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Friday, April 22, 2016

17 April 2016 – Fourth Sunday of Easter

First Reading:
Acts 13:14, 43-52
Second Reading:
Revelation 7:9-17
John 10:27-30
Today is the Fourth Sunday of Easter, which means for us, it's still the Easter season. But today's readings are a reminder that we are all destined for resurrection. Today's readings also remind us that suffering may be part of following Jesus. Working for the Kindom can be costly.
In the first reading we are told Paul and Barnabas were met with jealousy and their words contradicted by the Jews. These same people incited others to persecute the disciples. But they did not lose heart, they shook the dust off their feet in protest and went on. Then we hear the are comforted by being “filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit”.
In the second reading, John tells us that in his vision he saw a great multitude of those who had come out of the great ordeal. They were from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They will be sheltered by the one who is seated on the throne. They will hunger.... and thirst no more because the Lamb “will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Working for the Kindom can be costly. Working for the kindom involves struggle. For example, Honduras is the country with the most killings of environmental and land defenders per capita in the world1. The Garifuna people are the mixed-race descendants of West African, Central African, Island Carib and Arawak people2 . In the early 1800s, the Honduran government gave the Garifuna communities along the Atlantic coast of Hunduras, the legal titles to 2,500 acres of land. Since then, they have held this land collectively, sustaining themselves with fishing and farming. Now these communities are being forced from their land, as proposals from multinational corporate interests to create mega-tourism projects and corporate-run cities gain momentum3. These corporations are mostly from the USA, Canada and European nations. In 1979, a grassroots organization, The Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) was created to defend the rights of Garifuna peoples in Honduras.
There is also an Indigenous rights group in Honduras called COPINH4 founded in 1993. It struggles to defend Mother Earth and Indigenous rights and autonomy, and for a world where the rights of all people are respected. Since, the military coup in 2009, a new Military Police has been created. In addition to the police, military and private hit-men already active in Honduras, these new security forces are used to terrorize and murder those who defend natural resources and Indigenous communities from being plundered and destroyed.5 This March 3rd, Berta Cáceres, COPINH's founder was murdered. Two weeks after her murder, Nelson García, a 38 year old father of five and active COPINH member, was also killed.6 Since the murders, COPINH and OFRANEH have mobilized throughout Honduras “to demand the demilitarization of all Indigenous territories and the removal of all multinational corporations from their ancestral lands and seas.”7
Closer to home, most of the time we think of the so-called “haves” as lacking in concern for the so-called “have nots.” The reactions to North Carolina’s new anti-trangender law might give us pause in our generalized opinions.
  • PayPal dropped its plan to build $3.6M facility and Deutsche Bank is freezing its plans to expand into North Carolina in light of the law.
  • Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr cancelled their concerts in protest of the law.8
  • Cyndi Lauper and like Mumford & Sons will not cancel their shows but will donate all profits made from their shows to Equality NC’s9 efforts to get the law overturned.10
Now it is true that the cost of these actions will not be a real hardship for PayPal, Deutche Bank or the performers. However, the actions are a stimulus for justice for an oppressed segment of the population in North Carolina as well as a warning to other states considering similar unjust laws. Whether they know it or not or whether they intended it or not, these actions work for the kindom of God.
Why am I telling you these “downer” stories in the joyful season of Easter? The first reason is because today's gospel says, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” To hear and follow our Good Shepherd entails love for God and love for God's creation, people, flora, fauna, and all that is animate and inanimate. Pope Francis models this with his writings and in practice. For example, this week he brought three Syrian refugee families from Lesbos to the Vatican. They will be settled as residents of Vatican City. Pope Francis acknowledged that it is a small gesture and said, “It is these small gestures that all men and women must do to take into hand whoever has need.”11 Slain Indigenous rights leader, Berta Cáceres understood this when she said, “We must undertake the struggle in all parts of the world, wherever we may be, because we have no other spare or replacement planet. We have only this one, and we have to take action.”
The second reason is, in order to work for justice, we have to be aware of the injustices that exist. The final—and as Christians—most important reason is our belief in resurrection should be evident in the way we live our lives. I'll close with the penultimate verse of Julia Esquivel's poem, “They Have Threatened Us With Resurrection”
Join us in this vigil
and you will know what it is to dream!
Then you will know how marvelous it is
to live threatened with Resurrection!

Please share your thoughts
1Global Witness (April 2015) How Many More?,
4Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous organizations of Honduras
9Equality NC is dedicated to securing equal rights and justice for LGBT North Carolinians.
12Esquivel, Julia, and Anne Woehrle. 2003. "They Have Threatened Us With Resurrection". Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality. 3, no. 1: 96-101

Monday, September 07, 2015

6 September 2015 – Labour Day

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time


First Reading
Proverbs 9:1-6
Second Reading
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

A few words and phrases stood out for me in today's readings. The phrases of the first reading, “a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear!” speak to the conflicting moods of North America and Europe today. Our leader's are promoting a climate of fear, especially fear of the other. Yet, there are those who are inspired to be strong and refuse be paralyzed by fear. They refuse to give up hope for the world. They believe things should and can be better.

The words from today's Gospel, “‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened’”, just would not leave my consciousness. Could Jesus be speaking to us as well as the deaf and speech impaired man in the gospel? Is Jesus asking us to open our ears and hear the cries of the strangers, widows, and orphans asking the greed-world countries for asylum from wars, poverty and oppression? Is He asking that we open our ears and hear the peacemakers and climate activists pleading for an end to the war on nature and an end to wars between and within nations? Could Jesus be asking us to to open our ears and hear the cries of migrants and the working poor for fair wages and working conditions? Likewise, is Jesus asking us to loosen our tongues and speak plainly against all that is unjust?

This is Labour day. So today, I'll focus on labour injustice by reading “Our Path Forward” an adapted excerpt from the Labor Day Statement issued by Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It states:

We share one common home as part of a larger, single family, so the dignity of workers, the stability of families, [] the health of communities [and the health of the natural world] are all intertwined. The path to a renewed society is built on authentic solidarity and rooted in faith. It rejects the individualism and materialism that make us indifferent to suffering and closed to the possibility of encounter.

Individual reflection and action is critical. We are in need of a profound conversion of heart at all levels of our lives. Let us examine our choices, and demand for ourselves and one another spirits of gratitude, authentic relationship and true concern. Pope Francis reminds us that “Saint Therese of Lisieux invites us to practice the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship . . . [and] break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness” (no. 230). The changes we make to how we live and interact with each other [and nature] can help change the world.

Yet individual effort should not stand alone. Our faith calling to love one another impels us to share that vision of charity and justice with others, and to go forth and encounter those at the margins. Through collective action and movements, we have to recommit ourselves to our [relatives] around the world in [our] human [and non-human] family, and build systems and structures that nurture family formation and stability in our own homes, neighborhoods [and in our relationship with Mother Earth]. Sufficient decent work that honors dignity and families is a necessary component of the task before us, and it is the Catholic way.

In demanding a living wage for workers we give hope to those struggling to provide for their families, as well as young workers who hope to have families of their own someday. Unions and worker associations, as with all human institutions, are imperfect, yet they remain indispensable to this work, and they can exemplify the importance of subsidiarity and solidarity in action. This Labor Day and always, let us pray, reflect, and act, seeking to restore our work and relationships to the honored place God has ordained for them.

Please share your thoughts.

2 August 2015 - 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Shared Homily Starter

First Reading:
Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15
Second Reading:
Ephesians 4:17-24
John 6:24-35

The Vancouver Pride Parade is taking place this afternoon. I'm wearing my rainbow stole as a sign of our community's inclusiveness. In this community of Christ, in all our diversity, we are one. As such God's commands and God's love includes all of us.

Today's reading from the Book of Exodus described the time after God through Moses has led the Israelites from slavery and saved them from Pharaoh's army in the Red Sea. They are ungrateful for their deliverance. They have no food and fail to trust in God's faithfulness and that God will provide. Instead of anger, God responds with food and another chance to follow God's instructions.

This is a pattern that has echoed through the ages down to our times. We are ungrateful for what we have. We sometimes even vilify God for some mishap in our lives. Yet the Creator never ceases to be their for us and provide us with another chance.

