The Spirit of Anzac Today- PP Every year on 25 April an extraordinary religious ritual is played out across Australia and in many other places around the world where Aussies are. People gather round memorials, and listen again to stories of sacrifice. They remember the fallen and they pray. The Last Post sounds and tears well up in the eyes.
The Spirit of Anzac is deeply embraced in Australian culture- but what is it ? I would like to share my experiences of that Spirit through my 35 years of military service . I would like to reflect on the nature of that Spirit and its contributing elements. I would like to reflect on what inspires that spirit today. It’s my hope and prayer that you too will be caught up in the embrace of the Spirit of Anzac and be empowered to live it in your daily life. In 1990 whilst on R&R from a UN peacekeeping mission in Iran, I stood on the pebble beach of Anzac Cove and walked up through the low scrub and sandhills of Gallipoli. As a serving soldier it was an eerie experience. It was very hard to comprehend how our first Anzacs survived the first day, let alone 8 months. Their only protection was to dig, and good diggers they became! The name has stuck.
With scenes from the Gallipoli movie in my mind, I contemplated the endurance, camararderie and compassion that grew in those dugouts. Ordinary Aussies from every walk of life were imbued with a Spirit that lifted them . That Spirit of Anzac has continued to surface wherever Aussies have served. In recent years, todays Anzacs have served in numerous trouble spots in the service of peace, and the resistance of evil. We need to remember that right now hundreds of them are on patrol, living moment to moment on adrenalin, Lets not forget them. They desire our daily prayers right now. I am a third generation Australian soldier. At the age of 13 I first wore the jungle green uniform as a school cadet in Brisbane. At 17 I entered Duntroon and served 25 years in the Infantry. 10 years ago I was ordained a deacon in the Catholic Church and continued service as a Chaplain. I have witnessed the spirit of Anzac first hand in many different situations.
Ive seen it in the camararderie of young riflemen of 8th/9th Battalion employed on airfield defence of Butterworth against Air Base Malaysia against Communist terrorists.
Ive seen it in the enthusiasm and adaptability of 1 RAR soldiers deployed without warning to Fiji.
Ive seen it in the courage of unarmed Aussie peacekeepers deployed to Iran in 1989. We had a challenging job to mediate and negotiate a peace in the midst of belligerent combatants and numerous environmental dangers. A highlight of my whole infantry career was to have an Islamic Commander give me this cross and thank me for bringing peace to his people.
Ive seen it in Bougainville where the human relational skills of Aussie peacemakers got belligerents to lay down their arms and reconcile.
And most recent y Ive seen it in the extraordinary compassion of Aussie Servicemen and women, and Australian Federal Police, dealing with victims and loved ones following the Asian Tsunami. Whole villages were washed away. This boat ended up 1 Km inland. Thousands of people were missing and decomposing bodies had to be identified. Aussies led the mission of assistance. This Sgt, Scott Bradshaw from Enoggera spent days on end bringing stinking decomposing bodies into the mortuary. An awesome service that led to closure for many grieving families.
So there is a snapshot of the Anzac Spirit. ( READ SUMMARY SLIDE) But where does that Spirit develop from? What inspires it. How can you develop it ? Id like to use the acronym SPIRIT to give you my thesis. Spiritual nurture and an awareness of God’s Presence is the foundation . We need spiritual food. We need to gather to pray . Courage , compassion and enthusiasm are very much gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit - not something one gets issued at the quartermaster store! We need a strong sense of purpose. Jesus gives us that purpose. We need to discern his purpose for our lives. We need a strong sense of identity. We need to belong. To a particular community----proud to be Aussies-- but also aware that we are brothers and sisters to the world- brothers and sisters in Gods family. We need to be relational people- nurturing relationships with all we meet. We need to have integrity. Don’t lie cheat or steal. Tell the truth always. Do what is right. Stu Cameron was distributing Aid in Iraq and refused to be bribed or to give preferential treatment. It cost him his life but upheld our honour and displayed our Fairness. Finally we need to be inspired by our tradition. We need to know our history- our communities story. There you have it SPIRIT. But I need to add, at the very core of the Anzac spirit is love . The Anzac spirit is a Spirit of compassion and love. And that Spirit comes from Jesus. I became aware that in everywhere our nation has sent me, the Spirit of God was already present. I just had to make myself aware and available. The Spirit of God was present on the beach at Anzac Cove as the young Queenlanders of the 9th Battalion leapt ashore. It was the Spirit of God that inspired the enthusiasm, endurance , courage and compassion of Diggers in every conflict over the last 90 years. The Anzac Spirit in my experience , is the Spirit of Jesus, embraced by Aussies in their service of humanity, and their pursuit of justice and freedom throughout the world. God has been pleased to be with us. However the Spirit only manifests itself in human behaviour when we choose to access it and participate in the spiritual life. It is my hope that we will continue to embrace this Spirit and share this message of Good News. It is a simple message really – Believe in Jesus……Grow in faith, live in hope, love as Jesus does…….. May you be Good soldiers of Christ - God is with you . God desires to imbue us with the Holy Spirit for God’s service. God desires that we be empowered with enthusiasm , courage and compassion. May the Spirit Of Anzac, the particular Spirit of Jesus embraced by Aussie diggers, empower you to serve in the mission God has given you . Thank you and may God bless you.