embracing guadalupen theology

I wrote this a few years ago and wanted to repost in honor of today’s feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.   My reflection looks at the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a “still speaking” text of liberation and wholeness.   ¡Que viva la Guadalupana!

Some music in honor of today:  La Guadalupana sung by Miriam Solis; a variation of the same song by Emmanuel and Alexander Hacha. 


As I reflect over one of my favorite images of Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, I realize the rich complexity and beauty within the apparition of la Morenita del Tepayac.  Just as in Galilee Mary’s yes and life pointed to God; so too in Mexico on a sacred mount Mary again points towards the path to God.   It is an apparition that does not have one meaning but speaks to us today on several levels.   The apparition has social, historic, and theological implications with new discoveries and meanings to consider with each look at the story.  Theologically, Guadalupe demonstrates God’s revelation through the unlikely hero, the need for safe space for divine encounter, and of the “un-boxing” of God’s revelation.

Throughout Biblical and Christian history, there are many examples of the underdog that saves the day.  In Guadalupe we come to see what God can do through the “nobody”, the outcast, and the rejected.  Just as God chose a poor Galilean Jewish girl to come into the world, God chose a poor indigenous man to reveal God’s plan for a new creation.  It is through the marginalized community that God planted seeds to fix the mess created by misguided, well-intentioned European colonizers—a revolu that is still being dealt with today.  Similar to stories in the Hebrew Bible, God demonstrates that God does not abandon God’s people but walks with the people and will provide a messiah. Mary, Joseph, Hagar, David, and Rahab are examples of people who were not hero material on the outside because of their gender, size, class, or fulfillment of cultural expectations but whose lives revolutionized their communities and history; Juan Diego is in this same line of known and unknown individuals that God uses to reveal truth, bring about change, and reflect divine love.  Though indigenous people were looked down upon and their culture seen as threat by Europeans, God sees potential and uses Juan to evangelize the Europeans and ultimately the world.   God holds up the rejected by calling an indigenous farmer to be a prophet, using the language and symbolism of the “conquered” to deconstruct harmful rhetoric, and comes to the people through Mary’s apparition as one of them through one of them to bring wholeness and liberation.

The story of Guadalupe reflects the need for safer spaces to connect with God.  Europeans came and destroyed the lives (on every level) of the Indigenous people of the Americas.  Native communities were flattened through a “salvation” of coercion and  humiliation—all in the name of God and in the name of progress, globalization, and evangelization.  People along with their traditions, beliefs, and way of life were completely eradicated because they were perceived to be less human (difference, like today, was seen as a threat to be silenced and conquered).  European notions of God, customs, dress, and education were forced upon tribes.  The conquest and colonization did not give people the space to desahogarse of their traumatic experience or grieve the loss of their livelihood as a community who became strangers in their own land—land that they had worked, bought with their sweat and blood, built homes on, and was a source of connection to the divine.  They were violated, blamed for being violated, and had no outlet to express these feelings. A dynamic that sadly continues today with other marginalized groups who are re-victimized by being blamed for the dominant group’s harsh treatment of them.

The missionaries’ church was not a place of encounter with God but a place of fear, pain, and terror.  Why would the indigenous people who were being evangelized and forced to convert want to come close to a god or deity who obliterated their sense of self, their land, their families, and their way of life?  Before any relationship with God could be created and fostered, it was necessary to establish spaces where people could heal and find God in travesty and tribulation.  God was not freely found but imposed—that is not healing, forgiving, liberating, or “whole-making” but just deepens the wounds.  As with other forms of violence, people than and now begin to believe the lies told to them by their oppressors.  It is beautiful and amazing how Mary greets Juan Diego; her greeting in his mother tongue begins to restore dignity that was taken from his people. Guadalupe provided a safe space by reclaiming a sacred site as a place of divine encounter, demonstrating that indigenous practices were not evil but good, and planted the seeds for a new beginning for both natives and foreigners.  Though the story of Guadalupe has brought healing and created a safer space, I believe that the Church needs to take a step further to apologize for its actions in the 1500s and not hide behind the image of Our Lady.  The story of Guadalupe shows how God reached out to create a sanctuary where people could encounter the divine on their own terms and through their own unique self and to begin a new creation from the pain of chaos and confusion (a message that has many implications for pastoral work today).

