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Wednesday, 29 June 2022 18:54

'Get up, stand up' with our Indigenous brothers & sisters - reflection

Homily by Bishop Tim Norton SVD for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday

July 3, 2022

Luke 10:1-9

Bp Tim Norton SVD is ordainedThe Harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few.

Today we celebrate the fact that God has always been present with, and loved, our First Peoples in Australia, a love that God extends to all First Peoples across the world.

I was working in Italy last year when I was appointed auxiliary bishop in Brisbane. When I was asked about any preferences I had for the ordination liturgy, I knew that I wanted truly ‘Australian’ symbols and rituals, but I was relatively powerless to put anything significant in place as I was so far away.

Norton10 smoking ceremony 450I wanted a Pectoral Cross and Vestments decorated in an Aboriginal design. I knew I wanted to be ‘Smoked’ as a symbol of cleansing at the beginning of my Episcopal Ministry. Various people at the Brisbane end began diligently working on this by contacting First Nations people and others who could help out.

I was deeply touched and strengthened by the results, which included the vestment design being transferred also to the Mitre, two Pectoral Crosses with Sacred Land from Lake Mungo in their centre, and a Smoking Ceremony inside the Cathedral that included me and all the bishops who entered behind me. I believe God was very happy with that!

What amazed me was that so many people were willing to act on my behalf to profile the symbols and rituals of First Nations people in the Ordination Ceremony. There was an enormous amount of good will and creativity that was made immediately available simply because people were asked to help.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday logo 300In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us to pray to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. If we truly want more labourers for the vineyard that produces the Good News of life in abundance for all, the same vineyard that also tells the Jesus story through the eyes and hearts of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, then praying is only one way to do this. We also need to make a deeper commitment to our sisters and brothers through being labourers in the vineyard.

NAIDOC has a theme this year of ‘Get up, Stand up, Show up’. Labourers for the harvest of the Lord do exactly that – they labour or work for the Lord, and that can take the form of getting up and being active. There is much we can do as Christian people to address issues that affect our First Nations sisters and brothers.

I have my story of asking others for help to profile Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Culture – the world’s oldest continuing culture - during my Episcopal Ordination. What is your story? When were you active with issues that affect First Nations people? And if you don’t have a story yet of being a labourer in that vineyard, then get up, stand up and show up to places where issues of First Australians are being addressed. People are just waiting to be asked. The harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few.



TOP LEFT: Bishop Tim Norton SVD wearing his mitre decorated in Indigenous design.

MIDDLE RIGHT: The smoking ceremony at Bishop Tim's ordination as Auxiliary Bishop of Brisbane at St Stephen's Cathedral earlier this year.

BOTTOM LEFT: The logo for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday 2022. Mumeri was created by Dr Lisa Buxton in August 2013 to celebrate the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney’s inaugural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mass held at St Mary’s Cathedral. The theme for the Mass ‘Holy Spirit in this Land’ was captured in the artwork through the use of Aboriginal and Catholic symbolism.

For more information and resources to assist in the celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday, click here.