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Sunday, December 23, 2012

23 December 2102 - 4th Sunday of Advent

Please Note: Our community only meets every two weeks.  So although it is the Fourth Sunday of Advent, we celebrated our Christmas liturgy.  Therefore, the following Readings are those for Christmas.


First Reading:  Isaiah 9:2-7
Responsorial Psalm:  Psalm 98
Second Reading:  Titus 2:11-14
Gospel:  Luke 2:1-14


Over the past month, there has been so much hype about the so-called Mayan Prophecy─ so much speculation on whether the Mayans got it right or wrong or is modern science smarter than so-called primitive superstition.  Then there are people who wish to eliminate the religious aspects of Christmas and emphasize the more generalized and I might add, commercial, aspect.  What the Mayan calendar represents is a religious cycle─ a cycle’s end always precedes a new beginning.  For us, Advent and the season of Christmas are the beginning parts of our Christian religious cycle.  When we eliminate the religious aspects of a people’s culture, we eliminate meaning. 

In a very real sense, a loss of meaning is darkness.  We can see this all around us in our world today.  Our government rushing bills through that do great harm to people as well as the environment; wars raging in many parts of the world; business interests being considered more important than people or the environment; the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches fracturing over issues of inclusiveness.  But our first reading tells us, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.”  What is that light?  It is the light of remembering that our Creator is with us, calling us to cooperation in working together for justice and cooperation rather than conquest in prayer.  God is calling us to see our oneness, that our oneness is an outgrowth and sharing in the oneness of God.  We saw this with the Occupy Movements, in the nationwide solidarity with the Quebec Students and with the demonstrations that have been taking place in solidarity with our First Nations relatives, like the one some of us were at today.  These are examples which show that, deep down, we know that we are one, just as our Creator God, is One.  Connection, relationships, compassion, cooperation, is the light that God inspires us to reflect onto the darkness.

Advent is a time where we can open our hearts and minds─ and bridge the gap between them.  It is a time to renew our commitment to the “Yes” of willingness to carry Jesus in our hearts and to recognize that all our relations also have the Divine Spark.  I believe that if we can truly think of all our relations in this way, it will help us to forgive some of the perpetrators of the injustices they impose.  For example, my Dad was an irresponsible and immature man, who I only saw occasionally.  As a child, I was deeply hurt by this but I didn’t love him any less.  As an adult, I don’t condone his behaviour but I still don’t love him any less.  So as Christ grows to term within us, we learn to love Harper, Kenney, Pope Benedict XVI, and so on; although we don’t condone what they do.  In fact loving them includes working to oppose and correct their injustices.  Why?  Because to assist or to do nothing when someone you love is doing wrong is unloving.  More importantly, to do nothing in the face of injustice is to be complicit with the injustice and against our loving Creator, who is Justice.

The Gospel tells us that Joseph took the expectant Mary to register for the census.  And that, when the time came for her to deliver her child, she gave birth to her firstborn son and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.  Now, if I continue the metaphor of ourselves as Mary carrying Jesus within us─ and─ return to the issue of generalizing Christmas so as not to be offensive to other faiths, I think there is a better solution.  The world would be richer if we found room in the inn of our hearts to recognize and celebrate the times of spiritual significance to other traditions.  As Christians, we believe that God became human in Jesus─ some believe to redeem our sins─ I believe he came to teach us how to live, how to be.  Perhaps, if we learned more about the religious customs of our relatives; we would be less able to render them primitive and therefore unable to think of them in an anachronistic way.  Perhaps we would see that Jesus, like many of our indigenous relatives, did not intend us to separate our lives into the religious and the secular, and therefore, we would be able to see the problematic in going to church every Sunday while unrepentantly and repeatedly cheating and/or oppressing our neighbours from Monday to Saturday. 

The point is when we believe that part of the mission of the Messiah is, like today’s second reading says, to cleanse a people to be Christ’s own, eager to do what is right and when we truly believe that Christmas is a reminder of Emmanuel, God is with us then on Christmas if we let Christ come to term and be born in our hearts, we would realize, that, is only the beginning.   The Christ Child within us must be nurtured so that we ourselves can grow into collaborators with and for Christ as Wonderful Counsellors, Protectors, and Champions of Peace!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Our Lady of Guadalupe Tonantzin Feast Day Reflection

12 December 2012

First Reading: Luke 1:46-55
Psalm:  Adapted from the poem Great Mother's Words by Rita Adan
Gospel Reading: John: 15: 9-12

Today’s homily is a bit different.  It does not address the readings directly.  Rather, I want to talk about the love in action that Our Lady demonstrates.  If we look at the three most famous and celebrated appearances of our Blessed Mother, we begin to see a pattern.

