A Ceremony of Gratitude
Is. 40: 21-31; Psalm 147: 1-11, 20c; I Cor. 9: 16-23; Mark 1: 29-39
Reflection by Sister Mary-Ellen Francoeur
After reading the Scripture of this Sunday, what popped up for me was the Ceremony of Tobacco Offering described by Richard Wagamese in his last book, One Drum Stories and Ceremonies for a Planet. In his own healing, Richard is invited to enter this ceremony of gratitude which will lead to wholeness.
It is always a sacred ceremony for us to step back, at times, and take a deep look at the God with whom we relate. These readings invite me to do this. Isaiah asks us to remember what we have heard and been told of the unfathomable power of God who is the Creator of all, the One who keeps all of Creation functioning and alive, the God who is stronger than any powerful figures we know of. At the same time, Isaiah reminds us that this powerful God chooses to share that power with all those who come in need, in weakness.
This God renews in strength, empowers the weary. God is not a distant powerful figure but one who deeply understands weakness and comes close to lift up and draw out potential.
Psalm 147 opens my eyes and heart even further to the compassion of God who also acts with justice. Not only are human beings lifted up when oppressed or excluded, but the Earth is tended with care through rain to enable the grass to grow. Beasts of all kinds and ravens are not forgotten in their need for food. This God is not impressed with the strength and fleetness of humans and horses, but with their hearts, turning to God in their needs, and their readiness to love and live in God’s ways. Those not living God’s ways find themselves disempowered and called to re-evaluate their unjust actions. I am being drawn to a God of loving relationship. In that relationship, as I am strengthened and saved from injustice, my heart begins to desire to carry that Love and Justice forward in my life.
Paul’s testimony to the Corinthians, and then Jesus, the living Good News, stir my heart even more. I can feel how, slowly, through the years, my heart has been captured by Love, but rather than feeling unfree, I feel liberated to be more fully human. I have been lifted out of fear, inner imprisonment, and distortions of unjust thought and attitude, and have grown into a deeper sense of what it is to be Risen in Christ. This, as Paul knows, is the Good News which I, like Paul, cannot not share and live.
The eyes of my heart see where the Presence of God dwells in the persons, animals and Earth spaces which are being exploited and broken through unjust human ways and systems. I am called to share the Good News of God’s favour and compassion, and to do what I can to enable justice and new life. In the Spirit of Jesus, I recognize the interconnectedness of all. The healing of each part of Creation, including myself, cannot be complete until there is healing of the whole. And like Jesus, I am strengthened for this mission by constantly returning to the Source of this Energy of Love and Hope. This is the work of God, and I am privileged to be in partnership with God.
Like Richard Wagamese, as I reflect on that for which I am grateful, I realize that I have been filling many little bundles of tobacco and have been stringing them together. Gratitude for being part of God’s amazingly interconnected Creation; gratitude for being loved for all that I am, and can be; gratitude for all the Teachers who have been a gift in my life – human, animal, plant, water; gratitude for the desire to serve; gratitude for eyes of the heart which allow me to see the Divine in all; gratitude for inner healing and liberation; gratitude for being drawn to the ministry of peace and social/ecological justice; gratitude for the God of Love who holds all together in wholeness. All that is left to bring closure to this ceremony of gratitude and offering of tobacco is to attach my string of bundles to my favourite tree so that they may be received and blessed.
Mary-Ellen Francoeur, a Sister of Service in Toronto, bases all of her peace and justice work in a spirituality of creation.