Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
By Rev. Dr. Victoria Marie
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 we 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 few 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 own ancestral story. We recounted and listened to each other’s 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. Whether Christian or Indigenous, in the sharing of our stories, we come to know that we are related, all children of The One Creator.
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 of 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 in community there is help to companion 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.
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. This sermon was first preached Feb 17, 2013.
Wild Lectionary is a weekly blog on ecological justice themes in scripture, curated by Laurel Dykstra, gathering priest of Salal + Cedar, Coast Salish Territory.