Thoughts July 2005

Thoughts for the Month

The Jesus I know is no cold, hard Iron-Christ; nor does Jesus deserve to be reduced to smug, glib and uncompassionate irrelevancies when the real meaning of His love is what people need so desperately.

“Who is Worthy?” Ted Kennedy

Hi, it is hard to believe we will soon enter the second half of 2005. It is so good to read the words of Ted above and even though Ted has died we know that his spirit will always be with us. It is sad to hear of so many sick people. We remember especially Aunty Glad, Mary Lou, Joelle and Michael Gavin.


LIFT OUR SPIRITS – Poster by Benjamin Hodges

Sometimes our culture may seem as though it is a heavy burden. Sometimes to exist and gain acceptance in a non-indigenous society, we question the importance of our culture. Would it be easier to leave it behind? Our culture is not excess baggage we can freely dispose of.

The sphere-shaped objects represent the non-indigenous society. I have chosen a smoother and rounded 3-dimensional shape as this shape rolls ahead with ease regardless of surface, environment or where it is placed. The huge cube represents Indigenous culture. It appears to be heavy to lift and would be easier to leave it behind as it is a lot more complex to move without assistance. Although the cube is larger in size its contents symbolise a personal significance. The size and colour differences also have meaning. The smaller balls appear metallic and cold whereas the cube is visually vibrant and loud with a sense of warmth. The shadows also play an important part. As the sun rises from the east, this represents indigenous people moving toward a new day.

Our bond with immediate and extended family members and giving nature is our fashion. We are identified by our language, customs and dance. We have a future because of our histories bloodline and by working together in unity we carry our culture and lift our spirits.

Sacred Land

Returning from my trip and hearing the events of Redfern, sent me to ask some questions. “Why do I keep going to St. Vincent’s Church?” Why not walk away- you won’t win, the Church is too powerful. Why put up with the abuse, lies and lack of communication? It got me reflecting on the land. One of the integral gifts I have been given by Aboriginal people is to enter into some understanding of their relationship with land. It touches so deeply into their spirituality – it is their spiritually or so that is how it seemed to me when I first met Aboriginal people especially in Wilcannia. Being brought up in the Catholic Church where the dualism of Spirit and Matter placed this idea of land outside my perspective of spirituality – maybe I should say religion- it took awhile for me understand and appreciated this relationship.

Having attending St Vincent’s Church over the many years I have come to know the sacredness of this place. It is not just another church, or a block of real estate. It is a sacred place. As we were reminded at the Candle light March on the Block so many of the ancient ones have lived on this land. For the Eora people it was their mother. Isobel Coe and Aunty Ali Golding reminded us of the ancients ones who were there with us.

The land where St Vincent’s Church Presbytery and the Aboriginal Medical Centre ( the building and land were given by the Mercy Sisters) is not just a place to fight over. When Father Ted arrived at Redfern he began a journey which is the heritage of St Vincent’s Church of Redfern – it is a special place, a place where people have lived, died, been married from, have been baptised, been sheltered from the racist actions of many; a place where all were welcomed, a place where culture was respected and accepted. It was a place where forgiveness occurred when many non-indigenous people were confronted with the true history of our country and were able to acknowledge this and seek forgiveness and reconciliation. This enabled so many to then commit to work for Justice for Indigenous people. It allowed friendships to be made and the richness of life to be shared.

We could never walk away from this church where so much life has been lived. The focus of this community is justice for Indigenous people. This is what keeps us there even though it is very hard we know it could never be as hard it has been for the Aboriginal people of this land. The choice to stay is about a glimpse which we as non-aboriginal people have been given – the glimpse of land as sacred, as relationship, as mother – the glimpse of a deep understanding and love for the land which not only contains their story but is their story.

“I have a dream of a Church that is a Holy Door, which embraces everyone, which is full of compassion and understanding for all the sufferings of humanity. I have a dream of a Church that is bread; Eucharist, that wishes to be a gift and allows itself to be consumed by all, so that the world will have a life in abundance. I have a dream of a Church that carries in its heart the fire of the Holy Spirit, and where the Spirit is; there is liberty, sincere dialogue with the world, discernment of the signs of the times.”

Words spoken by Cardinal Francois Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, former President of the Pontifical council for Justice and Peace, a man who spent 13 years in a communist prison in Vietnam, nine of them in solitary confinement.

Marnie gave me this poem by Michael Leunig

God help us
To rise up from our struggle
Like a tree rises up from the soil.
Our roots reaching down to our trouble,
Our rich, dark, dirt of existence
Finding nourishment deeply
And holding us firmly – Always connected

Growing upwards and into the sun. Amen

Reflection, Sunday 12 June 2005

Today’s readings and gospel are exhortations to trust in God and to have faith and commitment. Trust that we are empowered to do God’s bidding: “You yourselves have seen how I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself” said God to Moses in the first reading.

In the second reading we are told that we are reconciled with God by the death of God’s son and that therefore we can trust God that by having been reconciled we have had the tools of liberation provided for us. This then frees us to let go of all unnecessary trappings.

These teachings occur within a context of oppression: the Jews were an oppressed minority struggling to maintain their identity which they were doing by strict religious rule, especially by the uncaring imposition of the draconian purity laws which excluded those deemed to be unworthy. Jesus scorns and challenges this code; acting instead in a way that includes and liberates those he called “the lost sheep” – the outcasts. He is inclusive and urges his fellow Jews to get their own house in order before worrying about Gentiles or Samaritans. This inclusiveness is a radical and unwelcome message to those who have thrived on the misuse of power and used it to exclude others. The Jewish leaders of the time were threatened by this message. They did not trust enough to let go of the unnecessary trappings and the great power they wielded over those they had marginalised. Rather than recognise that the liberation of the oppressed was intrinsic to their own liberation, they hung on to their own powerful props and turned on Jesus.

Throughout the ages we humans have not learnt a great deal from these teachings and have failed to recognise that we are already cared for and reconciled with God. We have instead, often in the name of Christianity, continued to dream up bigger and better ways to exclude, marginalise and ethnically cleanse. We have been carried on “eagle’s wings” and sent out to bring in the “lost sheep”- the outcasts. This prohibits in any way the unjust and irresponsible use of power and the oppression and exclusion of minorities or of those who are in any way defined, by the powerful, as “other. Why then does institutional power continue to be used not only as an end in itself but to cast out the lost sheep and the outcasts rather than the demons? Our own sad white Australian history, writ large in Redfern, is the embodiment of these stories in our own time

Anne Webb

Letter from Bob Carr, Premier of New South Wales

Marnie Kennedy has received literally hundreds of letters and phone calls from well-wishers following Ted’s death, including this one from Bob Carr.

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply