This is a homily from Fr Paul Kelly for Anzac Day.
Today marks the landing of the Australian and New Zealand soldiers at Gallipoli, in 1915, during the First World War.
This national day of remembrance honours the courage and self-sacrifice of those who served in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.
We are all acutely aware of the fact that the health crisis at present has made it impossible for the usual extremely well-attended gatherings to remember and pay our respects at Anzac day.
Nevertheless, in many different ways, and within the ability of each and every household, we still commemorate this time.
And we remember the sacrifices, the bravery and the loss now, as always.
We also look forward to the day when we can gather again as a community to mark this important day.
The emotion and the significance of these events in no way lessens with the passage of time…
For a nation of five million people as we were back then – 61,511 young Australian lives were lost.
In all wars and military operations, including peacekeeping operations Australia has, in total lost 102,930 – and that’s an increase of 85 human lives lost in the last six years.
With 226,060, injured (another 187 added in the last six years), and 34,733 taken as prisoners of war – an addition of three, which although thankfully low, is bad enough.
And surely 100 per cent of those who served and returned have been profoundly affected in ways that one could hardly put into words.
The sheer size of these numbers – let alone the human effects behind it and countless more lives which were changed forever, are almost impossible to fully comprehend.
We hear from the Lord’s own lips, “No one has greater love, says the Lord, than those who lay down their lives for their friends,” and today we commemorate the ultimate sacrifice of those who served in times of war, and those who risked life and limb for those they loved.
I remember a few years ago, just before a Dawn service was due to start, I could hear the sound of a baby crying.
And it struck me, this is that baby’s first Anzac commemoration,
The first of a lifetime of Anzac commemorations, which will be part of his or her life since before they could even remember.
The next generation, as with previous generations of young people, have taken up the torch of remembrance for all who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
An important torch to carry.
Remembering devoutly, the cost of freedom and peace, which came at such an enormous price.
From so many brave men and women and their families and communities.
I remember also, quite a few years ago now, visiting the beautiful city of Ballarat, in Victoria, and being powerfully impressed and moved by the 22 km-long Avenue of Honour, starting with a memorial arch of victory, with 3912 trees planted along the road to remember those who enlisted from that town alone, in the First World War.
With many trees marked with plaques, also commemorating those who had died in the service of their country.
It brought home the impact of the wars, even to this day, on the people of every town both large and small.
Every year, the numbers who gather to commemorate and remember the sacrifice of so many, and so young increases.
And this is so this year, even though we cannot physically gather, we are still united in commemoration.
And it is so inspiring in past years to see the wonderful representation of young people and the schools who participate so beautifully – it gives great hope.
Many who returned from serving in the wars often did not speak of their experiences.
They were so deep and indescribable and when they did speak of it, it would astound and humble all who heard.
Today we respect their silence and we also respect their sharing of whatever they did feel was important for them, or for us to know and to take to heart.
Today, and every year at this time, we willingly and gratefully pause to remember and pray – give thanks for those countless men and women who served in time of war.
And who sacrificed everything, for the sake of their families, their friends, their colleagues, their mates, their country and the freedom, the love, the friendship and peace that it symbolises.
We remember and pay our heartfelt thanks to all who gave their lives.
The ultimate sacrifice – we take strength from Christ, Our Risen Saviour, who gave his life so that we might all be saved and be made forever citizens of the eternal and Heavenly City of peace and justice.
We cherish those words from Our Lord: “no greater love has a person than to lay down their life for a friend.”
We pray that all those who lost their lives are now resting in the eternal peace of Christ…
There are many, many sacrifices that were made by those who served in time of war and those who serve now too.
As well as the sacrifice of their lives, there is also the loss of their youth, their health, and emotional well-being.
Those who came back injured in body, mind or spirit, from their experiences.
Anyone in any way affected by the horrors of war and its aftermath.
We remember them with profound respect.
Our prayer today and for the future is for that peace which only Christ can give to the world.
A peace and a love that quenches the all-too-real hatred and misunderstanding in the world and banishes that which leads to enmity and violence.
We long for this.
Those who served prayed and struggled for it.
We continue this prayer this year and every year on this special day and all days.
May peace be in the hearts and minds of all people in the world.
May the peace of God’s kingdom one day soon put an end to all war and violence. In remembering and acknowledging the human cost of war and the price, beyond telling, of those who served.
We not only remember them, but we commit ourselves to a world where the values they fought for are cherished, protected and remembered.
We pray that God’s reign of peace, justice, dignity and love will come in all its fullness and that the values of those who struggled and suffered for us will be always and everywhere respected, preserved and built up ever stronger…
Today we recall the extraordinary poem of which a paragraph has become immortalized as The Ode.
The poem, written by Laurence Binyon in 1914 a nd captures the importance of remembering and commemorating this day.
Elsewhere in that same poem, he writes a passage that echoes our belief that those who have made sacrifices in the service of others remain not only in our hearts and memories but, although hidden from sight live on in the everlasting life of God’s kingdom where there is true peace.
No more suffering,
no war, no pain, our constant prayer is that God’s Kingdom come, not only in
heaven, but that the peace and justice of God’s Kingdom will take hold and
express itself more and more on earth and that the freedoms and values that our
past generations have sacrificed everything for will be assured for
all and forever.
“Where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.”….
(We will remember them) …
Fr Paul Kelly is an associate pastor at Surfers Paradise parish.