom why we would have a dig at ourselves in such a fashion. My North American friends get particularly baffled, which makes me all the more delighted by it. Being an Australian has its wonderful peculiarities.
Our prayers for this Mass of Australia Day offer their own sense of this, our peculiar and unique take on living in this land and among the people who have made it home. Today’s Opening Prayer, for example, names for us both the blessing and the challenge of this Day, as we prayed for the light of Christ to come to our nation, “to its people old and new”. Whether we are first peoples or recent migrants; whether we trace our heritage to stories of European colonisation woven into the song-lines of more ancient narratives; whether we blend into this land images, symbols and ways of other lands; we have prayed that all of this comes under the Cross that “shines in our southern skies.”
As the Preface for today’s Mass says: “From ancient times [Lord, holy Father] you made this land a home for many peoples.” And isn’t that still the case? It is what gives us our delightful peculiarity, even amid the challenges, wounds and misunderstandings that also mark us. It opens us up to that greatest of God-given gifts, reconciliation; and spurs us on to work all the harder for the proper recognition of all who call this land ‘home’.
In a particular way, it is the threads of faith, woven into the fabric of our island continent, that offers an integrity to our everyday lives. To see ourselves within the ‘bigger picture’ of God’s providence and purposes is to see ourselves not as a nation of saviours or messiahs. Instead, faith allows for us to find ways of integration and peaceable living, and to call out those tendencies towards identity fragmentation. It is faith in God, made incarnate in this land, that will be our “rock of strength” and our “safety in every storm.” (from the Solemn Blessing).
Whatever your circumstances, and wherever your social and political leanings lie, Australia Day offers each of us who have made this land our home an occasion to give thanks to God and to seek God’s ongoing presence among us; that we may make of our lives examples of goodness, perseverance and dignity.