The second reading tells us that we are not to live like those who are ignorant of the gospel and the will of God. But the Lectionary text omitted the two verses that Paul uses to describe living in “the futility of their minds.” Paul characterizes this way of living as “darkened in understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance, because of their hardness of heart, they have become callous and have handed themselves over to licentiousness for the practice of every kind of impurity to excess.” The last verse has also been translated as, “ They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practise every kind of impurity.” The biblical idea of impurity was not confined to matters of sex. Rather impurity relates to matters of intemperance, such as over indulgence, self-indulgence, selfishness, insensitivity and greed.

So Paul tells us we must we put away our old selves prone to the excessive desire to acquire and possess more, especially material wealth, than we need or deserves. Instead we are to put on our original selves that God created bathed with true justice and holiness. We are to live lives of kindness, generosity, and compassion, not only human to human, but also human to all other forms of life.

This brings us to the gospel. The author of the Gospel of John uses every day things like bread and water as symbols with multiple meanings. When he writes, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life,” we know immediately that we're not being told about ordinary bread.

Most Christian commentators suggest that “bread of life” refers to the Eucharist. What they don't often mention is that to follow Christ is to be Eucharist to and for each other. Jesus says, “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” and “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

To come to Jesus and to believe in Jesus means to live into our Christ selves and to live with hearts and lives full of love, kindness, generosity, and compassion. So that we who eat become bread for others and so with our God become co-providers of life to the world.

Please share your thoughts.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

19 July 2015—16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Shared Homily Starter

First Reading:
Jeremiah 23:1-6
Second Reading:
Ephesians 2:13-18
Mark 6:30-34

Theologian Diarmuid O'Murchu recently gave a 2-day workshop in Vancouver. In one of his talks, he questioned why King David is held up as an icon and why the Gospel writers would want David as part of the genealogy of Jesus. David may have been a good shepherd boy but as a king, he was a tyrant and he set in motion events that would 'destroy and scatter' God's people. For example, David had at least seven wives not counting his concubines yet he coerced the wife of one of his most loyal soldiers to sleep with him. Then in order to hide his adultery, he sent the soldier on a mission on which he knew the outcome would be the soldier's death. David's lust is a metaphor for greed. He has more than enough but he still wants more even if it means another has to die.
Today's first reading suggests that perhaps world leaders have like David traded in their shepherd boy goodness for kingly power, ruthlessness and injustice. Today as always there are exceptions to unholy power-seeking but historically, we can see that religious as well as secular leaders are also prone to greed and the pursuit of power. Today, the injustice and ruthlessness of those in power all around the globe is more lethal than ever before. But the first reading is also telling us this is not then end of the story.
God will “raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing”, that is no one will be excluded. So I think the Gospel writers place King David in the genealogy of Jesus to show that Jesus is, as the prophet Jeremiah tells us, the First of the righteous Branch that God whom raised up to execute justice and righteousness. Just as Jesus is often referred to as the “new Adam,” the gospel writers may be suggesting that Jesus is the “new David”, who shows leaders how to get it right. The second reading appears to back that up. Paul tells the Ephesians and us that Jesus came to proclaim peace to and for all the “us's” and all the “thems.” If we take Jesus' teaching to heart, we will know that we all have equal access to God's love.
The setting of today's gospel is just before the feeding of the five thousand. Now remember that in the first reading God promised to “raise up shepherds” plural. What Jesus is doing in today's gospel is teaching his followers to be shepherds and care for the sheep. The gospel says he showed them compassion “because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” Jesus teaches them compassion by modelling compassion. When you consider that this is the prelude to feeding the five thousand, maybe one of the things he taught them was the value of sharing.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where today, 80 people own as much wealth as half the world's population and nearly a billion people can barely afford to feed their families.1” We live in Canada where the richest person in our country owns more wealth than the bottom seven million people.2” These statistics make me want to agree with Parker Palmer when he suggests the real miracle in the feeding of the five thousand was getting everyone to share the little food they had and in so doing everyone was fed.
Today more than any other time in history, people in countries all over the world, people of all faiths and no faith, are waking up. People not blinded by wealth or the pursuit of power are beginning to realize that we are all in this together. Perhaps now is the time promised in Jeremiah, when God's flock is united in the quest for justice, equality and wholeness. Not just for themselves but for nature and for everyone, everywhere, that is, justice and well-being for the Earth and all her inhabitants. All creation sings when we remember that when we share no one goes hungry.

