Reflection 062120 Rev Sunny
Matthew 5:21-24/ Genesis 33:1-17
No Peace Without Reconciliation
Jacob and Esau were the sons of Isaac and the grandsons of Abraham. They were born as twins, but Esau came out first, which means Esau became his father’s heir. It would have felt unfair to Jacob and the mother who loved him more than his brother. This sneaky boy made his brother trade him his rights as the first-born son with a bowl of porridge. Then when it was time for the father to bless his heir, the mother dressed Jacob like Esau and made him pretend to be Esau. According to the Bible, because Isaac was almost blind, Jacob could fool him, although I don’t understand how a father couldn’t tell the difference between his two sons even if he couldn’t see. Anyway, we can imagine how mad Esau would have been when he found out his brother took everything from him. Jacob had to flee. He fled to his uncle’s house, worked for him, and ended up marrying both his daughters because he wanted the younger sister, but younger sisters couldn’t get married before their older sisters. He worked hard, had a lot of children and animals. In today’s story, this guilty younger brother who had been plagued by the guilt and fear for a lot of years, finally confronts his brother Esau. He was scared that Esau might still want him dead and brought a lot of gifts. This is the moment the long-time feud, hatred, guilt, fear, and very possibly many sleepless nights finally ended. The story of Jacob and Esau is not an isolated case that teaches us that there cannot be peace without justice and reconciliation. Don’t we all have some experience with a troubled heart and sleepless nights from a conflict?
In today’s gospel text, Jesus also said, “When you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” God wants reconciliation and peace between us more than our offerings; reconciliation is God’s will. Reconciliation is about a just and healthy relationship. Today, let us reflect on our relationship between us as settlers of this land and its First Nations People.
Our history is full of violence and injustice towards the First Nations; taking of their land, residential schools, and so on. The United Church of Canada officially apologized to our First Nations for the evil of the residential schools and vowed to work on reconciliation. Our government is also supposedly committed to truth and reconciliation; but how are we really doing in this work? How are we as a nation treating our First Nations people whose ancestors have been the carers of this land that we call home? There have been treaties and Calls to Action, which is our official ways of seeking reconciliation with the First Peoples of our land; however, I will not focus on them today. As a person of colour, even though I cannot understand the particulars of their experience, I do know what it is like to feel marginalized and oppressed. My home country knows foreign invasions and the invaders trying to take away our language, culture, and land. As someone who comes from a country that knows colonization, my perspective is that those official efforts are vital, yet only superficial. That is why our First Nations people are still hurt and angry, still don’t have their ancestors’ lands, we settlers took charge of running this country but there are First Nations reservations with no access to clean water or other essential services. Aboriginal girls and women are disappearing and being murdered, yet the government does not grant them justice. Our First Nations people are being racially profiled and being treated like criminals or alcoholics, without us considering the trauma that caused their problems; the trauma that we caused. Just like African Americans who are being murdered by their police, our Black people and First Nations people are being brutalized and murdered by our police, although we don’t talk about it much. Things are happening here whether we hear about them or not.
From my perspective, before and behind our official efforts such as treaties and Calls to Action, there should be a global movement of fighting racism and racial prejudices. Without this social change led by us, normal citizens, the official policies are not going to help our First Nations people feel safe or dignified again. Apology can only be the beginning of the long and hard reconciliation process. We cannot say sorry without showing them how sorry we are; it’s called making amends. Making amends comes through actions. Of course, we don’t hold the power to change national policies overnight. What we can do as normal citizens is to fight racism in our community. Nobody is without racial biases. Let us recognize and be aware of our biases. If the first step to rehabilitation is acknowledging that one is an addict, then we should also start by acknowledging that we are not perfect, and then fight racism anyway we can. Remember that there is no true peace without reconciliation. Our First Nations sibling will not be able to reclaim their dignity if the society still sees them through biased lenses. I remember learning in my Women’s Studies class at university that a married couple may be together and not breaking up and looks happy on the outside; yet, we don’t know if the husband is not abusing the wife behind closed doors. The point is that the appearance of peace is not true peace. There cannot be true peace without a just relationship. Let us vow to speak out against racism against First Nations people. Let us speak out against bigotry in any form. Let us together learn more about our First Nations people to understand them better, so that we can fight for them better. This is how we honour and celebrate this day designated for our indigenous people.