WHAT WILL SUSTAIN US?
Fourth Week in the Time of the Harvest
It has been a hard year for most of us, a year of disappointment, betrayal and fear. Still in the midst of everything there have been many good things in our lives: babies have been born, young people have achieved maturity, love has brought people together and some have found in the faith strength to straighten out their lives – and there have been some personal victories.
It’s Harvest time – the time when we reflect on what the Lord has done in our lives this year, the time when we hold on to what is good and discard what is bad.
Today, we should reflect on what has sustained us and protected us. Only a fool forgets the foundation on which his house is built. Only a fool forgets where the water he drinks comes from. Why would parents who love their children not tell them the secrets of their perseverance? How can the next generation not seek the strength that gave them life?
When we look at what has happened in the nation, at the rise of Donald Trump on a wave of racism, we can see clearly the battle lines. We know more than ever that we must build a resistance and we must build a new solidarity to strengthen that resistance. But how should that resistance be built? What should we focus on this year? About what should we say: “this is good and this I want to keep?”
We began these seven weeks of the Harvest reading the Prophet’s letter to his seven churches. They were all immigrant churches, communities of faith formed in the diaspora of a people dispersed in a hostile empire. Some time ago in our church we had determined to build our own seven churches, to gather in different areas people of faith in communities of resistance. Today we have four such communities of faith – and beginnings of a fifth church. Each of these are fruits of our struggle for families, for the next generation, for justice – and for the formation of a people of God.
Last week, the prophet pointed us back to the plagues in Egypt. We found that each time God brought plagues on the Land, Pharaoh weakened but that God hardened his heart again. Those who have been watching Donald Trump go back and forth on DACA see this pharaoh, weakening, and then having his heart hardened. Why did God harden the heart of Pharaoh again and again? We learned that the people were not yet strong enough, not yet clear enough about what was truly important in their lives. As they persevered they became stronger.
Yet we are in the Harvest time and scripture tells us the gift we have been given, the source of our strength for the next year. It is the all important 12thchapter of the Book of Revelations. It is the vision of the Lady, of the Virgin of Guadalupe, thousands of years before she appeared to Juan Diego.
Focus for a minute on the scripture. The prophet sees “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.” The prophet sees the Virgin Mary pregnant with Jesus – yet he sees also this appearance in heaven, pregnant with the community of faith, the body of Christ. In her is the love of Christ, the justice and solidarity of the Kingdom of God she is struggling to bring to the earth.
Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. The dragon is Satan – but it is also the empire that oppresses the people, the bringer of injustice and oppression in the world.
The dragon chases the Lady across the desert. He spews a river of hate but the earth swallows up the river to protect her. The angels lift her up to heaven to defend her but the dragon chases after her. There is a battle in heaven. Finally the Lamb, the resurrected Jesus joins the angels and the dragon is wounded and thrown down to earth. Mortally wounded, the dragon yet chases the other children of the blessed lady.
The vision of that old prophet in that old letter to his seven churches is the story today of the people of the south, crossing the desert, chased by the Migra, protected by the angels. We know this story. We know the woman, pregnant with child, crossing the desert, riding in the trunk of a car, grouped with others in a hot semi truck. If we close our eyes and raise our heart’s eye to heaven, we can also see that she is pregnant with the body of Christ, the communities of faith to which the prophet wrote, to who we are today.
The issue of the undocumented, the issue of the border, is still the issue which defines politics and government in this country. On that issue, the Democratic Party was finally convinced to take a stand in support of the Lady and her children. On the force of the dragon of hate, however, a wave of evil swept Donald Trump into to White House, carrying a coalition of Republicans to lead the Congress.
We must understand that the undocumented just light up the entire Latino diaspora, the diaspora from the south, with and without papers, that grows and multiplies in numbers in spite of the hate, in spite of the repression. And amongst that diaspora are the children of the blessed lady, the dreamers, the five million U.S. citizen children with undocumented parents, the children growing up in the violence of the street and the anger of the police and the prisons.
It is these young people the dragon fears for they are the future as well as the present. It should not surprise us that they are going after the dreamers. We should understand that they are going after Frances and other undocumented mothers because they want to drive her U.S. citizen children from this country. We should understand that new laws are being passed each day, new policies set by the Attorney General Jeffry Sessions, to criminalize an entire generation of of color. Yet it these young people the Dark Virgin came to protect!
