The Cross of Anzac — Hope for Life
This year 2017 we celebrate two memorials within a relatively few days: Good Friday and Anzac Day. For many of us there is a very strong connection between the two. Bishop Peter Ingham of Wollongong in his Easter Message this year states that “We should not disconnect them, both are inextricably linked In the Gospel, Jesus calling us his friends, proclaiming, A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13).”
Jesus’ crucifixion, with its agony, disfigurement and death is the ultimate act of selfless love, as only God can give; a free gift – in laying down his life for us. He pours out his life in obedience to the Father; with outstretched arms he dramatically demonstrates that his words and action are one. He promised life, now he gives life in this one perfect act of love to a sinful people in an imperfect world. God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. (Rom 8:32). When we reflect upon this selfless act, our response can only be a confession of faith with deep gratitude. Pope Benedict XVI states that “This confession of faith is the real starting point and rooting point of Christian Faith”. Christ’s ultimate act of love on the Cross is brought to completion in the Resurrection: his glorious victory over sin and death. We venerate your Cross, Lord; we praise and glorify your holy resurrection: because of the wood of the Cross, Joy has come into the whole world. This is the very source of our Christian hope.
As we recount the deeds of the ANZACs we are confronted on many levels. On the one hand by its horrific and barbaric warfare, hardships endured and in the overwhelming loss of youthful life. But on the other we are exposed to the very best of human character and ‘God-like’ human spirit forged in and through the atrociousness of war. The ANZACS performed selfless acts of love with many paying the ultimate sacrifice. A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.
For the ANZACS and for those soldiers, sailors and airman who have served valiantly since Gallipoli in all wars, conflicts, various peacekeeping missions and humanitarian relief over the last century, and who are currently serving in the Middle East, we can presume in many instances that their Christian faith, albeit severely tested, did provide enduring hope, and for those who serve today, it is significantly contributing to the calibre of their service.
These two memorials are indeed inextricably linked! In both, God is absolutely present! The death and the Resurrection of Christ is the par excellence of selfless love. But the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus dramatically and ceaselessly flows into and through every human experience. In the worst and best of humanity, throughout every age and generation, God is present. The Anzac spirit of sacrifice exemplifies this truth. The fact that the ANZACS continue to inspire, that their actions are emulated in the selfless attitude of Australians today in response to natural disasters, national and international tragedies, whether their service be as members of the Australian Defence Force, State Police Forces, Ambulance and Emergencies Services or in the many aspects of community life points to the enduring Calvary event and the victory of Easter Sunday.
However sorely tested we are in life, Easter speaks of hope. The example of the ANZACS speaks of hope. It’s too easy to be overcome by pervasive evil leading to discouragement in life and about today’s world. Easter hope and the fruits of the ANZAC spirit of sacrifice and selfless acts can be a powerful antidote to battle those negative forces around us and to live hopeful lives – the Christ Life.
May the Hope of the Risen Christ and the example of the ANZACs live with us now and always.
A very joyful Easter.