Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 23, 2007
Jesus is fulfillment of Aboriginal ways
Christians can learn from native ways just as Jesus learned from Samaritans, sister tells conference
- WCR photo by Ramon Gonzalez
Jesus initiated dialogue with a woman from another culture, notes Sister Eva Solomon. Can we do the same?
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Jesus is the fulfillment of Aboriginal spiritual ways, Sister Eva Solomon told a conference on native ministry.
Solomon, an Ojibwa from Ontario, compared Canada's Anishinaabeg people with the Samaritans who followed a spiritual tradition different from their Jewish neighbours and were considered inferior people, even though they claimed some of the same patriarchs and prophets as the Jews.
When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well he showed his vulnerability in asking for a drink from a woman of a religious tradition other than his own.
"Jesus initiated the dialogue with the Samaritan woman and it is he who initiates the same dialogue with us Anishinaabeg today," Solomon said.
"Just as Jesus was nourished and enriched by his dialogue with the Samaritan and her traditions so too, the Canadian Church today has much nourishment to receive from fruitful dialogue with other traditional spiritual ways.
"More specifically, its dialogue with the Anishinaabeg traditional spirituality can enrich the whole Church."
Solomon was one of several speakers who addressed the Directions in Aboriginal Ministry conference at Newman Theological College. The July 16-20 conference was intended for people involved in Aboriginal ministry. About 100 people, both native and non-native, attended.
Solomon spoke three times on Aboriginal spirituality on July 16.
She noted Jesus was born a Jew and was raised in the Jewish tribal traditions with a Jewish understanding of the world. Nevertheless, he initiated dialogue with other faiths and cultures, thus showing he is for everyone.
"If it was Jesus who initiated the dialogue with another faith and cultural tradition, why should we be afraid to follow in his footsteps?" Solomon asked her audience.
"The Samaritans were a tribal people often finding themselves caught between various superpowers," noted Solomon. "Like the Anishinaabeg, they were always asking themselves 'What must we do to survive?' Sometimes survival means marrying into the people of the dominant power or accepting the gods of the dominant power.
Caught in the battle
"That has been our Anishinaabeg experience too. We were caught between the English and the French in their battle to win the new world of North America and its resources."
Each superpower or colonial overlord, whether it was in Jesus' time or today said in its own way: Your language is not good enough; you must take ours. Your form of government is not good enough; you must take ours. Your god is not good enough; you must take ours.
"In the end, the little people, the Samaritans or the Anishinaabeg began to believe those lies and did what they needed to survive," Solomon said.
"We, Anishinaabeg, came to believe that we were, and are, in ourselves not good enough."
Jesus was different and showed the way we ought to approach the people to whom we are bringing the Good News, Solomon said. "He approached the Samaritan woman humbly, with openness and expectation to receive and learn from her."
And he said his gift of living water was meant for everyone. "He wanted to share it with the whole community. He sent her to bring the Good News to the Samaritan people just as he sent the Apostles to bring it to others."
Solomon said before the Jews had a written language, they transmitted their God-story as the Anishinaabeg did: through continuously telling the story and reliving the events in rituals and ceremonies such as the Seder meal.
"Our first testament, our God-story before we came to know Jesus as Son of God and Son of man through the missionaries, is transmitted through our traditional sacred ceremonies, our myths and our stories," she said.
Sacred pipe, sweat lodge
"Each time we Anishinaabeg Christians celebrate the sacred pipe, a sweat lodge or a vision quest, we are retelling in ritual form the story of God's relationship with us since time immemorial."
Jesus came for all people, Solomon told her audience, all seated in a round circle. "Each and every other indigenous people have a traditional way, a first testament, that Jesus fulfills as well." The Anishinaabeg people, just like the Samaritans, have their own prophecies and beliefs.
"Numerous indigenous people in the Americas have prophecies that speak of a mysterious fair-skinned one who came to this land some 2,000 years ago and walked among us as the healer, the lord of wind and water," Solomon noted.
"Aboriginal people had prophetic visions of the missionaries bringing the Gospel long before they came."
Jesus spent two days with the Samaritans and in those two days he did what he needed for the completion of God's work in their village.
The villagers told the Samaritan woman that they no longer believed because of what she had said to them, but because they had heard Jesus themselves and knew he was really the saviour of the world.
"I rejoice that the day has arrived when we, as Anishinaabeg, can say the same to our Church," Solomon said.
Missionaries' good news
European missionaries brought the knowledge of Jesus to the indigenous people of the Americas.
"At first we believed because of the words that they had told us," Solomon said. "Now we have searched our Anishinaabeg traditional ways again and we have discovered that the Cosmic Christ is and always has been the core fabric of who we are. "Jesus has shown us that he is the fulfillment of our traditional spiritual ways."