God’s work through the unlikely hero and the creation of safer spaces demonstrates that God’s complex and liberating revelation can be revealed to us through simple means that truly pack a punch.  Through Juan Diego’s testimony, the tilma with Our Lady’s image, and guadalupen roses God continues to speak to us today in a truly remarkable way.  We sometimes get caught up in the grandiose and in the bells-and-whistles; we often forget that God speaks in the “still small voice”.   Guadalupe was a reminder than and now that God can use anything as a microphone to speak God’s message of love and justice for all.  Guadalupe shows how God spoke and continues to speak through the rejected and marginalized to the Church and to society.  God’s message can come through the institution and hierarchy of the Church but it is not confined to it.  God speaks through the whole church choosing prophets from every level of church from bishops to forgotten campesinos.  The message of Guadalupe did not come from a learned philosopher but from a simple man eager to please his dulce Señora­—the message that was given was directed from the pueblo to the higher-ups (not vice versa as is often the case). God used Juan Diego and La Morenita to remind us that God’s revelation is bigger than the neat little box we try to put it in and is not limited to one person or a select few.

The story of Guadalupe has multiple meanings and was an event in history that continues to speak to us today. It’s messages take on new significance with each reading of the events that took place.  Hopefully we continue to learn, listen, and live what Guadalupe said and continues to say to us today as individuals, community, and church.   ¡Que viva la Guadalupana!


 

delfin bautista is a native of Miami, FL, delfin is of both Cuban and Salvadoran heritage.   delfin is a social worker and activist theologian who is passionate about engaging the intersections of religion, gender, sexuality, race, and justice.   delfin is a former member of CTA’s Vision Council, Board of Directors, Anti-Racism Team, and 20/30 Leadership Team.  delfin is coauthor of religion and spirituality in Trans Bodies, Trans Selves and also serves on their Board of Directors.  delfin currently serves as the Director of the LGBT Center at Ohio University as well as serving as adjunct faculty in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.  delfin is also a contributor to Believe Out Loud’s blog and “preaches” on their blog “La Lucha, Mi Pulpito.”

Miriam

This post is by Tevyn East, creator of the Carnival de Resistance (which will be in Minneapolis September 13-27) and was originally posted on radicaldiscipleship.net.  Miriam is part of an ongoing series on badass women of the bible. If you are interested in contributing a poem, reflection, sermon, art, etc on women in the bible for radicaldiscipleship.net email lydiaiwk@gmail.com.

Screen shot 2016-05-02 at 11.47.30 AM“So Miriam was shut out of the camp for seven days; and the people did not set out on the march until Miriam had been brought in again.”      Numbers 12: 15

In May of 2012, I entered into an artistic collaboration with Jay Beck, my now husband and partner in producing the Carnival de Resistance. We had established that I would come up to Philadelphia and together we would create works of theater that re-contextualize stories from scripture, based around each of the four elements: Water, Air, Earth, and Fire. Immediately upon landing, we discerned that we would first focus on the voice of water and that I would delve into the story of Miriam, Moses’ sister. Little did I know that this choice would throw me straight into the deep end!

