Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost
By the Reverend Doctor Victoria Marie
There is a disconnect between my Roman Catholic tradition’s interpretation of today’s gospel and an interpretation that would be more indicative of the inclusive holistic teachings of Jesus. I think the second reading from Ephesians gives us an insight to the gospel, including today’s passage.
Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:15-18
So when Jesus says, those who eat His flesh and drink His blood have eternal life and that His flesh is true food and His blood is true drink, perhaps Jesus is saying if you internalize what I have taught you, you live in me and I live in you. Could it be that what we ritualize in our liturgies is meant to signify our commitment to drink in the teachings and practice the commandments that Jesus gave to us.
“Because the days are evil,” there are ample opportunities for us to practice the commandment to love our neighbour. Today, I want to bring attention to justice for our non-human neighbours. Any of us who have pets know, these animals are beloved members of our families. We need to extend that care and concern to all animals and creatures. Governments on both sides of the Canada/US border are bowing to the demands of money rather than the demands of environmental justice or the common good.
In the United States, the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which has been in place for nearly fifty years, aims to protect species that are under serious threat from habitat loss, climate change, overhunting or other challenges. Under the ESA, species are scientifically evaluated to determine if they are in jeopardy, and, if so, “reasonable and prudent” measures are instituted to limit the causes of that jeopardy. Few of the protected species have been restored to a healthy status but 99% of species listed as endangered have been saved from extinction. “The [Trump] administration and the [U.S.] Congress want to change ESA rules so that political officials evaluate evidence, not scientists, and economic considerations are given greater weight in deciding whether to save a species.” Source here.
In Canada, the scales of justice are unbelievably skewed in favour of corporate impunity. Kinder Morgan, a Texas energy giant that specializes in owning and controlling oil and gas pipelines and terminals, was charged with 4 separate infractions of the Water Sustainability Act after illegally tampering with salmon spawning by placing snow fencing in salmon spawning streams. Kinder Morgan was recently cited several times by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for pile driving in Burrard Inlet at levels much louder than those permitted during construction and failing to report the violations as required at the time. Preservation of the acoustic environment has become critical for Southern resident orca whales. On the other hand, the Coast Protectors, who engage in non-violent civil disobedience protesting the Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project, now face up to $5,000 each in fines. It is a worrying time when a law-breaking corporation is fined $920 and an individual engaging in non-violent civil disobedience is fined $5,000.
You may ask, what has all this environmental and political stuff to do with the gospel when there’s so much injustice towards people happening? A lot, is the answer. First, species injustice is not seen as newsworthy because current news reporting tends to favour sensational news over important news. Secondly, thank to social media, there is an awareness of abuses that are taking place against immigrants of colour, indigenous people and people of colour, in general. But most importantly, in the economy of the gospel, whatever we do to the least, we do to Christ himself. Jesus tells us that God cares about the ‘lilies of the field’ and the ‘birds of the air’. If these are important to God, they should be important to us. Please note, I’m not saying one is more important than the other. I’m saying God’s love makes us one—human, animal, plant, water, stone—all loved by God. Each one is a part of the whole that is Creation. Injustice towards one part impacts the whole.
To take Jesus into ourselves, is to take also Jesus’ love of God’s creation into ourselves and our actions should reflect our love. Wherever we see injustice, part of our Eucharistic living is to work to see that justice is restored or established. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever. John 6:58 . If we take in (eat) the Living Word of God and drink in the Spirit of Jesus teachings, we become part of the circle of love and life that abides with the Source of All being, the Eternal Word and the Holy Spirit.
Victoria Marie is is co-founder of the Vancouver Catholic Worker, on unceded Coast Salish Territory. She is a priest, spiritual director, and pastor of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Tonantzin Roman Catholic Women Church Community and author of Transforming Addiction: The role of spirituality in learning recovery from addiction (Scholars Press, 2014). This reflection is a shared or dialogue homily where Vikki gives a short “homily starter” then those present offer their reflections. Vikki was arrested on May 18 in front of the Kinder Morgan tank facility and goes to trial in November.
Wild Lectionary is a weekly blog on ecological justice themes in scripture, curated by Laurel Dykstra, gathering priest of Salal + Cedar, Coast Salish Territory.