ANZAC Day Mass

Decrease font size
Increase font size
Print this page
Home > Archbishop > Homilies > ANZAC Day Mass

25 April 2013

While we are very familiar with the reason why this particular day is so special, being the day when we commemorate now the 98th anniversary of the landing at Anzac Cove at Gallipoli, we are also aware that there is much more to the story than what happened on that one particular day.

There was the lead up to the landing, the decision to move in that direction, a decision in which the famous Sir Winston Churchill was deeply involved, and actually tendered his resignation as First Lord of the Admiralty because of the disaster of the campaign. Then the other events in the campaign occurred before a decision was made for the Allied troops to withdraw from the peninsula.

On the very same day as the landing, an Australian submarine, known as the AE2 was trying to pass undetected while operating in the Sea of Marmara, but unfortunately, on April 30, the vessel was hit by a Turkish torpedo. Fortunately all the members of the crew were saved, but the boat went to the bottom, only to be rediscovered in 1998 near where it sank.

Then the campaign in Gallipoli went on for some months, including the Battle of Lone Pine, and the Battle of the Nek, until a decision was made for the troops to withdraw on 15 December 1915. By that time 8709 Australians and 2701 New Zealanders had died.

That was not where things came to a halt. A number of those who were evacuated from Anzac Cove, moved on to other theatres of war, at Fromelles in northern France in 1916, at Pozieres on 23 July 1916, Messines in 1917, later at Passchendaele and then exactly three years later at Villers-Bretonneux till the engagements finally came to an end in November 1918. These additional occasions were all part of the one story, part of the one history.

I was thinking about these events when considering the first reading for today, Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter. It was part of the approach of St. Paul in his preaching, to make mention of a series of events which were all joined together.  It was God who led the Jewish people through the wilderness until they took possession of their own land once again.

Then the people were given judges, and then they requested a king, culminating in the appointment of King David, a person “after God’s own heart”. And from King David, came Christ, Jesus the Saviour, whose arrival was made known by John the Baptist.

Only in recent weeks, we have been recalling, and celebrating once more the victory of Jesus over sin, suffering and death, through his Death and Resurrection. It was Jesus who, prior to those events gave us a clear understanding of the significance of his mission and the way in which we are to respond to it.

The Gospel passage today comes, as we have heard immediately after the profound gesture of Jesus in washing the feet of his disciples. When he had washed their feet and put on his clothes again he went back to the table “Do you understand what I have done to you?” and then he said….. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.”

When Jesus calls us to wash the feet of one another, he is calling us to love, to serve and to forgive each other. The gesture of the washing of the feet is indeed a very powerful symbol. To wash the feet of another person is even more that a symbol – it is a source of grace, a presence of Jesus, which gives us the strength and love to be servants and leaders ourselves.

The many soldiers who served in the various theatres of war were not great theologians, I suspect, but they embodied so much of the gospel values, that we should credit them with great Christian motivation. “Love one another as I have loved you” would be one of the values, and “greater love than this no one has, but to lay down their life for their friends” is another.

I never cease to be amazed at the extent of the suffering and physical deprivation which many participants in war, from all sides, have suffered during the time they were close to the front lines. They have shown extraordinary resourcefulness to stay committed to what was asked of them and they deserve our gratitude which today we can express in an appropriate manner.

In the Gospel Jesus says that no servant is greater than the master. It is true the other way round as well, that the master is not greater than the servant. In the field of war, it is left to those of the lowest ranks to withstand the greatest danger and the force of the enemy power,  but they were just as important as those who were making the plans and directing the operations from the comfort of the headquarters.

In his Message for this year’s World Day of Peace, the last that he would write, Pope Benedict reflected on this year being the 50th anniversary of the landmark encyclical letter of Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris. Pope Benedict says “that the attainment of peace depends above all on the recognising that we are, in God, one human family.”

He went on to day that “Peace is an order enlivened and integrated by love, in such a way that we feel the needs of others as our own, share our goods with others, and work throughout the world for greater communion in spiritual values.”

Peace, he reminds us is possible because every man and woman has been created in the image of God, and is called to grow and contribute to the building of a new world.

May we be inspired by the words of Pope Benedict XVI, by the example of many of our countrymen and women, and may we continue ourselves to believe that “Peace is possible” through the power of the Risen Jesus, whose first greeting after the Resurrection as, as we know, “Peace be with you.”