Path to Reconciliation
Shared Homily Starter
|Second Reading||Roman 8:14-17|
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