When she appeared to Bernadette, France had fallen on hard times.  Bernadette was the eldest of four surviving children of a miller and his wife.  Her family like the country had also fallen on hard times and would have been homeless if one of her mother’s relatives had not let them live for free in a one-room basement, nicknamed "the dungeon."

Our Lady appeared to three peasant children in Portugal during a time of internal and external political turmoil.  We know that times of turmoil always have a detrimental effect on the lives of members of the peasant class. 

In Mexico, Juan Diego's existence as an Indigenous person made him subject to the Spanish government’s policy in which Indigenous people were required to provide tribute and free labour to the equivalent of a feudal lord. The “lord” was responsible for their welfare, their assimilation into Spanish culture, and their Christianization.  For the Aztecs and other Indigenous people of Americas, it was a time of destruction: destruction of their religion, their culture and their freedom.

So it would seem, Our Lady, makes herself known during times of turmoil.  She doesn’t appear to the rich or the ruling class but to the poor and those without a voice.  Today, the place most in danger of destruction and most in need of our collective voice is the Earth.  This December 12th, all over the world, people are gathered in prayer: some because of the feast we are celebrating, others because of their care and concern for our home, Mother Earth.   It is my belief that Our Lady working through all of us is calling us to hear and to act. 

In May 2010 after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Chief Arvol Looking Horse issued an open letter entitled, A Great Urgency.  It was an appeal to all religious leaders.  I can think of no better time than today, feast of Our Mother as Mary, as Tonantzin, to share Chief Arvol’s message with you.

My Relatives,

Time has come to speak to the hearts of our Nations and their Leaders. I ask you this from the bottom of my heart, to come together from the Spirit of your Nations in prayer.

We, from the heart of Turtle Island, have a great message for the World; we are guided to speak from all the White Animals showing their sacred color, which have been signs for us to pray for the sacred life of all things. As I am sending this message to you, many Animal Nations are being threatened, those that swim, those that crawl, those that fly, and the plant Nations, eventually all will be affected from the oil disaster in the Gulf.

The dangers we are faced with at this time are not of Spirit. The catastrophe that has happened with the oil spill which looks like the bleeding of Grandmother Earth, is made by human mistakes, mistakes that we cannot afford to continue to make.

I asked, as Spiritual Leaders, that we join together, united in prayer with the whole of our Global Communities. My concern is these serious issues will continue to worsen, as a domino effect that our Ancestors have warned us of in their Prophecies.
 
I know in my heart there are millions of people that feel our united prayers for the sake of our Grandmother Earth are long overdue. I believe we as Spiritual people must gather ourselves and focus our thoughts and prayers to allow the healing of the many wounds that have been inflicted on the Earth. As we honour the Cycle of Life, let us call for Prayer circles globally to assist in healing Grandmother Earth (our Unc’I Maka).

We ask for prayers that the oil spill, this bleeding, will stop. That the winds stay calm to assist in the work. Pray for the people to be guided in repairing this mistake, and that we may also seek to live in harmony, as we make the choice to change the destructive path we are on.

As we pray, we will fully understand that we are all connected. And that what we create can have lasting effects on all life.

So let us unite spiritually, All Nations, All Faiths, One Prayer. Along with this immediate effort, I also ask to please remember June 21st, World Peace and Prayer Day/Honoring Sacred Sites day. Whether it is a natural site, a temple, a church, a synagogue or just your own sacred space, let us make a prayer for all life, for good decision making by our Nations, for our children’s future and well-being, and the generations to come.

Onipikte (that we shall live),
Chief Arvol Looking Horse
19th generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe
May 2012

Like Indigenous peoples, we too should see the earth as a living being and relative, created by God.  So in essence this homily is about the gospel.  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time



First Reading: First Kings 17:10-16
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 146:7, 8-9, 9-10
Second Reading: Hebrews 9:24-28
Gospel: Mark 12:38-44 or 12:41-44

