I attended a smoking ceremony at one of our Colleges last week. It was part of a dedication of a special space called the ‘Saltwater’ Room, to be known as the ‘GUNAMIDJIN DAWA’ Room. The Saltwater people are the LARRAKIA Aboriginal people of the region around Darwin. They have lived here for many thousands of years.
This space is where the AIEW, i.e. the Aboriginal and Islander Education worker offers students personal and cultural support, which in turn supports the whole school community in many ways. It is a safe place for all.
As I reflected with the community at the start of our ceremony, I quoted the famous statement by Pope St. John Paul II in 1986 in Central Australia where a large number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had gathered.
He spoke about Australia being the ‘Great South Land’ of the Holy Spirit. He also spoke about the fact that the Catholic Church needs to embrace and incorporate Aboriginal spirituality if it were to continue in its growth and understanding.
In fact, the Catholic Church right from the beginning of its existence with Jesus two-thousand years ago incorporated and built on the spirituality of many cultures.
Jesus himself as a human being grew in wisdom and understanding. He was a Jew. The first Christians were Jewish, and built on the faith of the Jewish people, and saw Jesus as fulfilling the ‘Old Testament’, the promises given to the Jewish people by God. He fulfilled the scriptures.
As the Church spread through the Mediterranean world it began to also incorporate Greco Roman philosophies while remaining true to the revelation of Jesus. Later on others such as Pope St. Gregory the Great who lived at the turn of the 6th century AD, spoke about building on the good that was found in pagan beliefs in post Roman Empire Europe, and to bring them to a fullness in Christ.
Wherever Christianity respected and incorporated other beliefs, a much deeper and solid mature Christian faith developed. This has not been true where violent suppression of previous beliefs has happened by some missionaries.
The Spirit of God blows where the Spirit of God wants. God has always loved all peoples that have ever existed, and God stays in many ways always connected with all peoples of all time.
All religions which are of course composed of human beings need purification. There are shadows and strengths in individuals, communities, and religions. In the Scriptures we are told Christ is purifying the Christian Church itself all the time.
Christ is God among us, and unique, and He brings salvation to all and offers salvation to all. All can benefit by Christ, and He brings to fullness and purifies all that is truly human.
God has spoken to the First Peoples of this land, Australia, and loved them always. He brings to fullness their dreams and aspirations.
When respectfully listening to the faith stories of our First Peoples, and respectfully dialoguing together with the faith and traditions of the larger Christian Church, all will be enriched.
Christ is certainly the beginning and end of all things, but it is good to remember that all the Scriptures, traditions, and wisdom, of humanity are but a finger pointing beyond them to the God beyond all names, and bigger than all our imaginations.
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