January 26, 2020.

Today as we celebrate Australia Day, it is a good time to reflect on our homeland as captured in our National Anthem; “Australians all let us rejoice, for we are young and free”. We thank God that we live in a democracy, hence, we have the freedom to elect our political leaders. In many countries people fight and die in order to gain independence or to have the right to vote, or for their vote to be counted. Australians did not shed their blood to gain independence and we have not experienced dictatorial government. Here, we continually improve our democracy through ‘Acts of Parliament’ and Constitutional changes without the shedding of blood as is experienced in some countries. There are still unfinished projects that need completion like reconciliation with the indigenous peoples of Australia. The Constitutional change in 1967 which formally recognised the indigenous peoples as citizens of Australia and the apology rendered to them by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on 13 February 2008 were steps in the right direction toward full integration of indigenous peoples of Australia to the wider Australia society.

“We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil; our home is girt by sea; our land abounds in nature’s gifts of beauty rich and rare.” Australia is blessed with vast fertile land, rainforests, faunas, beautiful beaches, historical sites and many natural resources like gold and iron-ore. Proceeds from gold helped in the development of the cities of Melbourne, Ballarat and Bendigo in our state, (Victoria). However, some of Australia’s lands are arid because they are in the desert, and the Australian continent is no stranger to extreme weathers resulting in flooding, drought, bushfire and cyclone. Our hearts are with the areas which are currently experiencing bushfires. May those who have lost their livelihood to the bushfires have the resilience to rebuild their lives. We pray that the Lord may send down rain to put out these fires.

Australia has also been blessed with human resources. Immigration from multiple nationalities has spiced up “Australia Fair”. Though Australia does not have a huge population compared to many nations, however, she has played a noticeable role in the world in the areas of science, economy and sports. Six major scientific discoveries developed by an Australian scientist or where Australian scientists played an important part in their discovery are1;

Penicillin-based Antibiotic: Australian scientist Howard Walter Florey was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1945 for his role, alongside Ernest Chain and Alexander Fleming, in the development of penicillin. Although Fleming is often credited with discovering penicillin, it was Florey who carried out the first clinical trials, demonstrating penicillin’s ability to fight bacterial infections. It’s estimated the trio’s discovery has saved around 200 million lives.

The Bionic Ear: La Trobe University’s Graeme Clarke successfully tested the bionic ear in 1978, which has since gifted over 200,000 deaf people with the power of hearing and speech.

Ultra-sound: Australian’s David Robinson and George Kossoff built the first commercially practice ultrasound scanner in 1961, which completely changed the way medicine used ultrasound technology.

Lithium medical treatment for bi-polar disorder: Australian psychiatrist Dr John Frederick Joseph Cade revolutionised mental illness treatment when he discovered lithium carbonate as an effective mood stabiliser for bipolar disorder.

Black Box Flight Recorder: ‘How or why did the plane crash?’ This question largely remained a mystery until 1958, when chemist David Warren invented the durable black box flight recorder. This device which is now coloured orange is now installed in every commercial plane in the world.

John and Evelyn Billings pioneered the natural family planning method known as Billings Ovulation Method.

In the First Reading, (Is 32:15-18), Isaiah prophesied about the outpouring of the Spirit over the people and on the land. This outpouring of the Spirit would transform wilderness into fertile land and fertile land into forest.

The Second Reading, (1 Cor 12:4-11), stated that there are variety of gifts given to us by the Spirit, and “the particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose.” The gifts of preaching with wisdom, faith, healing, prophecy, discerning spirits, speaking in tongues and interpreting of tongues are given to different individuals by the same Spirit. The implication is that we are called to build bridges between different cultures and communities in Australia. We should espouse unity in diversity.

The Gospel, (Mt 5: 2-12), present us with the Beatitudes which are compendium of Christian living. We are invited to empty ourselves in our service of God and humanity, not to be hard on people or pre-judge anyone; to lament over evil or miscarriage of justice; to be just in our dealing with ourselves and our neighbours; to be compassionate to people; to be faithful to our Baptismal promises and to be a beacon of peace and harmony in one’s family and community. If we live out the demands of these beatitudes the light of Christ will continue to shine in our communities.
Happy Australia Day!
Fr. Chinua Okeke CSSp

Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp

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