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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.


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