Category Archives: there’s something about mary

que siga viviendo la guadalupana

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que siga viviendo la guadalupana

(Title translation:  May la Guadalupana continue to live on)

In honor of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, la morenita del Tepeyac, I wanted to share a reflection I wrote 3 years ago that continues to speak to me today…may it provide new insights as it did for me today.  ¡Que viva la Guadalupana!

As a person with both indigenous and Spanish roots, my encounter with Lupita, this dark haired and brown skinned woman, has been transformative, healing, and wholizing as it was the first time that the divine manifested herself in an image that was and is like me.

Through the story of La Guadalupana, honor and affirmation have been brought to my raices and my lucha. She appears as a marginalized person—she appears as one of the people. For a long time I struggled with the story of Juan Diego and La Virgen de Guadalupe due to the idea that its only importance in history was the conversion of the indigenous people—a belief system brought and imposed by the Spanish and other Europeans. However, as I grappled with the image, the story, its place in history, its place in my faith journey, I came to understand that what happened in Mejico more than 500 years ago was a moment in which the sacred, the mysterious, the divine came near—a moment in which G-d revealed G-dself in a way that Juan Diego and later myself could understand, embrace, and identify with. On that day, my messiness, my identity, who I am as a person who lives a lucha beyond the norm, was also lifted up.

Not only is the tilma on which the image of Mary is preserved and revered an important part of the story, but also the messenger Juan Diego, a simple indigenous farmer on an errand early in the morning, who was chosen to share a prophetic message to the church and to the world: G-d is with us in the struggle. He, like La Guadalupana herself, is a reminder that the call to holiness is not limited to any one group but is an invitation and challenge open to all people, period.

La Virgen is a source of hope and healing in a world that is divided by ethnic, religious, racial, and genderized “us vs them.” She is a reminder that the divine belongs to all people of all colors, sizes, genders, races, belief systems. The story we commemorate today lifts up women and all those on the margin. By remembering Guadalupe, we also re-member the dignity and worth of all people on the fringes of church and society.

Through this story and image, I came to know un DIOS with many names, faces, and bodies—a G-d of and in la lucha … un DIOS who is different and unico…who is spicy, colorful, quirky, and transcends gender norms…who understands Spanglish, who likes black beans and rice with a fried egg and banana, who can dance salsa and cumbia…who founds joy at widening the circle of familia, who enjoys a good rant about social justice issues, who finds time to laugh and be silly…a G-d who inhabits those in-between spaces of identity and expression.

A prayer for today (from Yale Divinity Latin@ Association’s 2009 Chapel Service honoring La Guadalupana and all women):

Santos DIOS,  Bless us as we gather together today to celebrate Mary of Nazareth, the mujer from the barrio. Lift up our hearts today as we remember her manifestation to the indigenous man Juan Diego of Mejico in 1531, and the special relationship she continues to have with the peoples of the Americas.  In honoring her, we honor and lift up all women who are in la lucha In this space, we gather to remember profetizas Latina who like Maria de Nazaret took charge of their lives, lived out a daily yes by embracing the messiness of GOD’s unfolding revolutionary plan with all its joy and frustration.  In our commemorating of La morenita del Tipeyac, we commemorate the dwelling and expression of GOD in all people, black, brown, red, yellow, white … all colors, ethnicities, cultures, nationalities.  United with La Guadalupana and all blessed women in la lucha,  Maternally guide our hearts and prayers to live a prophetic life…to give birth to the Divine in our words, deeds, hearts, thoughts, lives, in our lucha. Amen.

The artwork is not my own but gathered through various internet searches attempting to find  diverse representations of Our Lady of Guadalupe…many come from chicana artists like Alma Lopez and Yolanda Lopez, some are a little scandalous, some redefine tradition, all of them queery.   Each artist infuses into the image a new way of relating to Guadalupe and a new way Guadalupe can relate to us. Enjoy…

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we are the immaculate conception

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somos tod@s la imaculada concepción…we are the immaculate conception

Mary Visits Elizabeth: Luke 1: 39-45

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit  and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?  For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy.  And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’

I would like to start off with a short selection from Alice Walker’s The Color Purple …  

CELIE: God forgot about me!