Although not often realized, Moses’ destiny and the destiny of the Hebrew people is birthed in the Nile river in an unlikely alliance between women, both privileged and oppressed, who are ready to defy the cruel mandates of an imperial system. Focusing on Miriam’s experience, within this conspiracy and the unfolding Exodus story, was rich fodder for our water piece. I felt wonder at her euphoric dance and song toward liberation as the Israelites crossed the Red Sea (Exodus 15:20-27). This account is immediately followed by a story of healing and promise and bitter water being turned sweet (a curious twist on her name’s meaning, “Bitterness”). However, it shocked my system as I began working through the later part of Miriam’s grievous story. Miriam is struck with leprosy and punitively expelled from the Israelite’s camp for hers and Aarons attempt to question their brother, Moses’, absolute authority (Numbers 12: 1-15). After Aaron and the entire camp advocate for her restored relationship within the community, we hear nothing more from Miriam until the report of her death. And the sequence is simple – She died, was buried. there was no water. the people were thirsty and gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron (Numbers 20:1,2).

 

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Mary and Elizabeth

This is a post by Lydia Wylie-Kellermann: a mother, writer, and activist in Detroit, MI. This post was originally published on www.radicaldiscipleship.net.

 

 

mary and elizabeth.jpg

Luke 1: 39-56

I wonder about the beginning of this reading. “Mary went with haste….” It seems like there are three possibilities for this. First is that she was so excited and filled with anticipation that she fled to a friend she loved. I think this is our most common interpretation. But I think it more likely the second or third possibility. Either she was sent away out of shame and embarrassment for three months. Or as I did more reading, it seems likely that being pregnant and not married with her status was actually cause for being stoned to death. She may have been fleeing for her life.

So, it is perhaps in that place or urgency and fear that this reading begins, but, after that it is nothing but delight. The reading is beautiful.

As I was sitting with this story, I realized how much I WISH that this was the Christmas story. That this was the birthing scene that we read together Christmas Eve. It is filled with the intimacy of friendship, the wisdom of women, longing, rejoicing, honoring one another, singing, and just a good long chunk of time to be with one another.

I love how it ends with “Mary stayed for 3 months before she went home.” Though that is cut from the lectionary. You can just imagine how they spent that time. Both pregnant. Two women- one old and one young. Resting, imagining, praying, cooking for another, massaging their bodies, and in the midst of it all talking about God and a radical new social order. Speaking dangerous politics. With those two women for mothers, no wonder Jesus and John turned out to be badasses.

It is just a beautiful scene. As I reflect at thirty-six weeks pregnancy today, this is what I hope for- circles of women, children leaping for joy, feeling that birth can be a shift in the status quo, and feeling honored and blessed by love and by God.

But that is not the scene we get this Christmas. While in so many ways, we have romanticized the Nativity story, it really is not a great birth story. It begins with them being ordered to leave their homes. Deported. To be counted. I imagine the relationships Mary had to leave behind. She would have known the midwives that would be at her birth. Perhaps she would have given birth the same place her mother did. Perhaps her mother and sisters would have been there. But instead, she is forced to leave, alone.

Then they have a long journey…on a donkey! This year, we have a strict NO Christmas travel policy in our family. Travel is hard work on these pregnant weary bodies. I remember how painful it was to be in labor traveling in a car on bumpy pavement. The idea of traveling by donkey on dirt roads while close or starting labor, sounds pretty horrible.

Then, she feels the contractions and is ready to have this kid and they have to try to find a bed! There is no room in the inn. I think I have always felt like “I cant believe they wouldn’t let her in! All would have been fine.” But an inn is no place to have a baby either. Alone. With no midwife. And instead she ends up in a barn. On the cold ground. With the smell of animals. Did she catch the baby by herself? Did Joseph catch the baby? I imagine that would have been culturally unusual. Was it a scary labor?

Then, after all that, according to the stories we hear, she is surrounded by NO ONE but MEN! Joseph, an Inn Keeper, shepherds, kings. Maybe there are some women angels? But even those that are named are men! I ache for Mary. I think of the reading of Mary and Elizabeth and the time they shared together. How different that feeling is. Intimate, sacred space for women is so important. In a time when women were not given space or honored, birth would have been one of those few places women had space together. It was systemically taken away from her.

