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Sunday, February 17, 2013

First Sunday of Lent 2013




First Reading: Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
Second Reading: Romans 10:8b-13
Gospel: Luke 4:1-13

As you know today is the First Sunday of Lent.  As I reflected on today’s readings, the theme they seemed to weave together is to begin Lent by reviewing our stories.  With the First Reading, in which the writers of Deuteronomy are giving the reader a sort of Last Will and Testament of Moses, God’s people are reminded of their history and God’s presence in it.  They are told to recount that history in ritual and celebration.   We are also being reminded to reflect on our personal intergenerational stories.  Who were our ancestors?  How was God with them as they journeyed?   How do their stories impact your story?  How has God’s presence in all of our stories led us to where you are today: physically, socially, emotionally and spiritually?  The First Reading reminds us to ponder these questions as we reflect on our stories.

The Second Reading is also about story.  We know we have faith or else we wouldn’t be here.  We also believe that “Here there is no difference between Jew and Greek; all have the same Creator, rich in mercy toward those who call” or, again, we wouldn’t be here.  “Faith in the heart leads to being put right with God, confession on the lips to our deliverance”, St. Paul writes.   Confession on the lips leads to our deliverance.  One meaning that may have for us, especially during this Season of Lent, is that once we have reflected on our stories─ we share them.  Sharing our intergenerational family stories can be liberating, even if those stories, contain sorrow and pain.

A couple of years ago, we watched the film, Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai, about the woman who transformed Kenya by planting trees.  In it she talked about going back to one’s roots and telling one’s story.  Inspired by that suggestion, we had a prayer service in which everyone was asked to tell their ancestral story.  We recounted and listened to each others ancestral stories.  We told each other of our ancestors’ journeys; some journeys were short such as those from Indigenous Nations pre- and post Canadian and the U. S. nationhood; and those whose ancestor’s journeys were from further away, including: Africa, Australia, England, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Scotland and Sweden.  Some of the stories contained a lot of pain but also joy.  But we all felt a bit of healing and liberation in the telling and in being heard.  Our Second Reading reminds us to share our stories because  whether Christian or Indigenous, in the sharing of our stories, we came to know that are related and the children of The One Creator. 

Luke’s Gospel like all the Gospels tell us the Jesus story.  Just before what we read today, Luke recounts the baptism of Jesus ─and─ although it’s through Joseph’s line, Jesus ancestry is traced all the way back to Adam.   We can imagine that after his baptism, Jesus went into the desert to contemplate and reflect on God’s presence with Him and in Him and the whole human family from the beginning.   We can further imagine that Jesus was strengthened by this contemplative experience.  When I look at the part Jesus’ story told in today’s Gospel, I see Jesus (through Luke) showing us the importance of not only reflecting on and sharing our stories, but also the importance of remembering that God is with us and always has been. 

When we reflect on and share our stories, if we also contemplate how God loves and gave strength to our ancestors; if we internalize, no matter what we have been told, that God loves us unconditionally; and, that God is with us in our pain as well as in our joy─ we too will have the strength and wisdom to overcome our temptations in the desert.  We often hear, if God loves us why am I in so much pain.  I don’t know the answer to that.  But I do know that God will help you through it.  And─ I know that this community is here to help you through it. 

AA is a good example of what today’s readings are trying to tell us.  In AA, people share their stories.   In the sharing of these stories, genuine fellowship develops.  There is a tradition of exchanging phone numbers.  So that if one member is having trouble or their sobriety is in danger, they can call one of their fellow AA-ers.  No AA member has to feel alone.  Each of us is encouraged to reach out in times of stress or sorrow or we just feel like throwing in the towel.  For the alcoholic these times and feelings are “temptation in the desert” experiences.  Belief in a Higher Power and the ability to call someone to talk to until the crisis has passed is central to AA.  The person who is called is assisted in their ability to help by the stories that have been shared.  I tell you about AA because it demonstrates so well that we are conduits of God’s comfort, of God’s strength and of God’s Love.  

We can make this Lent one of story.   As we journey together and add chapters to our community story, we can reflect on our own individual stories, pray for and forgive those in our personal stories, living or dead, who have hurt us─ and ─ask forgiveness of those, living or dead, whom we have hurt.  We can take the time to listen to the stories of others and trust them enough to share our own.   And most importantly, in all of our relationships and encounters, we can remember that we are the conduits of God’s love to each other.   And so continues the Lenten journey we started on Wednesday, God’s peace and all good to you.  Amen.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

SPIRITUALITY OF SOIL



A Lenten Journey
from Cosmic Dust to Easter Garden

A five week program – Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m.

Starting February 20th, 2013

1143 East Pender Street, Vancouver, B.C.

This retreat/journey will help us heighten our appreciation of Earth, and God's living and acting within it, the current threats to our soil, and how we can respond in faith. Each week, we will start with a Lenten reading that reminds us about God’s gifts of fertile dust, seeds, sheaves, trees.   The reading is followed by a reflection and an action.  As a group we can to adapt the material in any way that will facilitate our sharing, prayer, and community.   The program was designed by Holy Child Jesus Sr. Terri MacKenzie.  The program is free ─ donations to Our Lady of Guadalupe Tonantzin Community will be accepted.  To register and for more information, please contact: Vikki at tepeyacvancouver@gmail.com