Shared Homily Starter


As I pondered the readings for today, two words came immediately to mind: sacrifice and generosity.  But as I thought about these words, altruism seemed to be the word that actually conveyed the meaning of the readings.  Altruism consists of sacrificing something for someone else with no expectation of any direct or indirect compensation or benefits.
In the first reading, we are told that when Elijah asked the widow for a piece of bread, she tells him that she only has a handful of meal and a little oil.  She is going to make the last meal for her son and herself with it.  Still, she shares it with Elijah.  Now, you may think that she shared what she had with Elijah for gain; that she did it because Elijah promised her that God would ensure that the meal and the oil would last until the rains came.  But I don’t think that was the case.
I think that when she heard Elijah’s words, she thought to herself, hunger has made this poor old man crazy; if we’re going to die anyway, I might as well share with this crazy old man.  I think it was her altruism that caused the words that God spoke to Elijah to become a reality.  Her altruism made the miracle happen.
The second reading explains to us that high priests offer sacrifices again and again with the blood of animals not their own blood.  They don’t give of themselves but Jesus, however, made his sacrifice only once with his own blood.  Scripture says Jesus offered himself and suffered for our sins.  Jesus, offered himself because of his love for us; because God is love.
Some of you have heard me say that sin is acting against love and therefore, acting in an ungodly, unloving manner.  How can we act Godly and loving?  The Psalm tells us how we could imitate God.  Our God executes justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry, lifts up those who are bowed down, watches over strangers and, upholds the orphan and the widow. 
The just society in Jesus’ time was just as imaginary as it is in ours.  But in his act of sacrifice, Jesus showed us how difficult it can become when we work for justice.  We may not be called to die in the cause of justice but we are all called to sacrifice time, energy or possessions to bring about the kin-dom.  Imagine!
The Gospel for today helps clarify what I’m talking about.   First, St. Mark for gives us the “beware” or the “this is what you shouldn’t do” example of the scribes.  They like to flaunt and demand deference to their importance.  These scribes want to be greeted with respect and given the best seats in the house.  They pretend to be devout by praying long enough to be seen by others as prayerful.   Yet they cheat widows out of their homes through usury and fraud.
Mark contrasts the actions of the scribes and of the rich with the actions of the poor widow.  It doesn’t matter that this widow put only a pittance into the collection box.  What matters is that she gave all that she had.   It also doesn’t matter that the rich gave huge sums.  What matters is how they acquired their wealth and that they gave from what they defrauded from people in need.
Now some of us might be a bit cynical and say, well this widow was doing it to “store up treasures in heaven”.  But remember we are talking about a Jewish woman.  And the Judaism of Jesus’ time is much more focused on actions than in beliefs, such as heaven or sheol.  The prophets and sages of ancient Israel didn’t spend much time on speculations about the world to come.  Rather, they elaborated on how God’s commands are to be acted on in this life. 
So how does this look on the ground?  There are things we can consider.  We can start with an honest self evaluation.  For example, one of the most humbling lessons I learned was that for all my “oppressed black woman” status, I am still complicit in the injustice present in the world.  Knowing this and owning it were the first step in becoming humble; in acknowledging that I am no better than they.  Now that I know, I have to work for change in myself and in the world. 
Jesus’ self-sacrifice was the ultimate in altruism; some of us may have heard that we can follow the footsteps of Christ by dying to self.   When I used to hear the term, dying to self, I envisioned some mystical state reserved for the super-holy, vision-seeing few.  I have come to understand that, dying to self, is not a faraway or unattainable virtue, especially when I recall that pithy expression, “keep it simple”.  I have come to believe that every time we make a decision that opts for heart, love, or compassion over what is easy and comfortable, we are choosing the die-to-self option. The wonderful significance in hearing this is that we can more consciously and intentionally choose to act out of that option when opportunities present themselves, for example, when opportunities present themselves, such as to work locally and globally for justice with those who are oppressed; for justice for our home, the Earth; for the elimination of hunger and homelessness; and, to reach out to our brothers and sisters who are marginalized and excluded.
Every time we sacrifice time, energy or possessions for someone else without expectations, we are acting altruistically.  The opposite of altruism is selfishness.  Jesus was the ultimate in unselfishness and his work on this earth was to bring God’s love to the world.  We demonstrate concretely our gratitude for God’s love, by imitating God’s love; if we remember that Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time



Shared Homily Starter  - 14 October 2012

First Reading: Wisdom of Solomon 7:7-11
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 90
Second Reading: The Letter of St. Paul to the Hebrews 4:12-13
Gospel: Mark 10:17-30