Please share your thoughts.
2Oxfam Canada. “Voices for Change” Donor Newsletter, Summer 2015, p. 4

5 July 2015—14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Shared Homily Starter

First Reading:
Ezekiel 2:3-5
Second Reading:
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Mark 6.1-6

Today is one of those times when the readings seem to fit together beautifully. For me, today's readings form a sort of, “User's Guide for Prophets” or “Prophesying 101”.
What is a prophet? In Biblical terms, a prophet is not one who predicts the future. Rather, a prophet is one who critiques their current society using futuristic terms or futuristic imagery. They call attention to deviations from God's plan for a just world. In today's world, we call them economic, environmental and social justice activists, liberation theologians. They feel impelled to speak truth and some even use science fiction writing and film as the vehicle for prophetic truths.
In today's first reading, God is talking not only to Ezekiel but to us. Today, just as in Ezekiel's day, people are transgressing against God. But instead of a 'nation of rebels', rebellion against God has has taken on global dimension because of commercialization and the systematic normalization of greed. As believers, we are called to speak truth to the powers that perpetuate this situation. What is the truth that we are called to speak? It is to cry out against any and all injustice, wherever it is.
Through our commitment to live in accordance with God's will, we are charged with speaking God's truth. We must speak out for climate and environmental justice for the Earth, our home. We must speak out for racial equality and for economic and social justice for our relatives, that is, all of humanity. We are called to speak out whether or not we are heard; whether or not we encounter those who refuse to hear us. We are charged by God to be prophets.
The second reading addresses our feelings of not being good enough or smart enough or whatever enough to be prophets. Like Paul, we too have our weaknesses and idiosyncrasies. Our foibles should serve to curb any self-righteousness we might lean towards. But more importantly, through the admission of our powerlessness and weakness to God and to each other, powerlessness and weakness are transformed into a whole and healthy and healing power rooted in God's justice.
Similarly, we know that Christ resides in the collective or community as well as in each and everyone one of us. It is our 'we-ness' in Christ that strengthens us. Gratitude for our we-ness enables each of us to join Paul when he says, “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” Paul's words “for the sake of Christ” implies and should be understood also as “for, with and in the community.” The one beneficial offshoot of globalization is we now know that “community” is to be understood as the global community because we are related to all that is.
But just because we know we are related to all that is, it doesn't mean that others agree with us. And so, today's Gospel tells us that as prophets, we can expect to be rejected by the very people whom we thought should be our allies. The gospel also reinforces the encouragement given in the first reading. We speak the truth and try to teach regardless of whether or not our message is received or heard. We speak—and just maybe—our message may help to cure the ignorance of at least a few people.
For example, how often do we hear people we dearly love say things like,
    • Why don't they just get over it? or,
    • Why should we taxpayers have to foot the bill for.... whatever?”
As prophets and speakers of truth, we must be combination history teachers and proponents of the return to the philosophy of the common good. Most of us move in many different circles. Like Jesus, even though we may be “amazed” by the refusal of some to hear what we are saying, we must move on and keep on.
As prophets we are called to speak the truth. Speaking, like preaching doesn't always call for words. We can speak the truth by the way we live our lives. We speak truth by living free. When we pour or invest our energy into the well-being of people, places and things rather than acquiring power over people, places and things, we are free. When we resist the societal norm of gluttonous consumption, we exercise freedom. With freedom comes the ability to see that for each of us, our personal well-being is tied to the well-being of the Earth and all its inhabitants. With freedom comes the ability to speak truth whether anyone chooses to hear us; to speak truth regardless of our own weaknesses; and to speak truth even when we are ridiculed by our families and friends. That, my relatives is Prophesying 101; that is what the Spirit said to me through today's readings.
Take a moment, then please share your thoughts.

Monday, June 22, 2015

21 June 2015—National Aboriginal Day

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Fathers' Day

First Reading: Job 38.1-4, 5-7, 8-11
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 5.14-17
Gospel: Mark 4.35-41

Today is National Aboriginal Day and Fathers' Day. In preparation for each Sunday's liturgy, I consult the Ordo. The Ordo is the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops' annual handbook for priests. It provides some liturgical suggestions, lists the Lectionary texts, vestment colour, and Sacramentary pages to be used for the day. In what should be a call to reconciliation, today's Ordo entry mentions Fathers' Day but makes no mention of National Aboriginal Day or reconciliation. In light of the Church's role in residential school's, I found this deeply disturbing.