Ash Wednesday 2013



Wednesday, February 13 is Ash Wednesday in this year of 2013.  For Christians, it is the beginning of the liturgical season of Lent.  Ashes are put on our foreheads, as the words of Ecclesiastes 3:20, “All are from the dust, and to dust all return,” are said to remind us that we are from the earth and in death we return to the earth.
In this era of degradation of the earth, let us keep in mind that in between “from the earth” and “to earth all return”, there is life.  The quality of that life depends on us.  After each stage of creation, God said “it was good” or “very good.”  This Lenten season, each of us can look inward and contemplate the mysteries of our faith, deepen our prayer life, and take time out just to “be still” and just be with our God.  Slowed down yet energized, let our outward actions show that we appreciate the love and gifts that God gave us and continues to give to us.  God’s only Son was given to us as Gift─ a Gift we didn’t appreciate.  Christ suffered and died to show us how deeply He, and by His example, we could commit to the creation of a just world.  We need to acknowledge that Christ still suffers through the suffering of all who are suffering now: people and the planet.  As followers of a Life-Giving God, let us give up actions and habits that pollute the Earth and/or contribute to injustice.  Concomitantly, we need to take up or support actions and habits that promote environmental, social and economic justice.  Join us this Ash Wednesday and we can discern what we can do or habits we can cultivate individually and together this Lent─ and hopefully beyond!  Let the peace of Christ be with you all this Lenten season.

Ash Wednesday, Soup and Solidarity
12 Noon
At
Samaritan House
1143 East Pender Street
Vancouver

Join us Wednesday, February 13th for soup and faith sharing on our Lenten journeys.  Through sharing our stories, we can help each other begin Lent in a spirit of community, solidarity and support.  All are welcome!

Contact Info:  tepeyacvancouver@gmail.com or phone: 604-339-6413

Monday, February 04, 2013

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time


3 February 2013 


Jeremiah 1:4-10
Psalm 71:1-6
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Luke 4:21-30


As usual, I’ll start with a little background.  At the time of Jeremiah’s call, the Assyrian conquest of northern kingdom, Israel, and the exile of its people, is still fresh in the minds of the people of Judah.  Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry spanned the reigns of five kings of Judah, starting with Josiah and ending with Zedekiah.  During his reign, Josiah abolished idolatry and the people have returned to the worship of Yahweh.  But upon Josiah’s death the people forgot their promises to Yahweh.  Jeremiah tried to get the people to return to godly ways but his pleas were ignored.  The result was their conquest by the Babylonians, the destruction of the temple, and the people’s exile to Babylon.

The First Reading describes Jeremiah’s call to be God’s prophet.  We are all called by virtue of our baptism to be prophets.  Jeremiah serves as a model for all of us.  He has been deemed ready, “do not say, ‘I am too young’”.  He has been sent, “go wherever I send you” and he has been commanded, “say whatever I command you”.   Jeremiah has been commissioned, “This day I appoint you over nations and territories, to uproot and to tear down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.’  In other words, equipped with God’s words in his mouth, Jeremiah is to shatter and form worlds by his speech.  Walter Brueggemann[1] suggests that Jeremiah's call is to shatter  or bring old worlds to an end; and to form or cause new worlds to be.   Brueggemann explains,

The shattering and forming of worlds is not done as a potter moulds clay or as a factory makes products. It is done as a poet "redescribes" the world, reconfigures public perception, and causes people to re-experience their experience.

I find it helpful to look at our call to be prophetic in this way.  It means, we can shatter our own internalization of the myths of scarcity, separation, individualism and competition.   We can tear down the walls these ideas have embedded in our consciousness.  Then, awake to reality, we can start talking to people in our circles about the abundance that comes through sharing, togetherness, collectivism and cooperation. 

I say, we can start talking to people in our circles, because although it seem at first glance, that Jeremiah is over and against the people of Judah, according to Kathleen O’Connor[2], he is not.  She suggests that Jeremiah’s calling is rooted in the community because the book of Jeremiah is concerned with the community’s survival and their eventual return to Judah after the exile.   She further suggests that Jeremiah’s purpose is to help the community to endure its present suffering, to understand and absorb what has happened to it, and, finally, to rededicate itself as God's covenant people.

But as we see from today’s Gospel, working with our hometown communities is not an easy task.   Today’s Gospel tells us that everyone thought what Jesus was saying was fine, that is, until they recognized him as one of their own.  All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.  They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’

Jesus reveals to them that he is aware of what they are thinking and tells them, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in their home town.  He drives his point home with examples of prophets being sent to those outside their own communities.  The people are so enraged that they chase Jesus out of town and were about to throw him off a cliff but Jesus passes through them and escapes.

Jesus could have had Jeremiah in mind when he said no prophet is accepted in their hometown.  Jeremiah lamented that no one believed him when he spoke.  He was even thrown in prison because of what he was saying.  He was brought to the brink of despair and even denounced his calling.  But Jeremiah comes through this dark night of the soul with his confidence in God renewed.  One can almost hear Jeremiah saying the words in today’s Psalm “For you, O God, are my hope, my Source of Trust, from my youth.

So what does all this mean for us, as Christians, as Catholics?  It means that we have to remember the vision of the way of living taught by Jesus.  We have to reject the God-imprisoning and Spirit-domesticating structure built by Constantine that encourages power, privilege and support of the empire.  We have to use scripture, theological reflection, love and community to re-vision our church and our world.  We have to reconfigures public perception and cause people to re-experience their experiences through a lens focused on love, caring, kindness and sharing.   You may think that’s a tall order; it is, if you’re trying to do it alone.  But that is why we come together as a community, so that we can figure it out together and invite others into our figuring. We come together to become prophetic agents of change, informed by Jesus’ Gospel of love and justice.  As the Hopi people say, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

1.  What words has God put in your mouth to speak?
2.  How can we as a community of faith help you speak them?



[1] Brueggemann, Walter. "The Book of Jeremiah: Portrait of the Prophet." Interpretation. 37. no. 2 (1983): 130-145.

[2] O'Connor, Kathleen M. "The Prophet Jeremiah and Exclusive Loyalty to God." Interpretation, 59, no. 2APRIL (2005): 130-140.