Today's First reading talks about the value of wisdom; how King Solomon prayed for understanding and God graced him with the Spirit of Wisdom.   The story of the two women claiming to be the mother of a baby and Solomon's wise ploy to determine the baby's true mother always came to mind when I thought of Solomon and Wisdom. But last week, when I was here for Ric's thanksgiving service, Ric spoke of the value of the present moment.  After listening, I began to expand my thinking on wisdom.  What I mean is, that instead of praying for understanding or wisdom to come to us in some future time, we should be awake to the wisdom that is given to us in the moments of our every day lives. 
Let me give you an example, two weeks ago at our First Nations Women's group, a woman came in who was very angry and rude.  The facilitator didn't react but kept on with the day's program.  She included the woman with her eye contact, by answering her brusquely asked questions with patience and respect.  By the middle of the meeting, the woman was calmed down and civil and actually began participating with ease.   The facilitator exercised the perfect balance of giving space, not giving undue attention yet being attentive enough.  It was amazing to watch.  In that moment, I learned what it meant to give a person the time and the space to become themselves. 
This interchange made me think that we should pray to be awake, to be aware of what is happening around us and to appreciate what is happening around and within us.  The Spirit of Wisdom within us grows and becomes more at home with us as we become more awake in how we live moment to moment. 
The second reading tells us that the Word of God is “living and active.”  We are told the God’s Word “is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  But God’s Word should also help us to bridge that insurmountable 18 inches between the head and the heart.  Because we are naked and laid bare to the eyes of God─ our minds, hearts and actions should reflect the love of our Creator’s gaze.
This is a perfect segue into Today’s Gospel… It begins with a man running up to Jesus, addressing him as “Good Teacher, and asking what he must do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus rebukes him for calling him “Good” by telling him “No one is good but God alone.”  Jesus states some of the 10 commandments in answer to the man’s question, “You shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.”   The man replies that he has kept all these commandments.  Jesus mentions these specific commandments intentionally because they deal with how we treat others. 
In Jesus’ time, most of those who were rich had gained their riches on the backs of the poor, that is, the peasants who had been and were being systematically defrauded of their lands.  Corrupt judges sided with the elite rather than protect the poor.  Peasants were also systematically forced into more and more debt, while the rich profited by their plight.  The rich also had the false impression that their riches were a sign of their good standing in God’s eyes.  So when Jesus asked him to sell what he owned and give it to the poor, it was more that he could take. 
Jesus was asking him to transform his way of thinking in three ways.  The first was that in giving what he owned to the poor, he wasn’t really giving anything, he was simply returning what rightfully belonged to the poor.  The second way Jesus wanted to transform his thinking was that he, like us, should be willing to give all for God─ without whom, we have nothing.  The third way the man needed to transform his thinking is to acknowledge that we cannot earn eternal life through our own efforts.  It is God’s love and God’s grace that gives us eternal life. 
The man in the Gospel, just like us, is caught up in a systemically inequitable societal system.  We can understand the disciples’ dilemma when they asked, “Then who can be saved?”  We are even more dismayed when Jesus says that we will receive persecution “in this age” for following him and spreading the good news.
But Jesus isn’t telling them this to be a downer.  But what he was telling them was to do good because it is good; to do good because of love; that the hope of reward should not be our motivation; that honest, loving and respectful relationships with our neighbour is how we should be in this world and how we live the good news.

Please add your own thoughts on the readings.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Shared Homily Starter – 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time



30 September 2012

First Reading:  Numbers 11:25-29
Responsorial Psalm:  Psalm 19

Second Reading:   James 5:1-6

Gospel:  Mark 8:27-35


When I first looked at today’s readings, I was a bit taken aback because my first thoughts were of our Church.  Then, for my course at school, I had to research the new immigration and refugee law.  This caused me to look at the readings in a broader light.  I found that the readings really spoke to both of these issues.  I’m not going to say a lot today but I want to give you few things to think about.

In the first reading, Moses had called a meeting of the elders.  At that meeting God endowed the elders with the Spirit and they were given the gift of prophesy, which would better be understood in this instance, as the gift of preaching. 

Joshua is upset because the elders Eldad and Medad, had not gone to the meeting, yet he finds them preaching in the camp.   He complains about them to Moses.  But Moses understands correctly, that it is God’s Spirit, and God’s right to share It with whomever.  Church leaders today ─and I’m not just talking about Roman Catholic leaders, have forgotten this simple fact. 

The second reading might seem like wishful thinking because it may seem to us that the rich and greedy are not suffering in the least.  However, I would rather think of it as a cautionary tale.  Greed, exploitation, and injustice are crimes or sins against love.  These particular sins are addictive.  With each act of greed fuelled exploitation, with each act of injustice, we are killing our own spirits, our own spiritual selves in the same way a heroin addict does with each fix.

Today’s Gospel brings these concepts together.  In the first part of the Gospel, John is upset because someone who is not part of their group is healing in Jesus’ name.  Jesus tells John not to stop the person because, “Anyone who is not against us is with us.”  In light of what I’ve been researching on refugee claimants and Bill C-31, this passage tells me that Jesus is trying to get John past the “Us and Them” thinking that comes so naturally to all of us.  If we include “them” what happens to “us?” Will “they” take our jobs? If they are right, are we wrong? 