Laurel, and Anglican priest friend of mine, struggled with the Anglican readings specially chosen for today, and how to make them relevant in light of recent events such as the closing of Truth and Reconciliation Commission's and the recent spate of violence against African Americans, including the shooting at the African Methodist Church in South Carolina. Like Laurel, I too struggled with how our Lectionary readings could be made relevant to National Aboriginal Day and recent events and still provide a hopeful and actionable message. In then end, I decided simply to share my musings with you. For example, although the Book of Job presents good messages on how bad things can happen to good people, it is not a text I would have chosen for today. In light of Canadian history and today's significance to Canada's Aboriginal people's the choice of a text about an all powerful God, who rains tribulation upon tribulation on a person just to prove their loyalty to Him—and I do mean Him in this instance, just doesn't fit. I'll continue with examples of how words are not enough to demonstrate a Christian heart by those in power positions.

For example, most U. S. Southerners claim to be Christian, yet the Confederate flag continues to fly over South Carolina's government buildings. The unwillingness to remove this flag sanctions the willful forgetfulness of sins against African Americans. Similarly, by ignoring National Aboriginal Day in the Ordo, the Canadian Catholic Bishops sanction willful forgetfulness of the sins against our Aboriginal relatives. Yet the bishops reinforce patria potestas by their reference to Father's Day. In Roman Law, patria potestas referred to the male head of the household's power, including the power of life and death, over all members of his household. Thus our bishops demonstrate that paternalism or patria potestas influences the Roman church more than the reconciling potestate amoris Dei, that is, the power of God's love.

The second reading speaks to Christ's love for all of us and urges us to see things with the eyes of Christ who died for us all. It tells us that we should no longer live for ourselves but live for, in and with the love of Christ. I suggest this can be expanded to mean that we also hear messages of love and justice others can teach us. For example, the midwestern states of the United States call themselves the “heartland of America” but their tendency towards the religious right's stance on various justice issues belies the term “heartland”. Conversely, we have the consistently peaceful Hopi Nation. They took to the high mesas of Arizona rather than engage the invading Dene, whom we call the Navajo, in battle. Today, the Hopi Reservation is surrounded by the Navajo Reservation, which in turn is surrounded by the—mostly hostile—rest of the United States. In my opinion, the Hopi Reservation is the true heartland of America.

The following message is from the heartland's Hopi Elders of Arizona. Its wisdom tells us how we can carry on in light of the past and current injustices to our Indigenous relatives and our relatives of colour—here in Canada and elsewhere. I believe this message is appropriate for this National Aboriginal Day because it is full of Indigenous wisdom and potestate amoris Dei (the power of God's love). So listen with the heart of Christ. Listen to the Hopi Elders with an open heart. The Elders say:

You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour. Now you must go back and tell the people that this is The Hour. Here are the things that must be considered:

Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know your garden.
It is time to speak your Truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader.

This could be a good time!

There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel like they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off toward the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water. See who is there with you and celebrate.

At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves! For the moment we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt. The time of the lonely wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word struggle from your attitude and vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

What I hear the Hopi Elders telling us is the same as the Gospels tell us. Our work is to put into practice the sacred tenets of our collectives—whether it's the Gospel, the Hopi Elders' message or the wisdom of other religions or the intentions of people of goodwill. The Law of Attraction says that you attract into your life whatever you think about, that is, your dominant thoughts will find a way to manifest.  So drawing from the gospel and the Hopi, what we have to put into practice is to know ourselves, which includes our inner as well as outer resources; to build relationships and share resources; to love our neighbours and ourselves; to not be afraid; to speak truth; to work, play, laugh and pray together. In this way we put on the mind of Christ and make manifest the transformation of hate into love. When we put on the mind of Christ, we can turn from denials to acknowledgment of our shared history and make the truth of our shared histories the basis of genuine reconciliation with each other and with the divine Source of all being, who loves us all.

