By Peter Bugden
JESUS’ call to the apostles to go out on mission taking nothing for the journey except a staff holds wisdom for Australians seeking justice for indigenous people, Fr Gerry Hefferan said at St Stephen’s Cathedral in Brisbane last Sunday.
Fr Hefferan, who is part-time chaplain for Centacare’s Murri Ministry, was celebrating the archdiocese’s annual National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Week Mass.
In his homily, he drew on Mark’s Gospel passage of the day in which Jesus, sending out his apostles, instructed them “to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses …”
Fr Hefferan’s reflection led to a way for Australians to overcome an attitude of paternalism towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
He said to the congregation, “if you’d like to leave your iPads here, and your mobile phones … if you’d like to leave your credit cards here”.
“If you’d like to leave any ports or changes of clothes, if you’re visiting, and just follow the Gospel and straight after Mass you go out two by two, for the next few days …
“Don’t worry about a spare tunic, … don’t worry that Wednesday’s supposed to be really cold …
“We start to think this is not as easy as it sounds, is it?”
Fr Hefferan said that, leaving behind things that were familiar, “the disciples had entered a journey of reaching out to people – sometimes accepted, and sometimes they’d be rejected and (they’d) shake the dust from under their feet”.
“Then after a few days, they’d come back and Jesus would debrief them, and go through all that they had learned,” he said.
“Mission – it’s not just going out but also bringing back experience in prayer to be debriefed by Jesus himself.”
Fr Hefferan said “we as Australians also need to leave, let go, of the things that we think we know are best for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”.
“Let that go, like those early disciples, and instead go out and find out from the people themselves, what they are asking.
“Sometimes … we think we know what’s best, and all that is is paternalism.
“Jesus rids the disciples of that by sending them out without their comforts and, leaving their comfort zones, they listen again how the Good News is spread to others.
“If you truly, truly want to appreciate the gifts that God has given this country of Australia and its many cultures, especially this Sunday our indigenous cultures, we need to listen and learn again.”
The theme for National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday this year was “We All Stand on Sacred Ground – Learn, Respect and Celebrate”.