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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.”