Monday, June 01, 2015

31 May 2015 - Trinity Sunday

Path to Reconciliation

Shared Homily Starter

Second Reading Roman 8:14-17
Matthew 28:16-20

Today is Trinity Sunday. Today's scripture readings provide an opportunity to reclaim or reinterpret these texts using the Holy Trinity as the template for all relationships. And so, today is an opportunity to reflect on the past with an eye on reconciliation between First Peoples and settler peoples of Canada.
In the reading from Roman's, Paul, tells us all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” We Christians have been quite arrogant by trying limit whom and how the Spirit of God leads. God, Father/Mother, Eternal Word and Holy Spirit, has been active in the world since the beginning—always and everywhere: before Christianity and Christendom; before creeds and cathedrals; and, before dogma and doctrine.
I often think fiction writers are better theologians than theologians. In the movie, Winter's Tale, Colin Farrell plays a thief. He is assisted by a mystical white horse, whose sudden appearance and extraordinary abilities, Farrell is at a loss to explains Graham Green's plays Farrell's friend, a Native American man who recognizes the horse as the Spirit Guide who also can appear as a dog. Lastly, from what one would understand as a Christian theological perspective, Russell Crowe plays a demon minion of the devil, who recognizes the horse as Farrell's guardian angel. This heavenly being assists Farrell's character to achieve what the film calls his 'miracle', that is, what God put him on this earth to do.
This film artfully and deftly shows that representation of God's presence is open to interpretation. But the fact of God's presence in peoples' lives is a fact, whether or not that presence can be defined or detected by Church leaders.
The leads me to today's gospel, specifically the part: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” In a society based on the Trinity, the words, “and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” should be the one part of the Bible that people take literally. Why? Because Jesus gave only two commandments: “'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Jesus did not command forced conversion. All that Jesus commanded is love. Love is nurtured in relationship. When we builds relationships with others, our eyes and hearts are open to see that they too are being led by the Spirit. Further, the Spirit may have something to tell us through them: care for the Earth comes to mind.
Now let's look at the part that should nurture relationship and community but in conjunction with the phrase I've just discussed has been used to do so many ungodly things. The word baptize means to initiate, admit, introduce, invest, recruit, enrol, induct, indoctrinate or, instate. Our situation today is the result of the Christian European colonizing powers acting only on the meanings: recruit and indoctrinate. They paid lip service to belief in the Trinity but acted as if only God the Father, the Almighty King. To go forward we need to understand that in the Trinity, God is Father[/Mother], Son, and Holy Spirit in reciprocal communion. The persons of the Trinity, to quote Leonardo Boff,
coexist from all eternity; none is before or after, or superior or inferior, to the other. Each Person enwraps the others; all permeate one another and live in one another. This is the trinitarian communion, so infinite and deep that the divine Three are united and are therefore one sole God.... [E]ach person in in communion with the other two.1
When Christians think of God only as Father, when God is not understood as Trinity, it can and has lead to totalitarianism in politics, authoritarianism in religion, paternalism in society.2 The “Age of Discovery” is an example of the marriage between totalitarianism and authoritarianism based on the notion of an almighty God the Father—the King of heaven, represented on earth by the pope and Christian kings. This ideology clothed in theology produced two papal documents that still influence indigenous-settler relations to this day.
In 1452 Pope Nicholas V's issued a decree that gave the Portuguese King carte blanche to seize control of 'discovered' lands and permission to enslave the land's inhabitants. Then in 1493, Pope Alexander VI issued Inter Cetera, which ordered that "barbarous nations be overthrown" and those nations "discovered" be converted to the Catholic faith "to propagate the Christian religion" (Taliman, 1994). These documents had lasting deleterious results. For example, the Beothuk of Newfoundland and the Tainos of the Caribbean were hunted or worked to extinction by europeans. The Native peoples of North America, Africa and other parts of the world were oppressed, persecuted, and dispossessed of their lands and livelihoods as European nations sought to subdue and Christianize them—often by force.
Now the generations before us can't mend the harms done but we can. With the Holy Trinity as our Template, we can build the relationships represented in the Two Row Wampum: people living in harmony, respecting each others' religions, values and cultures, living in friendship, peace and justice.
In a society based in the Trinity, rather than an authoritarian conception of God, each person “is accepted as they are, each opens to the other and gives the best of himself or herself.”3 We are all made in the image of God, whose love is self-effusive. Love flows between the Persons of the Trinity, as well as outwards to creation. We and the rest of creation are all God's love made manifest. We manifest God's love when we open our hearts and minds to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We manifest the creative love of the Mother as we develop right relationships with and between all beings. We can manifest Jesus' redemptive love by living as he taught, that is, to treat each other in ways that contribute to the well-being of all.
I'm not attributing specific tasks to the Persons of the Trinity or us, what I am trying to convey is the cooperative action of the Trinity that we should emulate. We imitate the cooperative action of the Holy Trinity when we recognize that we do not and cannot direct or control who and where the Spirit of God leads. As Christians, let us allow the example of the Holy Trinity guide us in the formation of our own relationships. If we did this we might find that it's not so-called “others” that we need to baptize in the name of the Mother/Father-Son-and-Holy Spirit. Rather, we need to question whether we live lives that lovingly demonstrate that we are baptized. Ponder the following excerpt from a Lakota Prayer.
You are all my relations, my relatives, without whom I would not live. We are in the circle of life together, co-existing, co-dependent, co-creating our destiny. One, not more important than the other. One nation evolving from the other and yet each dependent upon the one above and the one below. All of us a part of the Great Mystery. Thank you for this Life.4