Things don’t get much better after that either. An order is given to kill all boys under two. She births a son right into a world that wants to swallow up her son. It is similar to the other birthing stories we know in the bible. Moses who escapes death multiple times after Egypt demands all Hebrew baby boys killed. And the women in Revelation who birth right in the face of a dragon who plans to eat her son. Birth is not beautiful in the bible. It does not feel like Advent pregnant hope, but rather pregnancies filled with fear and the slim hopes for the chance of survival for their children.

So, knowing all that is to come, I delight in today’s reading. I give thanks that those friendships and spaces find their ways into Mary’s life despite all the barriers. I give thanks that it was powerful enough that amidst all the other stuff left out about women in the Gospels, this makes it in. It is certainly a story that models discipleship for me. That calls in us to be human, to rest, to sing, to hope, to speak justice, to find intimacy, and to leap for joy in the face of all that is happening and all that is to come.

The other thing that strikes me in Luke and Hebrews is the reality of bodies. So often in our faith we separate mind and bodies. We intellectualize the readings and our spiritualties. But here, God is choosing to be incarnate in a body. “You have prepared a body for me.” We feel Jesus and John jumping in the womb. Pregnancy and birth are real physical, bodily things. It isn’t pretty or neat. It is painful and bloody and earthly. In fact, I’ve never felt so much like an animal than when I was giving birth. It wasn’t my mind or my heart that birthed that child, it was the instincts in my body.

I remember a friend saying to me, “It wasn’t until I gave birth and I was breast feeding, that I really understood, “This is my body, broken, and given for you.”

I remember so clearly the moments before I started pushing Isaac out, when he is coming down between my hips, and it literally feels like my body is being split in two. And in a lot of ways it is. My hips come apart. And something that is flesh of my flesh is given into this world.

As we take communion today, my mind and heart will be preparing to break again. As we count down the days til he arrives, I offer my body again as gift- giving life to another human being.

Indeed, “this is my body, broken and given for you.”

Let’s pray.

I invite you to close your eyes
To be still.
To breathe.

Oh God,
We give thanks for the stories
That encourage our hearts

May we too be like Mary and Elizabeth
Who in the midst of darkness
Delight in their friendship
Feel the movements in their bodies
Speak of a radical hope for the future
Sing, rejoice
And rest.

May we carve out those spaces
Of sacred, intimacy
Despite the powers that be
Trying to swallow them up

Oh God, you call us into our bodies
Honoring the earthly, ordinary, and miraculous beings that we are
To feel their heaviness on the ground
And to let the earth carry us
We pray that our lives embody the Gospels
Giving them to the work of creation, love, and resistance.

For all of this and so much more on our hearts,
We lift it to you
Who holds us like a mother’s womb,
who became embodied in Mary’s womb,
and was birthed from the womb into this world.
Amen.

Embracing La Guadalupana

In honor of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, la morenita del Tepeyac, I wanted to share a reflection I wrote 3 years ago that continues to speak to me today…may it provide new insights as it did for me today.  ¡Que viva la Guadalupana!

As a person with both indigenous and Spanish roots, my encounter with Lupita, this dark haired and brown skinned woman, has been transformative, healing, and wholizing as it was the first time that the divine manifested herself in an image that was and is like me.

Through the story of La Guadalupana, honor and affirmation have been brought to my raices and my lucha. She appears as a marginalized person—she appears as one of the people. For a long time I struggled with the story of Juan Diego and La Virgen de Guadalupe due to the idea that its only importance in history was the conversion of the indigenous people—a belief system brought and imposed by the Spanish and other Europeans. However, as I grappled with the image, the story, its place in history, its place in my faith journey, I came to understand that what happened in Mejico more than 500 years ago was a moment in which the sacred, the mysterious, the divine came near—a moment in which G-d revealed G-dself in a way that Juan Diego and later myself could understand, embrace, and identify with. On that day, my messiness, my identity, who I am as a person who lives a lucha beyond the norm, was also lifted up.