SHUG: God takin’ his time getting around to you, I admit, but look at all he give us. Laughin’, and singin’, and sex. Sky over our heads, birds singin’ to us. I think it piss God off if anybody even walk past the color purple in a field and not notice it. He say,”look what I made for you.”

I use the story to engage this Gospel passage…  The story of Mary …  A woman who transgressed borders.  A woman called to be a mother, prophet, apostle, revolutionary…She has been exulted and divinized, yet her humanity has often been forgotten and ignored …It is her story that we will look at today to wrestle and grapple with the church’s teaching on the immaculate conception.

Llena de gracia…full of grace

Catholics around the world accept the teaching of the Immaculate Conception.  However, what does it actually mean?  In 1854, Pope Pius IX stated:  “The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the saviour of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.”   What does it mean that Mary was preserved from sin?  It is the belief that because of her unique mission, Mary was conceived immaculately in her mother’s womb so that sin would not pass on to her child, Jesus, who as son of GOD is free of sin.

It was a common belief in Israel that the sins of the parent were passed onto the child.  If Jesus was to be free of sin, his mother would also have to be free from sin.  My queries are…where does the cycle end…if sin is passed from generation to generation, was Mary’s mother, Anne, also free from sin?  How far back does the immaculate lineage have to go?  If Mary was not marked by sin, did she really have a choice … would she come down with sinfulness if she had said no?  By focusing on conception for future conception, have we limited, distorted, and reduced Mary and by extension all women to worth based on biological breeding?

This feast and dogma has wider implications than explaining that Mary was a suitable receptacle for a son–it impacts how the church treats women and their bodies.  It is a source of much division among Christians … with some believing that women should be subservient to their husbands as baby factories (those who cannot are defective machinery) while others affirm the right of women to be ordained and preach.

It is dogmas like the Immaculate Conception that lead to confusion and misunderstanding about Mary and I believe a neglect women, we coerce their womanhood into mindless biological assembly lines.  It is this theological marginalization that we need to address so that we can proclaim all as being llena de gracia, full of grace.

In this place, I invite us to relook at what it means to be la Imaculada Concepción…To be conceived immaculately.

In proclaiming Mary as the Immaculate Conception, we are also proclaiming our own immaculate conception as children of GOD.  The feast is not about Maria as an exception to the rule, but a celebration of who we are and who we will become.  We are all conceived immaculately, each of us is llena de gracia, full of grace

If we look to Genesis, we are told that we are created in GOD’s image and that creation is good.  From the beginning we are holy, we are perfect. Regardless of the goofs up that we may do upon entering the world, regardless of the run ins with the Sarah’s of the world who reject us and castigate us for being different, we are good, we are llena de gracia.

Past all the mistakes and oopses, past all the things we coulda woulda shoulda, we are good, we are llena de gracia.  Many of the women included in biblical texts are due to their calling to be mothers.  What does this calling mean  What about those of us who cannot conceive children?  Are we less filled with grace?  No … regardless of our capacity or ability or willingness to give birth biologically … we are all called to give birth to the divine in our actions, words, and deeds … we are called to give birth through our vocations and callings.  We too have been entrusted with baring GOD to the world.  GOD has consecrated and created us with a mission from the time of our birth.

The prophet Jeremiah tells us that  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”  We are all llena de gracia.

As the Psalmist proclaims, “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”   Regardless of the defects that society says we have or how denominations may tell us that we are unworthy for being a woman, black, or transgender, or when we are looked down upon for standing in solidarity with the oppressed, may we hold unto, remember, embrace that we are created, conceived and consecrated as good, as holy, as llena de gracia.

No one can take that away… We are Llena de gracia, full of grace.

Like our foremother Mary, we all have a purpose and personal vocation.  It is a calling that we will learn to live out, that we will grow into, that will be revealed to us through out our lives, perhaps with angelic visits in the deserts of life, moments of prayer in chapel, proclamations received through loved ones.