You are now invited to briefly share your thoughts.
1 Boff, Leonardo. Holy Trinity, perfect community. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2000, p. 3
2 ibid, p. 7
3 ibid, pp. 3-4
4 Mitakuye Oyasin - Lakota Sioux Prayer retrieved from

Sunday, May 24, 2015

15 March 2015 - KAIROS Sunday

Fourth Sunday of Lent -- Reflection / Homily Starter


If you are here for the first time, after my sermon, I usually ask a question that has to do with the theme but not necessarily on what I've said. Please feel equally free to share or not. As this is kairos Sunday, today's homily will touch on kairos Canada and celebrate our community's participation in the local kairos group.

The Greek word, pleonexias, used in today's Gospel, means both greed and covetousness. Covetousness is greed that surpasses the desire for more than what one needs for a comfortable life. It is an insatiable desire to have what rightfully belongs to another, no matter how little the other has. Such greediness is prone to continual accumulation by means of violence, trickery, or the manipulation of authority. Jesus was aware that the questioner was attempting such a manipulation. Jesus' response ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ was a refusal to be manipulated. Jesus' response also told the questioner to act justly. To be perfectly clear, Jesus added the warning to him and to the listeners, 'Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.'

In the parable, we hear that the rich man's land produced abundantly. Yet, instead of sharing or even selling his excess crops for a fair price, he decided to tear down his barns and build larger ones to accommodate his excess. In today's context, we could substitute the excess 'crops' in the parable with excesses in land ownership, in power and privilege, and in access to the resources necessary for survival. All of these are things today's rich persons, often including us—particularly with regard to power and privilege— are not will to share. We'd rather buy bigger houses, continue to have unequal access to opportunities, hire more police to protect our assets, have exclusionary immigration policies and/or, be complicit in the poisoning of people and the planet. Is God talking not only to the rich but also to us with the statement, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” This parable and the Gospels are instructive devices to influence us to make the right choices and this is where kairos comes in.

Kairos (καιρός) is an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment. The ancient Greeks had two words for time: chronos, which refers to chronological or sequential time; and, kairos, which signifies a moment of indeterminate time, a holy, God- given time, full of meaning, choice and, possibilities. The Lutheran theologian Paul Tillich described the plural of kairos, kairoi, as those crises times in history that create an opportunity—or more accurately—a demand for us to make choices.

In both ancient and modern Greek, kairos, also means weather. Could it be that we are being asked to pay attention to and prepare for the weather (kairos) of our times (kairoi). kairos Canada's Greater Vancouver group could just be the umbrella or snow tires that enable us to be on our guard against all kinds of greed; to help us make and act on decisions that promote justice and equity with our neighbours and creation.

For those of you new to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Tonantzin Community, we joined kairos Canada as a community in late 2012, shortly after our birth as a community. kairos, the Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives defines itself as uniting Canadian churches and religious organizations in a faithful ecumenical response to the call of Micah 6:8, which is to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” kairos is informed by biblical teaching and inspired by a vision of God’s compassionate justice. Based on this foundation, kairos deliberates on issues of common concern, strives to be a prophetic voice in the public sphere and advocates for social change by amplifying and strengthening the public witness of its members.1

As individuals and sometimes collectively, we have supported justice initiatives concerning human rights, climate justice and resource extraction. However, we have been most active in the kairos Indigenous Rights initiative, most specifically, justice for Canada's Indigenous People's.

