The New Zealand Way

Last week there was an International uproar – and there still is. It was over the President of the United States and his ban on people from seven Muslim majority countries entering the United States. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people are suffering due to war and conflicts overseas, and are looking for refuge. The official response of the United States has been to slam the door on them, which is strange because it goes against the Christian tradition which Republicans claim to hold.

Our Prime Minister’s response to this action of the United states was – “This is not the New Zealand way.”    He is right, it is not the New Zealand way to harm others.

We have a Treaty, the Treaty of Waitangi, which was signed on 6 February 177 years ago. It’s true that we have not always lived up to what the Treaty envisioned and what it asks of us. We might have a long way to go as we strive to live peacefully together in this beautiful country, people of all ethnicities and faiths, but we don’t make laws to ban or victimise particular ethnicities or faiths. The New Zealand way is to accept and welcome, even if we all probably have to make greater efforts to do so.

It is as human beings that we fail. There are prejudices, there is racism, there is inequality – but we recognise these failings and try to do something about them. That’s why we come together on Waitangi Day to pray, to give thanks to God for all the good things which are part of Aoteaora New Zealand, and to reflect together as we strive to make this land a place for all, and where all are respected and cared for.

Last November Pope Francis gave the world some new Beatitudes. They were clearly not meant to surplant the Beatitudes of Jesus, but to help us reflect on how our lives are to be lived, and how we relate to others. He actually called these Beatitudes our “Identity card” – living these is how people know who we are and what we stand for.

In his words: “New situations require new energy and a new commitment”, a different way of looking. Maybe today, all around the world, and here too, we need a different way of looking, and maybe the Beatitudes of Pope Francis will help us;

 “Blessed are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted on them by others and forgive them from their heart.

Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalised and show them their closeness.

Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others also discover him.

Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home.

Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others.

Blessed are those who pray and work for full communion between Christians.”

Think of those Beatitudes in terms of the reading from Isaiah for Waitangi Day:

“The fruit of that righteousness will be peace – its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.”

Or another translation:

“Integrity will bring peace, justice give lasting security”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to say “This is the New Zealand way”?

Righteousness, peace, quietness, confidence, integrity, justice, security…

Blessed…those who forgive others from their heart.

Blessed ….those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized and show them their closeness.

Blessed…those who see God in every person.

Blessed…those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others.

Can we make these words the “New Zealand way?”

Of course we can, and we know we can because we are not on our own. That’s why we come together to pray on Waitangi Day.

In the Gospel Jesus invited us to “Remain in my love”, then told us that if we keep his commandments we will remain in his love.

The New Zealand way, the New Zealand Catholic way, our Gospel way, is first of all to remain in God’s love, then when we do, we are able to live his command “Love one another as I have loved you.”  For us, who have gathered together to pray on this Waitangi Day, THIS IS THE NEW ZEALAND WAY!

+ John

Homily for Waitangi Day Mass, 6 February 2017