Today is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in our Country, a deeply important day to recognize and commemorate the legacy of Residential Schools in Canada. “The annual Orange Shirt Day on September 30 opens the door to conversation on all aspects of Residential Schools. It is an opportunity to create meaningful discussion about the effects of Residential Schools and the legacy they have left behind. A discussion all Canadians can tune into and create bridges with each other for reconciliation. A day for survivors to be reaffirmed that they matter, and so do those that have been affected. Every Child Matters, even if they are an adult, from now on.”
Who Is My Neighbor?
I believe Jesus story that we just read is very fitting for this day. The question, “who is my Neighbor?” Is an important one, don’t you think?
For far too long, I have lived my life by ignoring the issues of the Indigenous Community, I cared, just not enough. Like the Priest and Levite, I crossed to the other side of the road not wanting to be involved with the experience of the First Nations, Metis, or Inuit peoples. I AM ASHAMED.
A change in my life occurred when I attended St. Clair College. A classmate who was an Elder and Chemical Dependency Counselor on Walpole Island, shared about her work, in one of our class times, and highlighted the long-lasting impacts of the Residential School System on her reservation. She shared stories of the experiences of several families who had their children and grandchildren quite literally “ripped” from their arms and taken from them. I do not think any of us in the class had dry eyes as we listened.
The profound long lasting impact of this experience on Indigenous families and communities was driven home to my mind and heart that Tuesday night in a college classroom. Since then, I have had my eyes and ears open to the Indigenous experience in our country. I have participated in the Traditional Blanket Ceremony led by First Nation’s Elders, and I have had lengthy conversations with a Metis educator and therapist here in Windsor, and I am severing as a Co-facilitator of a denominational 8-month online cohort called HEARTS EXCHANGED. I have learned so much so far, and have so much more to learn.
I am so thankful, that I have been called into the Indigenous experience, so that I can listen with my heart, rather than being called out for my disinterest and selfishness.
Back to our Gospel reading, the details of the parable lead us to the understanding that the answer to the question “Who is my neighbor?” is everyone, all people, no matter where they come from, how they live, or what their religious views are, they are children of the Creating God, they all bear the image of our Creator. We are called to be stewards of Creation and that must include, not just taking care of plants and trees, water, and air, but stewards of all people too. Caring, assisting, providing, and protecting the dignity, needs, and rights of our neighbors.
The closing line of our reading says, “go and walk in the same way,” as the Samaritan’s merciful lifestyle, and indeed the compassionate lifestyle Jesus demonstrated.
So today, I wonder if we might want to do more than wear an orange shirt, or a “Every Child Matters’” t-shirt, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3vUqr01kAk) and do more than talk about these issues of sorrow, grief and pain that weigh so heavily on Indigenous Communities, for just one day. Although these are good things, good initial steps.
The accounts of graves at residential school sites and the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and indeed the reality of missing and murdered Indigenous Women, the need for clean drinking water for a number of these communities across our nation, has almost disappeared from the News, and hardly received mention in our recent Federal election campaign. The silence can be very oppressive.
Am I sounding too political? I don’t mean too; I mean to sound theological. That God “so loved the world that he gave his only son” and the call to love and care for all people, is the challenge to all followers of Jesus. To be the hands and feet of Jesus, in our world.
We are invited to serve our God, as ministers of reconciliation, As the Apostle Paul wrote, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” As Christians, we live in the reality of reconciliation, a reality that Paul describes when he tells us that God doesn't count our sins against us. The plural is important because we've sinned a lot, at least I have. Yet we find grace in our Saviour Jesus Christ, where forgiveness is found once and for all. May we demonstrate that reconciliation grace to our Indigenous communities, our sisters and brothers.
As Father Richard Rohr writes:
“We live with an inherent dignity – our divine sonship and our divine daughterhood – by reason of our creation. This is a dignity that God has given to us and no one can take from us.
And it has nothing to do with our race or religion or past or sin. Every single person on earth is just as much children of God as we are. Objectively. Theologically. Eternally. Where else do we think they came from? Did some other god create them, except THE GOD? Their divine DNA is the same as ours. We deny our monotheism if we believe anything else.”
Creator God, in every voice and language, you call for healing and reconciliation. You call us to new ways of being human with other peoples, with this land, and with all creatures in it.
Forgive us, Lord, for dividing people into “us and them,” for letting fear and stereotypes break down the unity you came to bring.
Open our eyes to see the shadow side of our communities that allows oppression, hurts children, creates suspicion between races, and damages your creation.
Forgive us, Lord, for being silent in the face of evil.
Open our hearts to be healed and to be healers. Open our mouths to speak for justice.
Open our arms to embrace our Indigenous neighbours. Open our minds to see new ways of living together in Your creation. May the seeds you have sown in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission flourish for the good of all in this place called Canada.
Fill us with Your love and give us wisdom, so all may live in peace with justice and the earth be filled with your love. May the end of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission be the beginning of a new journey of reconciliation in Canada. Jesus, draw us into a new spirit led family – because you live! AMEN.
We Were Children: You can rent the movie on NFB or if you have an Amazon Prime subscription, it can be found on Canadian Prime.
Rent on NFB Here!
Watch on Amazon Prime Here!
Every Child Matters: National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has generously posted both Part 1 and Part 2 on Youtube!
TRC Mini-Documentary: Senator Murray Sinclair on Reconciliation: You can see the mini-doc on Youtube!
Watch on YouTube Here!