In the case of refugees there are people in positions of power and influence, who are telling us that the Romani people are criminals or that war resisters are shirkers and cowards.  They tell us that they will be a drain on Canada’s resources.  Incidentally, they say the same thing about the people in our neighbourhood.  The same people, who would turn away the stranger in trouble instead of offering refuge and hospitality, claim to be Christian.  How far, we have strayed from the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Now in the second part of the Gospel, Jesus says, “Rather than make one of these little ones who believe in me stumble, it would be better to be thrown into the sea with a large milestone hung around your neck.”  This part made me think about the women in our church and this time I am talking about the Roman Catholic Church.  I think about the women in our church, who heard God’s call and were told to ignore it.   What greater way is there to make someone stumble, then to tell them to ignore the voice of God.  Likewise, how can we turn away people who are seeking a refuge from persecution and discrimination, or people who are seeking a life of peace rather than continue a life of war?

The third and last part of the Gospel tells us to remove those parts of us that cause us to sin.  Rather than think of sin in the traditional sense, think of sin as a falling out of right relationship with God, with our neighbour, with ourselves.  Sin is a transgression against love.  If we contemplate sin this way, it might even help us to “cut off” our “us and them” thinking.  Conversely, we may look at holiness as striving to be in right relationship and as trying to see the presence and action of the Spirit of God in our lives.  We might then attempt to look at our every day lives and our every day encounters, even the difficult ones, as enlightening opportunities.  It can enable us to begin to gain a better perception of the world around us, of ourselves and of our relationship to the Creator of all.  It can help us to begin to open our eyes to new possibilities and alternatives.  

Please share your own thoughts on any or all of the readings or on what you’ve heard.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Feast Day of Saint Francis of Assisi



Blessing of the Animals
Thurs., Oct. 4th, 2012
6:00 pm
Vancouver Catholic Worker’s
Samaritan House
1143 E. Pender St.,
Vancouver

The blessing of each animal, by name, means that health, healing and life are being mediated from God for the benefit of the animal in its relationship with its human partners.   The blessing is not to reinforce the separation of human animals and other animals. Instead, we are reinforcing our common kinship by blessing ALL animals--human and otherwise.

All are welcome
whether they have
no legs or many
.




Your Hostess:  Roni Marie












Your Host:  Derv Marie

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Shared Homily Starter – 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time




First Reading:
Isaiah 50:5-9
Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 116
Second Reading:
James 2:14-18
Gospel:
Mark 8:27-35
 
“You are judging by human standards rather than by God’s.”   “You are judging by human standards rather than by God’s.”  This is the phrase that kept drumming within me as I was thinking about today’s homily.

We can’t possibly know the mind of God.  But we do have some clues.  The Psalm tells us that God listens, saves lives, and protects.  We hear in this reading that our God is a God of justice and mercy.  The Psalmist tells us God is gracious.  Just looking at a sampling of the synonyms for gracious informs us that God is approachable, beneficent, compassionate, kind, loving, merciful and tender.  But we like the Psalmist must walk before our God in the land of the living.

“You are judging by human standards rather than by God’s”, the first reading says that God opened my ears, and I have obeyed, I did not turn away.  Isaiah tells us that He did not hide from insults but stood firm.  He trusted that he would not be put to shame because Yahweh was at his side.  The prophet was speaking against the injustices of his day.  Then as now, those who speak out against injustice are often ridiculed and persecuted. 

One example is the student protest in Quebec.  The student protestors didn’t receive much attention in the press outside of Quebec.  When the protest did appear in the mainstream media in the rest of the country, the reporting was often less than supportive, accusing the protestors of being selfish and privileged and motivated by a sense of entitlement. 

Another example is the government treatment of Canada’s environmental groups.  Funding to the Canadian Environmental Network was cut.  The Canadian Environmental Network consists of over 640 highly diverse large and small, rural and urban organisations from coast to coast to coast. Internationally, the our government is killing the Global Environmental Monitoring System, an inexpensive project that monitors over 3,000 freshwater sites around the world for a U.N. database hosted by Canada for decades.   Lastly, funding to Environment Canada was reduced to the point that 2,100 employees were laid off.  What are we to do?

The second reading and the gospel point the way.  But first, you may wonder, why is Vikki always preaching about the environmental, economic or social justice issues.  Well, it’s because when I was teaching Catholic Social Teaching at St. Mark’s, I was asked; “Why don’t we ever hear about any of these issues from the pulpit?”   I don’t think you’ll have to ask that question. 

