Via Dolorosa Ivory

Triumphalism is gloating. It’s me going by you on the highway, seeing you have a flat tire and saying to someone: “they deserve that.” We Canadians are more than a touch smug right now. Justin Trudeau may not be perfect. But he’s not Donald Trump. The world loves us, not so much for who we are, but for who we’re NOT. And we lap up the credit. Or triumphalism is those of us who are Euro-Canadian saying that we tend to live a richer and healthier life than many First Nations people because we somehow are smarter, or work harder, or something. When in fact, the truth is that people like me get an education and a good diet and many of these breaks because we are living off the ill-gotten gains of land that was  stolen from the First Nations to give to our ancestors. And we have the gall to give ourselves credit. The same is true of this Gospel, written after the destruction of the Temple. Therefore, Jesus says to the Chief Priests and Elders, because of how you’ve treated the Son, I tell you this: the Kingdom of heaven will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces fruit. It’s been two thousand years since this supercessionist – and awful – text was written. In that time, has the official, institutional Church done any better than ancient Judea? No! The opposite: have we crucified those who were only seeking freedom? Yes. Have we stood idly by while the innocent suffered? You bet. Have we rejected love? Constantly. Reading this text shouldn’t make us smug. Christians are NOT God’s replacement for the Jews. What we are, is extremely fortunate we’re included in the family. And that, right there, seems the best way to eliminate self-righteousness. This is a perfect reading for a Thanksgiving weekend. The moment you and I take the time to think about how unbelievably fortunate we are, is the same moment smugness disappears. Happy Thanksgiving.

What comes naturally


A few years ago my daughter called me from a soccer field, telling me she’d been hurt. I picked up crutches and met her at the field. “Thank-you, Daddy,” she kept saying to me as I helped her up. “Thank-you for coming.” So you also, Jesus says, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say “We are but slaves. We have only done what we ought to have done!” Let me rephrase. Who among you, who is a parent or a step-parent or a grand-parent or an aunt or an uncle, would expect one of the children in your life in an emergency to thank you for coming to their aid? Would you not rather say to that child: “you’re welcome my daughter, my niece, but really I’m only doing what any adult in this situation ought to do?” I felt a bit ashamed. After all, where else would I WANT to be? Jesus is making the point that there are certain things that are just part of the deal. They’re supposed to be part of our basic identity. One night, years ago when I had a house, I left the water running on my grass by accident and went to sleep. My neighbor, who arrived home late, saw it and came over and turned it off. When he told me the next day and I thanked him, he just shrugged: “I’m your neighbour,” he said. “That’s what neighbours do.” Feed the hungry, says Jesus. Clothe the poor, visit the sick, seek justice for the marginalized and powerless…and do it all while being thankful for what you have, trying to live in love. You and I, said Jesus, should just shrug and say: that’s just what we’re supposed to do. Imagine a world where it could be that natural. Truth is…it can.