Not only is the tilma on which the image of Mary is preserved and revered an important part of the story, but also the messenger Juan Diego, a simple indigenous farmer on an errand early in the morning, who was chosen to share a prophetic message to the church and to the world: G-d is with us in the struggle. He, like La Guadalupana herself, is a reminder that the call to holiness is not limited to any one group but is an invitation and challenge open to all people, period.

La Virgen is a source of hope and healing in a world that is divided by ethnic, religious, racial, and genderized “us vs them.” She is a reminder that the divine belongs to all people of all colors, sizes, genders, races, belief systems. The story we commemorate today lifts up women and all those on the margin. By remembering Guadalupe, we also re-member the dignity and worth of all people on the fringes of church and society.

Through this story and image, I came to know un DIOS with many names, faces, and bodies—a G-d of and in la lucha … un DIOS who is different and unico…who is spicy, colorful, quirky, and transcends gender norms…who understands Spanglish, who likes black beans and rice with a fried egg and banana, who can dance salsa and cumbia…who founds joy at widening the circle of familia, who enjoys a good rant about social justice issues, who finds time to laugh and be silly…a G-d who inhabits those in-between spaces of identity and expression.

A prayer for today (from Yale Divinity Latin@ Association’s 2009 Chapel Service honoring La Guadalupana and all women):

Santos DIOS,  Bless us as we gather together today to celebrate Mary of Nazareth, the mujer from the barrio. Lift up our hearts today as we remember her manifestation to the indigenous man Juan Diego of Mejico in 1531, and the special relationship she continues to have with the peoples of the Americas.  In honoring her, we honor and lift up all women who are in la lucha In this space, we gather to remember profetizas Latina who like Maria de Nazaret took charge of their lives, lived out a daily yes by embracing the messiness of GOD’s unfolding revolutionary plan with all its joy and frustration.  In our commemorating of La morenita del Tipeyac, we commemorate the dwelling and expression of GOD in all people, black, brown, red, yellow, white … all colors, ethnicities, cultures, nationalities.  United with La Guadalupana and all blessed women in la lucha,  Maternally guide our hearts and prayers to live a prophetic life…to give birth to the Divine in our words, deeds, hearts, thoughts, lives, in our lucha. Amen.

The artwork is not my own but gathered through various internet searches attempting to find  diverse representations of Our Lady of Guadalupe…many come from chicana artists like Alma Lopez and Yolanda Lopez, some are a little scandalous, some redefine tradition, all of them queery.   Each artist infuses into the image a new way of relating to Guadalupe and a new way Guadalupe can relate to us. Enjoy…

image11_29la-virgen_alma-lopezchicana9lopezyolanda7IMG_0217

delfin bautista is a member of the board of directors for Trans Bodies Trans Selves; delfin is also a member of CTA 20/30, Dignity’s Young Adult Caucus, and Dignity’s Trans Caucus.  delfin currently serves as the Director of the LGBT Center at Ohio University.  delfin “preaches” on their own blog “Mi Lucha, Mi Pulpito” and  is a contributor to the Young Adult Catholic Blog and to Believe Out Loud.

Embracing Pinkitude ~ Breast Cancer Awareness

Saludos to all!  First off, I would like to apologize that I have not posted to the blog in a long time.  Life became very hectic with personal and professional life, causing a neglect in my writing.  However, I am learning to balance and learning to find time for my writing, ranting, and sermonizing.   And so la lucha will continue and venture into new areas of luchaness.

