POPE John Paul II is always happy to discuss the indigenous people of Australia as he did once again on the Australian bishops’ recent ad limina visit to Rome.
In my meeting with him he referred to his speech at Alice Springs about indigenous people and asked if it had pleased those to whom it was addressed.
I answered that it had indeed.
A part of the Pope’s fascination for these our Australian brothers and sisters is their remarkable antiquity.
As Gerard Manley Hopkins said so eloquently in a poem referring to England: ‘Generations have trod, have trod, have trod’.
Indigenous Australians have also done that but have done it so gently that it is difficult at times to see their traces on our landscape.
The same is not so true in Europe as was very obvious at Lake Albano when the Australian bishops went for a day of recollection to the former summer residence of the English College.
Beginning in ancient Roman times as the residence of Scipio, the conqueror of Hannibal, the residence during 2000 years was successively a Benedictine monastery, a Cistercian monastery, a Franciscan monastery, the seminary summer residence, a wartime hospital and now a retreat centre run by the Sisters of Mercy.
Successive residents have left their easily discerned marks on the area, and even a mere day in the old monastery makes one intensely aware of the passage of time with the hand of God visible in its midst.
We need a similar sense of God’s accompanying presence for our troubled world if we are to successfully grapple with problems that at times seem insurmountable.
Nevertheless each year the rhythm of the Church fills us once again with Christian hope, particularly as we celebrate the great feast of Easter.
The resurrection of Christ proclaims that God’s victory has been won in Jesus Christ and that, despite minor evidence to the contrary, evil can never again prevail. It has been eternally defeated in the death and resurrection of Christ, and even if at times it seems to overwhelm us individually, nationally and internationally.
Nevertheless, in God’s good time it will be conquered, as it always has been. Such a realisation fills us with hope as we battle our own personal devils or the destructive power of violence, embraced all too readily by fanatics, or even worse by others who should know better.
Christ’s victory on the feast of Easter morning did not come through the power of arms, which he had already explicitly rejected in Gethsemane, but through the life-giving power of God his Father.
It is a power that changes us and our world, not through shattering force but with the gentle conversion of hearts and minds as it did with the apostles, sometimes suddenly, but usually more gradually over one or several lifetimes.
Given time, love will conquer any obstacle whatsoever, and each year Easter renews this hope in our hearts.
We may not experience love’s victory as perfectly as Christ did at the first Easter, nevertheless it will happen, and whether the completion of Christ’s victory over our world happens in our short lifetime, or a thousand or million years later does not really matter.
Like the Romans, the Benedictines, the Cistercians, the Franciscans, and the Sisters of Mercy we only need to play our role and move on, and that is enough.
Filled with such hope let us celebrate Easter and draw from it once again the strength that in every age and in so many different ways sustains our Christian vision.
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
The Catholic Leader acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Peoples of this country and especially acknowledge the traditional owners on whose lands we live and work throughout the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.