Now, the second reading is pretty clear.  But often when we think of the bare necessities of life, we think of food, clothing and shelter.  Yet for a human being to be healthy they need social networks, food for their souls and protection from violence.  So while “charity models”, where we just write cheques, are a necessity.  Of equal and possibly greater importance, is working with people to change the conditions that make or keep them hungry, poor and homeless─ all of which are forms of violence.   Food for the soul, like food for people, comes in diverse forms.  As children of God, we are to nurture people in expressions of faith that bring them closer to community and most of all, to God.   Because God is Love, this means we must allow people to follow God’s call to them in their own tradition if they wish and proselytize our Christianity by our love not by imposition.

In the Gospel, we hear Jesus telling the disciples, not to tell anyone that he is the messiah.  Jesus knows that if people learn that he is the messiah, they will be judging him by their political understanding of the messianic mission that was popular at the time.  Jesus doesn’t want the people to think of him or try and make him a temporal king.  He tells them that he is going to suffer and die.  Jesus is going to suffer because challenges people to question the social, political and religious status quo.  But, he also tells them that he will rise again.  Jesus wants people to know that, in the words of Julian of Norwich, “All will be well.”  He calls the people of Caesarea Philippi ─and us─ to respond to his words and works with a transformation of heart and mind. 

If you wish to come after me, you must deny your very self, take up your cross and follow in my footsteps.  35If you would save your life, you’ll lose it, but if you lose your life for my sake, you’ll save it.”   Jesus is talking about more than personal piety here.  I think Jesus’ call to personal action is in the service of the wider society─ to bring forth the kingdom.  It means working for what is right and just, even if it means personal sacrifice. 

Let us look again at the students in Quebec.  Rather than being selfish and privileged and motivated by a sense of entitlement, these students sacrificed a term of education and tuition that they can never get back.  They did this for the benefit of students that will come after them.  Also, the students’ struggle grew into a much larger discussion: about democracy, about economic insecurity and about student debt loads.  The students’ struggle stimulated Quebecers into action, as evidenced in the results of the Quebec election.

Often, though, the ability to see results is like trying to reach the horizon.  We work to get closer and closer to our goals but they seem to stay out of our reach.  To take a single example from the environmental groups, we can look at David Suzuki, who resigned from the Board of the foundation he instituted.  In his open letter of resignation to the Foundation, he said, in part:

I want to speak freely ─without fear that my words will be deemed too political,─ and harm the organization of which I am so proud. I am keenly aware that some governments, industries and special interest groups are working hard to silence us. They use threats to the Foundation's charitable status in attempts to mute its powerful voice on issues that matter deeply to you and many other Canadians. This bullying demonstrates how important it is to speak out.

When Jesus tells us, “You are judging by human standards rather than by God’s,” I suggest that he is telling us that we should do what is right and just, not because we can see or control the outcome.  Rather, simply because it is right, compassionate and just.   It may call us to forego position and status.  Doing the right thing may cost us our livelihood.  

Jesus spoke out against injustice, worked against injustice, and by his compassion, he even violated religious laws.   Like the prophet, we must trust that we will not be put to shame ─because Yahweh is at our side.  We can’t possibly know the mind of God.  But we can try to stop judging what we are called to do by human standards and to start judging by God’s. 

 Please share your own thoughts on any of the readings.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

2 September 2012 – Labour Day Homily



First Reading: Jeremiah 22:13-19
Responsorial Psalm: 72:1-4, 11-14, 18
Second Reading: I Corinthians 12:12-26
Gospel: Matthew 25:31-40

For days, I was puzzling over how to weave these three readings together.  I had no one to blame but myself because I chose them from a list of suggested Labour Day readings.  Trusting in the Spirit, once I made the choices, I thought it best not to change them.  Still, I struggled with how to weave them together.  Finally, I gave up and began to look at each one separately and see what the Spirit would knit together for me.

What came to me was that each of the readings looked at labour differently.  In the first reading, Jeremiah lets us know that God holds a dim view of those who reap benefits from injustice and inequity.  The injustice that Jeremiah describes is strikingly similar to what is going on today, in our world and in this very neighbourhood.  In our neighbourhood, developers are building fine, if not spacious houses, while the violence of poverty and homelessness continue. 

In other parts of the world, corporate interests are gaining profits from the shedding of the innocent blood.  Those who are working for the rights of their communities to have just wages, clean drinking water, and preserve their lands from pollution, are the targets.  Violence and oppression are epidemic in countries like Colombia, for example, in Colombia, the most dangerous and life threatening position to hold is that of union organizer. 

Since the free trade agreement between Colombia and the United states took place in October 2011, 34 Colombian trade unionists have been killed.  And according to the executive director of the National Trade Union School, in Medellin, more than 2,900 acts of violence and 1,500 assaults have taken place, aimed at workers and labour activists. 