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and All Saints Day, I wanted to share this homily I wrote in memory of Marie Hernandez and Maria Lemes da Silva, two brave women who coped and thrived despite being diagnosed with breast cancer.  The sermon is based on the three Gospel stories of the woman who was hemorrhaging that touched Jesus’ garment (Matt 9:20; Mark 5:25; Luke 8:43).  Her story is one of not allowing a disease define who she was and of taking a leap of faith that is rooted in radical boldness.  May “think pink” be more than a catchy gimmick this month but an ongoing testament to our solidarity with all those impacted by breast cancer—a commitment to coping, surviving, and thriving.  Towards the end there is space for people to name all those women and men who have bravely fought this disease, who are beginning the fight, and who are in remission—honoring also their loved ones who are also coping, surviving, and thriving.

Fore more information about breast cancer and ways to get involved, please visit The National Breast Cancer Foundation (http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org).

Coping     Surviving     Thriving

I will be honest, preparing this sermon was a challenge. It was and still is daunting and anxiety provoking, inducing of many brain-busts.  What can I say about breast cancer? What do I know?  I asked myself repeatedly, how will G-d get me through this one?  Why me?  But than I asked, why not me?   Someone has to break the silence. I may not know much but…I do know that…

  • Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among American women, accounting for one in three cancer diagnoses in women.
  • One in eight women born today will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some time in their lifetime
  • Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among women aged forty to fifty-nine
  • There are over two million breast cancer survivors in the United States
  • A survey of twelve years of reports in two major psychiatric journals showed that spirituality – defined as participation in religious ceremony, social support, prayer, and belief in a higher being – yielded positive mental health benefits in 92% of the cases

I know Maria Lemes da Silva, I know Marie Walker Hernandez, two brave women who fought breast cancer, two women who are presente and here with us.  I know that despite the intensity and magnitude of this disease, the pulpit has remained silent.   I may not know much about the embodied impact of breast cancer, but I do know about coping, surviving, and thriving.  I may not know the struggle of radical mastectomies, the pain of chemotherapy, or the anxiety caused by finding the right wig, but I do know about the warrior spirit of the luchadoras who are in the struggle…la lucha, to not merely cope or survive with breast cancer but to thrive.  Luchadoras who are not letting cancer define who they are, but who are finding ways to live life without fear, despite the pain that breast cancer may be inflicting on the body, they are not letting it take over their spirits.

Coping     Surviving     Thriving

When it came to finding a scripture passage to reflect on sermonically, I was at a loss and I struggled with the bible, realizing that many of the passages on healing in the New Testament intersected with sin and I did not want to equate cancer with sin … I also realized that many of these same stories are sources of hope for many who are living with cancer.   What to do?  After hours of reflecting, praying, reading,  re-reflecting, re-reading, and praying again,  G-d sent me 4 radically spiritual women, Sadie, Rebecca, Stephanie, and Rachel.   At a point where I was going to lose hope in scripture and in Christianity, these 4 women shared insights and thoughts and questions that helped me see passages in a different light.

With their help, I came across the story of a woman whom I am naming Florence.   Her story is captured in 3 of the gospels as the woman who was hemorrhaging that touched the hem or fringes of Jesus’ cloak/robe.  Her story is one inspiration, of boundary breaking, of the warrior spirit that was embraced by Marie, Maria, and the countless women and men diagnosed with and affected by breast cancer. She is un-named in the gospel accounts, but the fact that she is included in 3 gospels reflects the importance of her story of fighting with a chutzpah-based faith.  

Florence was afflicted with a disease, a disease that made her unpure and marginalized her from society – not unlike the treatment many women received when they were first diagnosed, marginalized by silence by many who were unable to pronounce the “c-word.”  Florence was a luchadora, she was not going to let disease stop her from living.  She went to doctors, she prayed, she offered sacrifices.  But despite all her efforts, 12 years worth, she did not get the results she hoped and yearned for.  However she did not let that stop her, she endured the chemos and homeopathic remedies of her day with their body ravaging side affects and side effects to the side effects, she could not be healed, she could not be made whole – but her chispa, her undominable audacity to hope would keep her in la lucha, in the struggle.

