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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
Gospel
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 http://tinyurl.com/nf3cjqs