I remember saying a few years ago, in my uninformed state, that unions were no longer needed.  Needless to say, I have changed my mind.  In 2007, a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Report called “Negotiating without a floor,” found that traditional unions have been victim to the loss of coverage under the Employment Standards Act for large sections of their members….
Under the previous Act, unions were aware that if their collective agreements did not contain rights and benefits at least equal to the Act, the superior provisions of the Act were deemed to form part of their collective agreement.  However, since 2002, under the new Act, large groups of union members have potentially lost these employment rights without legal recourse. The new Act has left gaping holes in many collective agreements, and the government has not given unions the opportunity to re-open their collective agreements to ensure their members are not exposed [to the loss of employment rights].1

Another example, is when Christy Clark increased the minimum wage, she included everyone but servers. It's not fair and it's open to abuse.  Under the new legislation - licensed restaurants can now pay servers less than the minimum wage.2

One of the most disadvantaged groups of workers is migrant workers.  We can all as Christians and as voters work to alleviate the conditions of our brothers and sisters in their struggle for decent employment conditions. 
So the first reading can be said to describe labour issues that pertain to those in power: governments, corporations, and the wealthy.  This also suggests that the way to work for labour justice from these entities is to participate in and/or support our labour unions.

In the second reading, we are told that we are all part of the Body of Christ.  As such each and every member of the body is important and vital.  The proverbial rocket scientist is no more important in the eyes of God than the binner who collects our empty bottles.  We are to treat everyone with love and respect.  However, let’s take this analogy a little bit farther. 

Many of us, especially those of us who were schooled in pre-Vatican II Catholicism, were taught that our religion was more important than anyone else’s.  We were told that we had the exclusive rights to God’s truth and by extension, God’s love.   But the old Baltimore Catechism taught that we were created to know, love and serve God.  Now, there was no specification on who helped us to do this.  Therefore, any religious community that aids its members in knowing, loving and serving God, is performing the labour for which it was intended.  Our opening song refrains said in succession, I believe in God and it ain’t me, I believe in God and it ain’t us; I believe in God and God is God.  We are not to judge the vessels or the pathways the Creator chooses for the people of God.  We are all, ̶ regardless of race, colour, creed, affectional orientation, or social or professional status ̶   people of God. 

Which brings me to the Gospel; it tells us how we, as people of God, are called to be towards one another.  God calls us to a labour of love.  Many of us already do or contribute in some way to giving drink to the thirsty, feeding the hungry and visiting the sick.  Fewer of us, I imagine, spend much time with the, “I was in prison and you visited me”, part. 

Those of who live in the nicer areas of the city might even be part of the “Not in My Neighbourhood” crowd when the location a halfway house is proposed for their area.  Why is that?  Well because we know that the socialization to prison life does not translate to socialization in the community.  But we as Christians and as good citizens could begin the socialization process with people while they were in prison. 

Many people in our prisons belong to the marginalized and racialized groups of our society.   They are familiar with poverty, racism, and exclusion.  How healing for all of us, if we could befriend people and incorporate them into our social networks while they were still incarcerated.   With our social support and if our friendship is genuine, people would have the experience of being accepted and included.  They would then have a social support network when they are released.  We would be a living expression of a gospel community and give everyone involved a greater incentive to transform our lives. 

So the readings give us all something to think about.  In my opinion, the readings look at labour from different vantage points.  The readings also call to us for a response. 
  • From the political viewpoint of working for the common good, we could support fair labour practices and our unions
  • From the social viewpoint of the value of labour ̶   secular and religious, we could value and respect the different faces of work, and lastly,
  • From the personal viewpoint, we could become active participants in the labour of love that we are called to as people of God.

I’ll end with this prayer:
St. Joseph, Patron of Workers,
Help us to respect the dignity of all workers.
Help us to learn about and to care about workers
who do not have fair wages, just benefits, safe working environments.
Help us to raise our voices for justice for workers.
Help us to ask our government and our representatives
to develop policies that create jobs with dignity.
Guide us in our own work
and in the work of justice we are all called to participate in.
Renew our strength and commitment each day
as we face the work ahead
as we labour for the common good of all.3
Amen


1.         Fairey, David and McCallum, Simone (2007) Negotiating Without a Floor:  Unionized Worker Exclusion from BC Employment Standards.  Vancouver: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (http://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/BC_Office_Pubs/bc_2007/bc_exclusion.pdf)

2.         http://www.bcfed.com/issues/minimum_wage

3          adapted from: Education for Justice. Prayer to St. Joseph, Patron of Workers.  https://www.educationforjustice.org/node/818

Monday, August 27, 2012

August 26, 2012 - 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time


First Reading:        Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 34:15-22
Second Reading:     Ephesians 6:10-20
Gospel Reading:     John 6:56-69

The passage reading from Ephesians that we heard today is often interpreted in terms of spiritual warfare but I think it would be better understood as Paul telling us that God's way, in light of the teaching of Jesus Christ, is spiritual peace-fare.  To be strong in the Lord is to surrender to God's grace.  The whole armour of our God is love and justice.  The Word of God is a living word and must be understood in terms of our lived experiences.  As we can see today, when things look so hopeless, our elected leaders are abandoning social structures that promote the common good to entities that are not blood and flesh but are transnational economic interests that are exploiting human as well as natural resources.  In the United States corporations have been deemed persons, yet they are not accountable for their behaviour as an actual flesh and blood person.