What did the Lady bring? What did the Virgin of Guadalupe bring across the desert? She brought the body of Christ. She was present with the body of Christ! We know what this gift is like. We have read about it in scripture as Jesus was born and brought his ministry of the love and healing and justice of the Kingdom into the world, as he confronted the hate and hypocrisy of the dragons of his time, as he was crucified but yet rose from the dead, as his disciples guided by the Holy Spirit organized the first community of faith and as communities of faith migrated throughout the empire, persecuted yet protected, growing as they persevered in their faith, the body of Christ..
We read about the first community as the believers gathered when Peter was returned to them from court, as they were confirmed in their faith that those powerful heads of nations that rebelled against the Lord did so in vain, as they shared everything with each other, as they served the poor – as the Holy Spirit came among them!
Among all the gifts of God, all the gifts we have enjoyed this year, today we celebrate the gift of the communities of faith. As these communities of faith became the church they were compromised – rebuilding again the wealthy temples which Jesus said would be torn down and in three days would reappear as the body of Christ – wherever two or three were gathered together. It is the miracle that the Word, the Spirit, the hope we hold in our hearts in spite of everything, the strength of love born in families, gives birth every year to a renewal of those communities of faith.
As we gather today, we face many issues. The undocumented, the dreamers, the children, and the youth they bear the wrath of the dragon as he chooses to scapegoat them in order to put hate and greed in control of the world in which we live. Their struggle is a burden and yet an honor, a duty, they didn’t choose – yet one on which the future of the world depends, for in their liberation lies the hope of transformation for hundreds of millions all down the continent of the Americas.
When we began the youth health service corps we were working to get health care for the undocumented who had been left out of ObamaCare. We found the truth that Latinos with papers, even with health insurance, still died twenty years earlier than the wealthy. To close the twenty year death gap we had to focus on prevention and early detection of disease, we had to organize neighborhoods as communities of mutual concern and mutual responsibility. And we turned to the youth to take on that responsibility. The truth is that only the organization of prevention can close the gap for all of us – with or without papers. When we do what Jesus said to do, when we pay attention to those who have the least status in society, “the least of these my people,” then we begin to transform the whole society!
God did not give this burden, this honor, this duty to so many without protection, without a way to walk to victory. The Dark Virgin of Juan Diego walks with them. The angels protect her children with her first born: the body of Christ, the communities of faith and resistance.
If our faith is strong enough, then our communities of faith will be renewed, will be corrected of our mistakes, of our neglect, of our selfishness – and that will be the greatest gift of the harvest! The beautiful lady, pregnant with the body of Christ, has given us sanctuary to protect us. She challenged Juan Diego to confront the Bishop and his Conquerors. She gave him courage by establishing his dignity – and a sign from heaven to bring his oppressors to their knees.
So she does today. We have seen miracles. The miracles have been given to us to let us know that she is with us. Through the Lady you have inspired a new movement of sanctuary across the nation. You have kept families together so that their children could grow up in their love and support. You have protected thousands of dreamers.
But you could not have done those things without the gift of the Dark Virgin – without becoming part of the body of Christ! The gift of the community of faith lives in renewal. It lives if you reach out to others. It lives if you make it grow. It lives if you bring someone new every week. It lives if you share the gift with others.
Open your eyes. See as the prophet saw. See the Hope! See the Lady. See the angels fighting for her. See the victory in heaven. The Dragon is already dead – He just doesn’t know it! You are alive, the children of the Lady, alive in the body of Christ, here today. No dragon can defeat you if you gather in the faithful to her communities!
Draw on the strength she offers you!
Draw on the Truth revealed by the “Least of these my people”.
Strong in your understanding of your place in history
Strong in sharing life and the service of life
Strong in Love and Unity with each other
Strong in Resistance
Strong in the Word
Strong in the Spirit
WE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST, BORN AGAIN IN THE HARVEST OF THIS YEAR!
The Holy Scriptures for the Fourth Week in the Harvest
Acts 4:23-35 The Believers Pray
23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them.24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” … After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.
Revelation 12: 1-9 The Woman and the Dragon (1)
A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
Revelation 12: 13-17 The Woman and the Dragon (2)
When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.