Before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) came to Vancouver, we hosted a reconciliation circle with Hummingbird Ministries at Samaritan House and attended ecumenical reconciliation circles and events. During Vancouver's TRC event, several of us attended in person or watched the live-stream. We also participated in the Walk for Reconciliation, the Sunday following the close of the TRC.

It is time that justice prevails for Indigenous peoples with regard to land, power, privilege and, access to the resources necessary for survival. As we go forward together, let us remain committed to the work of the Greater Vancouver kairos group in its dedication to the reconciliation process.

Kairos is now! It is a holy time! And so my relatives, I pray that we embrace the example of the Trinity in this relationship-building time. I pray that we choose action on reconciling with our Indigenous relatives, not as a series of superficial events, but as a lovingly, consciously, and passionately pursued process . I ask our Triune God to help us as we strive not to be among those “who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God” or God's own. Amen.

Please reflect a moment, then please share a personal experience of kairos in your life, that is, a time that you felt was a holy and full of meaning, choice and, possibilities.


17 May 2015—Gilead Sabbath

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia


Gospel: John 17: 6-19 – Easter 7B

Today is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. The purpose of the day is “to promote a world of tolerance, respect and freedom regardless of people’s sexual orientations or gender identities. 
For people of all faiths and no faith, the day calls us to compassion. For Christians, Jesus in today's gospel points the way beyond tolerance and towards compassionate action. John’s gospel tells of a compassionate Jesus who, while on earth, both experienced persecution, hatred, and violence and protected his disciples from them.
The most prominent element of this passage is Jesus’ compassion. We see that Jesus and the early Christian community knew the pain of violence and persecution. Even though he is soon to be betrayed by one of his disciples and crucified, he prays to God on behalf of the disciples. He protects them on Earth and prays to God asking for their continued protection. We see a deeply incarnational God in Jesus—one who experiences pain and hatred alongside his followers, one who is deeply concerned for their welfare, and one who prays for their protection.
This compassionate Jesus stands too with all those who are at the margins. Jesus stands with all those who face hatred, violence, and persecution today. Jesus experiences their pain, is concerned for their well being, and hopes for their protection. The compassionate Jesus also lives among the persecuted African LGBTQ persons and LGBTQ around the world who are discriminated against because of their sexual or gender identity. Jesus invites us, his disciples today, to practice the same active compassion.
Another striking component of today's gospel is the way Jesus places the hatred of the world in the context of being “sent into the world” (v.18). Admittedly, this is a challenging part of the text. Although Jesus prays to God for the protection of his disciples, his desire for their protection does not override their commissioning to witness to the truth in the world. Even in his prayer for their protection, Jesus reiterates the importance of the disciples going into the world and witnessing to the truth.
As Jesus’ disciples, we too are meant to go into the world and witness to the truth. Whether it is the truth of our own gender and sexual identities, or the truth that it is not acceptable to discriminate against others on the basis of these identities, or the truth that religion can no longer be exploited for the use of violence and persecution, we are called to speak those truths publicly and actively into the world.
And, as Jesus acknowledges so must we, that speaking such truth means meeting face-to-face with opposition. Even so, to speak the truth means our actions must match our words. On the back cover of your Order of Service booklet there is a list of some of the global LGBTQ organizations. Whether we're an ally or identify as LGBT or Q, whether we're in the closet or out, we can take some time to learn more about the organizations on the list or more local organizations. We, as individuals and as a community, can find out how one or more of the organizations can use our support in advocacy and outreach. We can work to make our hearts and community more welcoming.
Standing up against the violence and persecution of LGBTQ persons perpetrated in African countries and around the world means facing a hostile world in which there are countries with hostile laws, in which there are individuals committed to homophobia and persecution, in which there are religious people with hostile ideas about sexuality, and sadly, in which there is apathy and silence among fellow Christians.
In spite of all this today's gospel reminds us that Jesus sends his disciples including us into such a world to witness to the truth. Today's gospel also reminds us that we go into such a world with God’s care and protection.

Please reflect a moment then, if you wish, share a sentence or two on your thoughts.

1Adapted from resources found on the Religious Institute website: Accessed April 10 2015. Retrieved from