The Greek word usually translated as “righteousness” would be more aptly translated as fairness or justice.  The breastplate refers back to the breastplate or hoshen, in Hebrew, of the high priest mentioned in Exodus.  Therefore, we could rightly say that we are to arm ourselves with justice. 

We can explore what putting on the whole armour of God means for us.  If we keep in mind the words of today’s Psalm:

·       The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, those who act with justice,
·       The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
·       Many are the afflictions of the righteous, those who act with justice, but the Lord rescues them from them all.

The apostle also tells us that the word of God serves as our helmet and sword. So, I would say that for Christians, the whole armour of God that the apostle is talking about is prayer, love, peace, justice and truth, informed by the Gospel.

It may all seem so daunting because in all parts of the world today, it appears that corporate well-being is more important than the health of all living creatures and the planet.  I have watched documentaries showing that corporate practices have made environmental degradation a global illness affecting all areas of our planet; and where certain scientific and military endeavours are posing threats even beyond our planet.  This could indeed be seen as “cosmic powers of this present darkness.”

In 2006 and 2007, I went with Christian Peacemaker Teams to the Grassy Narrows (Asubpeeschoseewagong) First Nation in north western Ontario.  We had the opportunity to see, experience, and learn from people who remember how to live in away that respects the sacredness of life.  We saw how a natural forest is a diverse, interdependent ecosystem.  We learned how the forest supports the plant and animal species that also support human life. 

Unfortunately, we also saw clear-cuts and their results.  We saw people being forcibly disconnected from the very life that sustains them.  The trees, the animals, the plants that they coexist with and had a living relationship with are being destroyed.  The areas that have been clear-cut have been replaced with a mono-culture of genetically engineered trees. 

In a short one hour drive we passed several of these tree farms.  The clear-cuts destroyed the habitat of several species of animals, birds and plants and in turn the loss of food, medicines and other resources that sustain three of the community’s families. 

Even closer to home, now, oil is being extracted from the tar sands in Alberta.  The oil sands produce the world’s most harmful type of oil for the atmosphere, emitting high volumes of greenhouse gases during development, which contribute to global warming.  In addition, there is a strong government push to construct pipelines from the tar sands through British Columbia to the Pacific Ocean.  There are oil tankers that are coming and going through our waters now, and plans to increase the number of these tankers.

But to demonize those commanding harmful economic practices that are causing global warming, poverty in most of the world, water, air and environmental destruction on a cosmic scale is not what we are called to as Christians.  The apostle Paul tells us to put on the "breastplate of righteousness", that is, to align ourselves with justice, and to make ourselves ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.

To refuse to demonize those that are doing so much wide-spread harm is not easy.  However, we must remember that if we demonize we are playing the same game as the rulers, the authorities, and the cosmic powers of this present darkness.  

It’s a huge task, where do we begin?  I’m can’t give you the answers but I will give you some things to think about.  How do we begin to make ourselves ready proclaim the gospel of peace?  Although we can start with ourselves, the road to salvation and the way to follow Christ is not a solo act. 

Some starting places for us would be
·       To cultivate peace within ourselves. 
·       To heal our own alienation from the natural beauty that our loving God created. 
·       To look at the natural world as God did and see that it is good, not because of it’s usefulness to us, but because like us, each item in nature is infused with the breath and word of God. 

As a congregation, you are a member of KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives.  This organization unites Canadian churches and religious organizations in a faithful ecumenical response to the call to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). So KAIROS is a good place for a group to
·       To obtain resources on human rights and/or eco-justice and learn about the issues
·       To participate in KAIROS justice actions and initiatives
·       To contact the local chapter of KAIROS
·       To host a KAIROS workshop

As I said earlier, I don’t have the answers but I do know that we are called to work together to bring about the kin-dom.  I know that if we work together in organizations like KAIROS, we can transform the urge to demonize by working to bring about the transformation of darkness into Light.   As the song says:
We are called to act with justice. 
We are called to love tenderly. 
We are called to serve one another, to walk humbly with God.
Peace and All Good, Amen.