Tomorrow is a historic day for Australia. At long last, after much political soul searching and hand wringing, Federal Parliament, through its new Prime Minister, will say the word “sorry” to this land’s first peoples.
In this context “sorry” is a power word. It has strong potential for unblocking the process for healing and self-realisation, not only for aborigines, but all Australians. The lancing of the wounds of the sordid past of which the “stolen generations” is only one marker, is painful but necessary, and a formal apology carries the properties of both an antibody and a balm.
Some fear the power of the word, anxious of the blight of inherited blame and what it may cost in terms of material compensation. For such the word loses its power, for it simply ceases to exist. The national mood, the zeitgeist, however, is that the “sorry” word is at least ten years overdue and that it should have followed soon after the Bringing them Home report was tabled in Parliament in 1997.
In the meantime, Isaiah 55: 10-13 speaks powerfully into our context:
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
For you shall go out in joy,
and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial,
for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
Is the word “sorry” divinely inspired in this national instance? My theology says it is.