Local history recorded at the State Library tells us that on 22 March 1875 the residents of this area in a collaborative decision called this suburb 'Coorparoo' - the indigenous name for the area around Norman Creek.
Our state, our suburb, our nation, our Church are linked inextricably to our First Nations people and so on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday we acknowledge the Turribal and Jaggera people, the traditional owners of the land on which we are gathered and offer our respect to elders, past, present and emerging.
Why the history lesson and not just an acknowledgement of country you may ask and what has this got to do with the readings of Zachariah 9: 9-10 and the Gospel of Matthew 11: 25-30?
Well, one of the Plenary council discernment groups reports: “‘The first roots of our contemporary country Australia were founded in trauma. The double trauma of a penal colony of confinement and punishment meeting the subsequent subjugation of our First Nations peoples has been written into our identity as a Nation. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are one of the most traumatised and disenfranchised peoples of the world. Our Church was present from these earliest times, and therefore carries these disturbing storylines in its history and identity’.
So I wonder how this sits with ‘my yoke is easy and my burden light’
As I write, I’m thinking many of you may be braver than I for last week I attended Eucharist and this was my first step back outside my home except for regular solo walks in the park, a stroll along the foreshore at Manly and a drive to Burleigh midweek in May for a birthday picnic. Covid 19 has been and still is for most of our world a frightening and intimidating experience where what was normal is no longer normal.
I wonder how this sits with ‘my yoke is easy and my burden light’.
Also none of us has any idea what each of us bring to any gathering, prayer, Mass, birthday, coffee. We can only imagine the anxiety and burden we carry.
I again wonder how this sits with ‘my yoke is easy and my burden light’.
The reading from Zachariah gives us a hint as it proclaims the kind of Messiah that Jesus in fact turns out to be – not a conquering ruler armed with the weapons of the world but the compassionate, burden-bearing figure that emerges in Matthew 11.
But still all this ‘come and rest a while/burden bearing’ type figure talk can be very pious and not sound all that in touch with reality. In fact I have to agree with the little boy Billy who when asked over and over again by Sr Augusta of the Holy Cross what is furry and eats nuts eventually weakened and said “I know the answer is Jesus, Sister, because Jesus is always the answer to all your questions but really it sounds to me like a bloody squirrel’.
If I can be honest like Billy, up to now I have found this gospel challenging my experienced reality and not terribly comforting because these words don’t take away the yoke or the burden or make them any easier or lighter.
For maybe, maybe up until now, I have read this story as Jesus saying don’t worry stick with me and your difficult yoke and your hard burden will go away rather than coming to grips with the fact that there is no spiritual quick fix, there is no cheap grace.
Fr Brendan Byrne SJ helped me turn my thinking on its head. His exegesis of this Gospel revealed to me that God is merciful and loving, not cruel and vindictive in fact rather gentle and humble of heart. God does not punish us, inflict evil upon us or demand the impossible. When in relationship with and in regard to us God’s yoke is easy and God’s burden is light.
But how then is our hard yoke make easier and our heavy burden lightened. The Gospel tells me that I must look deep inside and become a ‘mere child’ to whom it has been revealed that it is not Jesus but Jesus’ message that our home, our family, our Parish and indeed every Christian community is called to be the sort of place where we carry each other’s burdens and rest with each other awhile.
Therefore, let’s us hold in our hearts for a moment the burden and the yoke on our first Nations people, the suffering of those who have been effected by Covid 19 and all that each of us bring into any gathering we may enter.
But whatever the burden and the yoke, may we all, at some time, know a moment's rest, the support of companion travellers and the gift of Christ's peace.
Tricia Ryan, Parishioner