A Few Thoughts – Oct. 17

A Few Thoughts – Oct. 17

Last week, on October 12, instead of celebrating Christopher Columbus, Indigenous Day was celebrated. For a goodly number of persons, the change was not a major event, for others it was filled with controversy. So much in favor and so much against. Something similar can be said about Junipero Serra, OFM and his being named a saint. For some, not very interesting, for others, plenty of controversies.

The fact is that at root all of this has to do with history and yes, these changes are important. On the one hand, being attentive to history includes learning from mistakes in the past and not condemning ourselves to repeat the same mistakes. On the other hand, the task has to do with “the appropriation of history”. This is something that has been taking place in a very deliberate manner, worldwide, over the past 50 years. The effort is not just to gather the light but also the shadow. Often enough, this is a monumental task, particularly because history is written by the conquerors. If only the light is gathered, then the result is, at best, something partial; incomplete.

A partial history then becomes the “official history”. The history of the conqueror that in turn, determines the laws, norms, and conduct of the dominant culture. To gather the “other side” of history, no matter how difficult it might be, is an exercise of healing, liberation, and transformation. Repression is not healthy if the shadow is repressed – be it the way indigenous people were treated, the treatment of the Afro-Americans, women, or whoever was the “defeated” – is a social illness that can ultimately breed systemic evil. Therefore, the movement from darkness to light brings healing, liberation, and transformation to an entire society, and not just one group or another.

Often this is a journey of reconciliation, a pilgrimage. With prayer and ritual, those who have suffered make the pilgrimage to the places where the injuries took place. This is the way of the cross, a pilgrimage that does deny, rather, it lifts up the dead and dying, a passion that leads to resurrection. This is a sacred event. This is not about changing places, the once defeated now becomes the one who defeats. It is not a matter of politics and much less, a matter of vengeance. This is an authentic and courageous pilgrimage that allows every feeling, grief, pain, the sweating of blood. Recuperating the shadow, hope/resurrection takes place. It is from this sacred place that it becomes imperative to change a celebration and even question the title of “saint”.

The incredible hope here is that it moves us much further than a promise not to commit the same mistakes again. Filled with compassion, this moment opens up the possibility of a never again, beyond the suffering of one set of people or another. With the healing of the soul, this type of reconciliation, initiates a new way of life, a different set of relationships, a new society. Important to repeat, in order for this to take place, it has to be treated as sacred, without the contamination of controversy, politics, and rigid posturing.

Father Francisco Gómez, S.T.

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