Monday, November 5, 2018

When Our Hearts Echo Holy Wisdom: Homily at the Parliament of World Religions, Toronto, Canada by Rev. Dr. Barbara Billey, Priest ARCWP (05 Nov 2018)

Barbara Billey ARCWP

Sharon Beneteau, and Barbara Billey ARCWP

Sharon Beneteau enacting the myth of Echo

How many of us resonate with the lamentations of the nymph Echo from Greek mythology? She parrots other peoples' thoughts and beliefs. She falls in love with Narcissus who, in his all-consuming preoccupation with himself, cannot love her. "Farewell, farewell, farewell.," Echo laments. She has lost herself by loving, where love cannot be found.
We can fall in love with the ideologies of politicians and religious leaders who promise security at the expense of others' freedoms. Recently, U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to send thousands of military to the Mexican border in order to block access of refugees from Honduras. I could go on at length about the multiple injustices that are persecuting women, men and their children.
We can also be swept away by institutions, parents and partners who love on the condition that we reflect their image. What is the cost of this kind of compliance?
In her poem Encounter, bishop Michele Birch-Conery writes,
Tears came.
I could have wept
a year, a hundred years,
centuries even.
All our loss, grief
of every kind,
Then, now
and yet to come.
Holy Wisdom cries out her pain for our nations' peoples; our religious and other institutions; our natural resources; and for all who cannot live out their sacred calling.
(Pic of women of the early Church)


Pictures available in google search --- Priscilla Catacombs or Roman Catacomb frescoes

On this All Soul's day, when the veil is thin between us and our ancestors, we call in the women of the early Christian Church. The picture above captures images of these women drawn by artists on the walls of ancient catacombs. They were leaders of Christian communities - deacons, priests and bishops - who carried forward Jesus' message of mercy, love and justice.

By the 4th century A.D., male, Roman Catholic Church leaders usurped women's voices. They assumed power over our religious tradition and human rights, established canon laws that dictated women's place in Church and society.  Ordained women religious leader were silenced and disappeared.

In the Gospel we heard Jesus say, "A tree is known by its fruit"(Matt 12:33). For hundreds of years, women and girls have been exploited and sexually abused in all religious traditions. We have been excluded from positions of leadership and denied our right to follow our sacred callings. These practices echo through the halls and boardrooms of government, education, business and family. Where is the fruit?
"We were here once and now we are back!," says bishop Michele. Through our women priest movement in the Roman Catholic tradition we no longer echo the voice of patriarchy. We have untangled ourselves from the sticky web of oppression and found our voices. How?
Our model of priesthood embraces Jesus' values of compassion, inclusion, equality and justice. We love our tradition and we, with the people of God, are re-creating the future Church.

We are meeting the spiritual and practical needs of people in these complex times through ministering to fractured families, refugees, LGBTQI persons, those who are disenfranchised from the institutional Church, the aging and ill. We focus on systemic change through gender and eco-justice.

Our liturgies are sacramental prayer that creates the conditions for meaningful encounters with the Sacred through the use of contemporary theologies and expressive arts. In our non-clerical, non-hierarchical stance, each person has a voice around the table of worship, including sharing collective wisdom within the homily. Our theology is about blessing, acceptance and gratitude; rather than, atonement  that focuses on our sinfulness and unworthiness.
As we deepen into our liturgy today, you'll notice images of and metaphors for God that are gender inclusive and devoid of monarchial designations such as King and Lord.

We reverence our planet Earth and all created beings. The Cosmic Christ is a living reality with us. Our liturgies are rituals of transforming and empowering grace.

Through our ordinations, we dare to break an unjust, canon law that disregards the rightful place of women called by God to be leaders in the Church. Our ordinations are valid through apostolic succession. The Divine Feminine is being birthed through us and all who are with us. We are bearing fruit.

(Barbara Billey leading body prayer)
Barbara Billey ARCWP

Again from the poem Encounter.
Wisdom Divine
She brings us back to ourselves.
She pushes us
Through her great birth passage
sending us everywhere.
We come forth
from her head, her heart,
her hands, her feet.
She has borne
us, again and again,
from her whole self.
We have become her.
She was already us.
Each one of us is called by Holy Wisdom, and by the Risen Christ whose essence is Wisdom to echo new sounds of freedom and justice for all. On this All Soul's day in the presence of our women ancestors, we might ask ourselves, What words of justice and peace do I echo? (Sharing response with another person)

Sharon Beneteau, Suzanne De Froy and Barbara Billey, Heart of Compassion Faith Community.

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