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40 Days: Reconciliation


Welcome to 40 Days, a reflective journey for Eureka Street subscribers beginning Ash Wednesday and running through until Easter. Each week we’ll bring you a reflection on a theme, followed by some reading from our archives to help you reflect more deeply throughout the week. You might read them all at once, or sample one each day of Lent.

Our third reflection is from Andrew Hamilton SJ, and explores the theme of ‘Reconciliation’. 



Reconciliation can be a pretty cold affair –  time spent in ensuring that each item of expenditure has a receipt. That is important, of course. It ensures that financial figures can be trusted and is necessary for unmasking embezzlers. But it is a more heartwarming form of reconciliation if the embezzler takes responsibility for ripping off his boss, and if his boss visits him regularly in gaol and invites him home. That kind of reconciliation is two-sided and can be enormously energising.

This is the kind of reconciliation that the Catholic Lenten liturgy hammers away at. It visualises a relationship with God that we have broken and a God who is crazy brave in forgiving and welcoming people home. The challenge to this kind of reconciliation, as we all know from hard experience, is that people who break relationships often don’t even notice what they have done or perhaps regard it as of little importance. That is why in the Christian world Lent is a time for reflecting on our lives, noticing when we have acted meanly, and seeking reconciliation. That is the truth-telling part central in any reconciliation. In the relationship with God, reconciliation has already been signed and sealed and needs us only to drop in and pick up the document.  

In the case of reconciliation between the descendants of our First Peoples and of those who came after settlement, the challenge lies in the latter recognising how the invasion and settlement of Australia alienated Indigenous people from their land and shattered their culture. It enriched the newcomers and has impoverished Indigenous Australians who still suffer from its effects and the discrimination that accompanies it. Recognition is not simply an acceptance of facts. It involves also entering the experience of the people affected. Reconciliation must begin with truth telling, flow into empathy, and be followed by a conversation aimed at building decent relationships. 


Many contributors to Eureka Street have written powerfully about reconciliation.




This Invasion Day, march for the future

Celeste Liddle writes, ‘Racist people have commented to me that if we were 'real Aborigines', we'd all go back to living off the land. Yet for so many of us, this option is impossible. The waterways are dry and polluted, the food sources are scarce and the damage is near irreparable. There is no day where this struggle to educate others living here does not continue. Until we reach a point of truth-telling and reparations in this country, an alternate date simply won't exist.’ [From 2019]

Read more here. 


Pope Francis and the face of mercy

Frank Brennan SJ writes, ‘We have three options for life. We can be primarily self-interested, seeking wealth, power and honours in our own comforted isolation. Or we can live according to the norms of justice, law, order and fairness. That way, we will always be prepared to meet the other half way, not going any further. We will be prepared to accord each their due, but not giving any more of ourselves. Or we can live with a commitment to relationships with God and our neighbour marked by mercy, forgiveness and love.’ [From 2015]

Read more here. 


Reconciliation in Australia and East Timor

Mark Green writes, ‘I was representative of an organisation that means compassion. Or so I thought. In the space of a couple of sentences, a young man had challenged all of this. How could I be an ambassador of reconciliation and hope, coming from a nation that had not been big enough or aware enough to begin to seek reconciliation with its own First Peoples?’ [From 2013]

Read more here. 


Treaty holds the key to robust environmental law

Bronwyn Lay writes, ‘Instead of viewing a treaty as giving something up, ceding authority or threatening the skeleton of common law, as New Zealand illustrates, a treaty could gift the Australian legal system with deep principles of environmental justice.’ [From 2016]

Read more here. 


Love creates space for restorative justice

Andrew Hamilton writes, ‘To include love in penal justice may seem impossible. But recently in court a man was sentenced to jail for dangerous driving that led to the death of a young woman. Her father then embraced the driver. The health of the victims of crime and of the community depends on people trying to make the impossible possible.’ [From 2014]

Read more here. 


Mending man

Julie Perrin writes, ‘I wondered at my gratitude for this moment — for people who will labour with love. Somehow by mending even such a small thing as an item of clothing, they are taking part in the mending of the world. I love people who are alert to damage and move towards it, who see injury or distress and meet vulnerability instead of withdrawing.’ [From 2018]

Read more here. 





Andrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street, and writer at Jesuit Social Services.

Main image: (Getty images)

Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, 40 Days, Lent, Reconciliation



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