In all three reading for today’s Mass we heard expressions and descriptions of God’s love for all of us. In the gospel we heard how Jesus had compassion for the people who came to hear him. He empathized with their life situation. They were harassed, stressed out, not knowing where to turn, like sheep without a shepherd, no one to lead them, guide them or protect them. In our first reading God’s love is described in memories of what God did for the people when he delivered them from harsh slavery. God is likened to a mother eagle that swoops beneath her faltering young and supports them on her outstretched wings.
But the best expression of God’s love for us is in our second reading, Paul’s uplifting letter to the Romans. There are times in all our lives when we wonder, not only is there a God but does God really love us, does he care one way or another about what is going on in our lives? Does God have any idea of how complex our lives have become? Like the people in the gospel we find ourselves stressed out, frazzled, and not knowing where to turn or what to do. There can be times when we get discouraged and depressed over our struggles with our faults and weaknesses. Will we ever be what we want to be? Then we hear a reading like Paul’s and it can lift us up on eagle’s wings. “While we were still weak, unfaithful, frail and stumbling, Christ died for us. Indeed rarely will a person die for a righteous person. Though perhaps for a good person, a deserving person, someone might actually dare to die.” And here comes the most important message, “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” What greater proof do we need to convince us that we are precious to God? God did not spare his own son but gave him up for us all. “While we were still enemies we were reconciled, made one with God, through the death of God’s Son.” In another part of this letter following his same theme, Paul declares, “nothing can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
To know love, to know God’s love we have only to look at Jesus, especially Jesus dying on the cross. We need to look at the Crucified, stripped of human dignity, treated as a common criminal, nailed to the cross, wearing a mock crown of kingship. We need to hear Him ask each of us, ‘what more could I have done for you that I have not done?’
Paul tells us, to know love, to know God’s love look at Jesus, especially Jesus crucified and risen. Having been given such dignity and worth by that love, having been justified and sanctified by that love, we are to become the channels for passing on that love to others, especially those weak and stumbling like ourselves.
There is a practical application for these thoughts. The big event, the historical event this past week was Prime Minister Harper’s apology to the peoples of our First Nations for the devastating harm and injustice done to them in and through the residential school system. A system and mind set that robbed the native people of their dignity, worth, language, culture and faith. An apology is one thing, healing is another. We can be part of that healing. We can all take a look at our personal attitudes toward the men, women and children of our First Nations. Do we ever think about them at all? Think on this, when, as a child, you are deprived of being raised by your mother and father, deprived of living a normal family life, you end up having no ability and skills of raising children of your own. As a result your wounds are handed on to the next generation and the next. I don’t think we have any idea of the impact all this has had on the present native people, especially those who have tried to make a life off the reservations. Do we see peoples of the first nations as kept people; people sustained by hand outs from our Federal Government? Do we imagine them to be lazy, unwilling to find a job?
How can we say we are sorry for past sins when native peoples live on reservations lacking adequate housing, lacking safe drinking water, lacking schools, lacking job opportunities, plagued by alcoholism and family violence and a high suicide rate among the young people? How can we say we are sorry for past sins when we still act unjustly by refusing to respect and keep land treaties made long ago?
Can we have the same empathy, sensitivity and compassion toward our brothers and sisters of the first nations as Jesus, Who died on the cross for them as much as for us?
As we continue to celebrate this Eucharist we can pray for ourselves and for each other that we be graced to be more concerned about and sensitive to the first people of this land we call home. We pray for the success of the Truth and Reconciliation program. We pray that the historical event of Wednesday be just the beginning of the process of healing and reconciliation between ourselves and them so that we can be a people restored to justice and peace.