Despite social norms on purity and the place of women in society, Florence acted boldly, aggressively … she did not let the cancer within her define her or let society dictate her identity.  Florence decided she would fight and do what was needed.  She embodied the Deuteronomist’s encouragement…“Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; G-d will not fail you or forsake you.”   She trusted G-d and G-d trusted her.  Guided by her faith and determination, she did something radical … she touched Jesus.

Despite the crowds, despite the claustrophobia of crawling through a forest of legs, despite the heat, despite the pain within her body, despite the stigma that marked her and that she risked marking on others, she took a leap of faith and was healed … Jesus tells her that it is her faith that healed her.  It was her boldness, her determination, her lucha that brought her healing and made her whole.  Her lucha of coping surviving and thriving

What can we learn from Florence?  What can we learn from her faith that flowed her into voice and wholeness?  She lived and embodied what the Psalmist says in Psalm 31 … she was strong and let her heart take courage.  She took a risk, she took a chance, she got messy. Knowing at the core of her being, in the depths of her soul, G-d was with her … she coped, she survived, she thrived.

Florence’s story is not a story of giving people false hope, or instill an expectation of healing.  Florence’s testimony in the Gospels  is about not letting disease or society’s view of disease define how one lives life, however, long or short it will be. We need to remind all those living with breast cancer that they cannot and will not be diagnosed to the margin.  They are not alone, for G-d is with them.  It is not about fuzzy quips and fluffy colloquialisms, but radically embracing life like Florence, Marie, and Maria … Of fighting with every breath and ounce of chutzpah one can muster.  Of transforming limitations into differently abledness.  

Maria is my best friend and sister in life’s mother.  Marie is my beloved husband’s mother.  These two moms, wives, workers, women of faith realized that though they might not be able to climb mountains anymore, they would boldly proclaim…
I will go to church, I will raise my children,
I will lead a household, I will be there for others,
I will participate in treatment,
I will work as long as I can to take care of my loved ones,
I will cry, I will be angry,
I will laugh, I will go to the doctor,
I will live.
Will it be easy, no.
Will we get mad, yes.  
Is that okay … it sure is.
It is okay to complain and be angry and ask G-d why.  Like Job and Job’s unnamed wife, we can authentically and angrily ask G-d why … knowing that G-d can take it.  Maria and Marie, like so many others, coped and thrived.  They could not answer many questions about their health or what would happen, but assured everyone through their conviction and faith to live as long as they were able to live, believing and reminding others to believe that G-d’s love was present and filled with anger-enduring care.  

As the Psalmist proclaims … G-d is my shelter, covering me in the refuge of G-d’s feather… in G-d is my strength … though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil … with G-D, what shall I fear.

As Isaiah proclaims … “do not fear, for I am with you,
do not be afraid, for I am your G-d;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
   I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

Coping     Surviving     Thriving

In this place, may we be reminded that though the world may be falling apart, our bodies are ravished with scars, chemo has caused our hair to fall out, nausea is our constant companion, getting out of bed is an insurmountable quest, fear of the cancer spreading, G-d is suffering with us.  G-d is carrying the cross with us and sometimes for us through a nurse, doctor, friend, loved one. G-d is holding us.

“And I will raise you up on eagle’s wings, Bare you up on breath of dawn.  Make you to shine like the sun, And hold you in the palm of G-d’s hand, And hold you in the palm of G-d’s hand.”  (Hymn On Eagle’s Wings by Rev. Michael Joncas)

To be held is an act of trust and vulnerability, to allow oneself to be gently cradled in the hands of another, to truly believe our partners who still behold us as beautiful, to allow others to help you because walking to the kitchen for a cup of water is exhausting … to share with a stranger that the scars on our bodies are medals of honor and badges of courage… to be held by G-d through the pain and the joy.  To be held into coping, surviving, and thriving.

