Proper 15(20) C
By Rev. Dr. Victoria Marie
Recently, I had the honour of participating as the resident elder in the Sacred Earth Camp for youth, a project of Salal + Cedar Watershed Discipleship Community. The lectionary readings, in light of the Camp experience, motivated me to revisit and reflect on certain current truths and issues of concern.
They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal. Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. (Jer. 23:27-28)
During camp, youth leader Rachael reminded us of the false prophets in our time whose dreams are to get us to forget the truth our being by telling us that we should not be happy as we are, that we are not enough, we’re not good-looking enough, too fat, too thin. Advertising tells us that we don’t have enough, that we need this or that or more of this or that to be happy. The unstated underlying aim of the false prophets is not to make us happy. Rather, their aim is to promote ever more consumption to feed the capitalist machinery’s insatiable hunger.
False prophets would have us dream that we are the creatures of most importance in God’s eyes. Some would even have us believe that some of us are of importance than others. The true prophet, on the other hand, tells us that God has given us all we need, if we act from an outlook of abundance as to opposed to an outlook of scarcity; if we act out of love instead of fear. The prophet Micah 6:8, tells us what God wants from us in return, “what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?“ The problem is we don’t all live this way. What a different world it would be if each of us practiced justice, kindness and walked humbly with God; if each of us cared for each other and the whole of creation with no exclusions.
To help us imagine just that today’s second reading provides biblical characters as examples and the following words of encouragement, “since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). This reading speaks of those who went before us. Sacred Earth Camp gave us the opportunity to meet two Indigenous women, Billie Pierre and Miranda Dick, from different communities of unceded Nlaka’pamux and Secwépemc Territory, who are living witnesses of today.
Each of these witnesses are working for justice for the health and preservation of the land, waters and its varied species of inhabitants by opposing the dumping of biosolids in their territory. False prophets preach the dream that biosolids, once treated, will be good fertilizer for agriculture, landscaping, and golf courses. The truth is otherwise. In the May 1, 2016, The Hamilton Spectator, published an open letter from Canadian scientists that warns of the dangers of biosolids. In it the scientists write, “Quite simply, the science doesn’t support the disposal of sewage sludge across the landscape. The supposed benefits are more than offset by the risks to human and environmental health.” By sharing their knowledge of the problem, Billie and Miranda, give us the opportunity to be accomplices and work with them in the struggle for justice and kindness for God’s creation, our common home.
This brings me to today’s gospel. I have always struggled with these words of Jesus, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” (Luke 12:51). In view of today’s first reading, I have come to understand Jesus is not bringing the division. Rather, Jesus is calling us to recognize the division as the conflict between those who, ensnared by false prophets’ dreams, forget God’s name for Baal and those who listen to the prophets who speak God’s word faithfully. In so doing, Jesus, challenges us to examine the signs of our times. Jesus challenges us to determine, whether to choose the false dream or the true path. If we choose true, then we know the gospel challenge we face today. It is the monumental greed that is fuelling environmental, racial, and economic injustice.
Today’s gospel also suggests that action is required. Wrong action, inaction and apathy are antithetical to gospel living. The Turtle Valley Donkey Refuge, just a few kilometers from the biosolids blockade, is an example of creation care and right action that I think Jesus would love. The Refuge’s pamphlet reads in part, that they are “committed to working in harmony with the land, its gifts and its creatures to provide a healthy, loving forever home for the donkeys that have been abused, neglected, unwanted or no longer can be cared for.”
Not everyone can do something as big as a donkey refuge, but the hopeful news is that all of us can participate in justice-oriented action with love and kindness. No act done with love is too small. No act done with love is futile. “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. (Heb. 12:1b-2a).
Victoria Marie is co-funder of the Vancouver Catholic Worker, on unceded Coast Salish Territory. She is a priest, member of Roman Catholic Women Priests Canada, spiritual director, and pastor of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Tonantzin Inclusive Catholic Community and author of Transforming Addiction: The role of spirituality in learning recovery from addiction (Scholars Press, 2014).
Wild Lectionary is a weekly blog on ecological justice themes in the revised common lectionary, curated by Laurel Dykstra, gathering priest of Salal + Cedar, Coast Salish Territory.