This is My Body; It Is All I Have.

9 May

St Paul’s Cathedral 7/4/20232/4/2023

Acknowledgement – I add my acknowledgement of country and the Wurundjeri elders to that spoken at the beginning of this service.

I affirm I am an unceded sovereign Wiradjuri person and I have never and will never swear allegiance to another ruler, institution or deity who does not recognise my autonomy and sovereignty.

Sovereignty is a spiritual notion, the kinship with country which I carry in my body, and it can never be stolen, relinquished, or extinguished and is not to be confused with rights which others have and do refuse me.

My text for this morning is:

by his wounds you have been healed.”

 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are embodied country or place. This is the spiritual notion of sovereignty that remains despite dispossession.

When you have been dispossessed of all that has meaning you have no thing left but your body. You have no voice, no language, no country, no hope – all has been taken from you by those who possess you and you are left with only what you have on – your body.

You wear your body as both a form of defence and of attack against those who continue to commit genocide through policies designed to embed our hopelessness and voicelessness. We are all people of place and context, once the connection has been severed, a deep sense of powerlessness sets in. You are powerless to be who you are when you are taken from the place defining your language, tradition, lore, and spirituality.

This is not just the experience of first-generation exiles but remains in the DNA of those who follow. Cross-generational trauma or powerlessness is experienced both consciously and subconsciously by those who come later. Some know why they are the way they are; others are never sure. They just know the shame of being wrong, not grounded, not belonging.

Your body carries the memory of a past home and desires to return. It carries the memory of the hurt and grief involved in losing such a precious possession and strives to be heard. Yet you have no voice, it has been stolen and given to another who speaks on your behalf, deciding if you are worthy to be heard, and when and on what matters you will be heard.

You are in exile, not heard, not seen and invisible to the rest of society who only sees an issue to be resolved and not a person to be respected. What do you do with the trauma, all the grief and loss, anger, and anxiety if there is no one who recognises you as a real and not an object to be used to fund the Aboriginal industry – welfare, medical, prison, police and more? The statistics on prison numbers and children in out-of-home care are a reminder our bodies fund an entire industry for non-Aboriginal institutions to profit from.

It is ours and our children’s bodies that society values because they can be used to fund the ‘helpers’ it has been decided we need. It is our bodies universities and private schools who seek to black-clad their profit-making enterprises by pointing to a black body now acting like a white body. It is our bodies’ people cheer when our young men and women, run fast, kick goals, score tries or achieve a feat making us productive. These same bodies are heckled loudly and without fear with racial abuse, or whitesplained to when others think they need white knowledge to put them straight, and questioned about the colour of their skin, or how they got their degree or house, or when you challenge their lived experience with your considered opinion.

The same bodies are blamed for the overcrowding in communities, poor diets despite exorbitant prices for fresh food, and living in substandard housing without facilities – no fresh water, roads etc. Somehow the bodies of the victims of dispossession are blamed for the situation they find themselves in.

My body is my country. Sovereignty is relational – it is bound by my relationship to country and kin. It is a sacred bond never to be relinquished or taken. It can never be given up or left behind. It cannot be cancelled from my life because it is me – all of me. Despite being ripped from the bosom of my mother, country, by colonial invasion and kept in exile by neo-colonialism, I remain Wiradjuri.

It is to your body you retreat when there is nowhere else to go. Your body becomes the battleground, the last gathering place in your and your country’s fight for survival.

It is all you have:

  • To protest with, to shout aloud the pain within you and country. Persona nullius means you are not heard or seen and therefore do not exist as a human being, only as a chattel in a possessed land.

It is all you have:

  • To identify you as existing, as being here – a person, invisible and unseen – but a person, nonetheless. A person without agency, for the power to define who has agency belongs to those who possess you and of meaning for you.

It is all you have:

  • To touch the air, to feel the subtlety of existence and resistance, to take away the claws of power tearing at any hope remaining in life other to be than another cross in the graveyard, another notch on the colonial matrix of power.

It is all you have:

  • To offer to society, as a part of the Holy Grail of economy and genocide. It has value when it is used to provide collateral for those who capitalise on our destituted existence, created by the system they worship.

It is all you have:

  • To protest those who are deaf to your words, blind to your predicament and ignorant of their place in your non-existence. They listen when you self-harm, abuse alcohol, act violently to those close to you, and steal from those who first stole from us. These are not meaningless acts. They are the cry of the powerless demanding something more than paternalism and patriarchal universalism. It is all you have:
  • To grieve for your Mother, country, from whom you were stolen and for whom you pine. You, like water, have a perfect memory, always desiring to return to where you once ran free.

As we look back to Holy Week and the  Easter Triduum we witness the power and importance of body in the triumph of Jesus. Jesus is a member of an invaded and occupied people. Power and right belong to the invaders and their collaborators who retain their power over the ordinary citizens.

People live fearful of those whose brutality sees people crucified, imprisoned, and taxed out of existence. They watch as the religious and the powerful capitalize on the situation to maintain their institutions and their traditional place in society. They find themselves powerless, unable to change either the system under which they live or to rid themselves of the colonisers and their corruption.

by his wounds, you have been healed.

Jesus protests the injustices through his body, the incarnated body of an ordinary citizen. He remains from his birth to his death connected to his body in relation to all other bodies he shared space with. His miracles, acts of prophecy and teaching are rooted in his body and the bodies of those around him.

by his wounds, you have been healed.

It is his body people come to see, touch and witness. It is his body that acts when he clears the temple, challenges those who try to trap him, and weeps when friends die. His birth, baptism, death and resurrection, are acts of the body.

by his wounds, you have been healed.

His body was all Jesus had to offer on behalf of a dispossessed people. His body was all he had to identify with them in their pain and their forlorn but undying hope of rescue. It was in and through his body Jesus defied the powerful and the wilful, ultimately surrendering his body to their torture as redemption for his people.

by his wounds, you have been healed.

Jesus is illustrative of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who protest their situation through tortured bodies. The harm we do to ours and other bodies is a desperate cry to be seen and heard. It is our protest of the wilful destruction and genocide that continues.

by his wounds, you have been healed.

We await the third day of resurrection, a day when our bodies and our country will be healed. We are waiting for you to say yes.


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