In this space, let us remember Florence, Marie, and Maria.  Let us make presente all the women living with breast cancer … For Hispanics and Latinos, those who have died are still with us, presente in our lucha, as companions in our struggles and in our celebrations.  Their stories are reminders that we are to focus on today so we can get to tomorrow, their presencia reminds us that we are not alone.  

(interactive)
In this space, you are invited to share the names of all those who have been impacted by breast cancer.  You are also invited to light a candle…

Let us lift up the names of our mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, wives, cousins, and grandmothers, friends, brothers, co-workers, husbands, and pastors…

May we lift up the names of those who have died, those have been recently diagnosed, those in remission, those going through treatment, and those who are getting tested…

(back to sermon)
Where 2 or 3 are gathered, there I am … This is our calling as people of faith … To be in la lucha with and sometimes for others, to break the silence, to allow G-d to flow through us … starting groups of support, taking people to the doctor, cooking meals, going the extra mile at the cancer walk, not letting pink be just a gimmick but a true sign of our solidarity…sharing the Kleenex when the time to say “ta ta for now” comes…Talking about breast cancer to ensure that women can go from lump to laughter, love, and life.

Though one may be overpowered by the vomiting, scarring, headaches, body aches, puss, hairloss, confusions about treatments, worries about finances, uncertainties … one is not alone, one is in community, en conjunto, we face this disease … we are in this together.  

As it is written in Ecclesiastes, “And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.”  Our experiences here are interconnected, the experiences of Marie and Maria and all women before us are interconnected with us.  Marie and Maria died of cancer, but did not lose the battle to cancer.  They are still fighting…their memory, their children, their spirits, their Florence-like chutzpah, their presence lives, loves, and fights on … With them presente in our lucha, we cope, we survive, and we thrive.
Amen.

delfin bautista is a former member of the CTA Vision Council and is currently on the board of directors for Trans Bodies Trans Selves.  delfin currently serves as the Director of the LGBT Center at Ohio University.  delfin “preaches” on their own blog “Mi Lucha, Mi Pulpito” and is a contributor to the Young Adult Catholic Blog and to Believe Out Loud.

Bravely Holding Vision: Reflections from the Road to Woman Priesthood

Bravely Holding Vision is a series written by current Young Adult Catholics blog editor, Sarah Holst. Sarah is in the application process to become a Roman Catholic Womanpriest in the Midwest Region. They currently work as an artist in Duluth, MN. Sarah and her partner Nathan will be leading a workshop on Watershed Discipleship at the National Call to Action Conference this November in Milwaulkee.

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Sarah holding space on Ash Wednesday on the Abundant Table Farm.  “Remember you are earth and to earth you will return.”

One of the joys in my life right now is, after a long season of transience, settling into a place where my partner and I plan to be for a long, long time. I relished my years of post-college volunteer work, learning and adventure (shout-outs to Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest and Episcopal Service Corps for providing that for folks like me), but am so hungry to have a home, know the cycle of seasons, start a garden that I will tend to year after year, and perhaps most acutely, make and have friends that I won’t shortly be moving away from and saying goodbye to.

It is a heart-wrenching thing to gather one community after another around oneself and then, as you start to take root and grow, to be yanked out and replanted. As difficult (and sad) as it is to start in a new place again, I am reassured by the fact that this is the last time that I will be newly befriending land, community and story. (At least, according to plan. The Holy Spirit dances in spiraling, changeling ways.) I can’t wait to get past the introductions and into the deeper work, the re-learning and unlearning and being reborn with a place again and again, I can’t wait to take steps beyond where before, I have always packed my Subaru and driven away.

A few weeks ago, in the midst of all of this beginning, I was invited by new friends to a backyard concert of Duluth singer-songwriter Rachael Kilgour’s. With a gentle shock, I found myself sitting on a bench within my new watershed, listening to songs about radical self-love and grace. I listened to Rachael sing and watched the trees move in the breeze behind her.  Suddenly, in this backyard set up with folding chairs and drinks and snacks, I felt like I could cry. It felt like Church to me.

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