We are not just born and that’s it … No, no, GOD has a special something for all of us to accomplish. Mother Teresa is humorously quoted as having said, “GOD as entrusted me with a specific amount of things to accomplish in this life, I am so far behind in my work, I will never die.”  If we look to all the births that were announced in Scriptures, Isaac, Ishmael, Samuel, John, Jesus… The child born always had special vocation to live out.

This is not limited to Biblical figures, all of us come into this world with a special calling to live out, to be the change, holiness, and love GOD wants in this world.  There is no right or better calling or right or better way to express it…it is expressed through a marian enthusiastic yes and through hagarian righteous anger.  Immaculate conception does not mean we are passive and submissive, but like Mary we embody spiciness and chutzpah to care for those who are sacred to us.

The call to motherhood is not about breeding like rabbits or limited to female bodied individuals, we are called to be fruitful through the evolving multiplication of our abilities to listen, cook, design buildings, theologize, preach, and understand how the physiological makeup of fungus has implications for sexual ethics.   By expanding our understanding of the immaculate conception.  By honoring Mary, we celebrate the prophets and disciples we are all called to be, of who we are now on our journeys of faith and who we will become in the desert.

We are llena de gracia, full of grace, in our callings to be hospital chaplains, professors, parents, immigrant rights activists, reproductive health advocates, parish priests, youth ministers…all of the above, none of the above…in our calling to be human, we are full of grace, llena de gracia.

In the chaotic joy of living into our multiple callings, we must remember, hold onto, internalize, and put on a post it that we are not forgotten by GOD as Celie laments in the color purple, we are not abandoned or sent alone.  We must hold onto Shug’s reminder of how GOD provides through laughter, singing, and sex.   GOD does not forget about us for GOD is with us, just like GOD came to Hagar in the desert, meeting her where she was … just like GOD came to the prophet in the stillness after the thunder and storm … just like GOD came to a poor Jewish girl from the barrio … just like GOD was with Mary at the foot of the cross … just like the names Emmanuel and Ishmael … GOD with us and GOD listens …  GOD is always there and is always here.

We may not feel it or believe it in our moments of grief, confusion, depression, chaos … when anger causes us to flee from the world into deserts of despair.  In our earthquakes and hurricanes and pervasive brokenness… in our desolation for being rejected for fulfilling a task given to us–GOD is there, GOD is here…through a friend, through an email, through a butterfly, through an angel who tells us we will be cared for, despite our belief.

GOD is there and GOD is here…through the fact that we manage to get up and face the desert despite our exhaustion. GOD is there, GOD is here, for we are llena de gracia and full of grace.  In this time of Advent as we prepare to celebrate the Word made flesh, may we remember our own births, how we were divinely knit, how we are lovingly woven together with purpose.

Though this homilitecal engagement is perhaps heretical and not what the good ol’ boys in Rome had in mind, I like Mary will not sit and wait, but will be counter-cultural and provide a counter narrative–we are the immaculate conception. We cannot let the church and society take away that we are immaculately conceived with sacred and sassy chutzpath!

We too are good, we too are consecrated with purpose, we too are llena de gracia, full of grace.

Amen!

we are the immaculate conception

Standard
we are the immaculate conception

somos tod@s la imaculada concepción…we are the immaculate conception

Mary Visits Elizabeth: Luke 1: 39-45

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit  and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?  For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy.  And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’

I would like to start off with a short selection from Alice Walker’s The Color Purple …  

CELIE: God forgot about me!

SHUG: God takin’ his time getting around to you, I admit, but look at all he give us. Laughin’, and singin’, and sex. Sky over our heads, birds singin’ to us. I think it piss God off if anybody even walk past the color purple in a field and not notice it. He say,”look what I made for you.”

I use the story to engage this Gospel passage…  The story of Mary …  A woman who transgressed borders.  A woman called to be a mother, prophet, apostle, revolutionary…She has been exulted and divinized, yet her humanity has often been forgotten and ignored …It is her story that we will look at today to wrestle and grapple with the church’s teaching on the immaculate conception.

Llena de gracia…full of grace

Catholics around the world accept the teaching of the Immaculate Conception.  However, what does it actually mean?  In 1854, Pope Pius IX stated:  “The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the saviour of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.”   What does it mean that Mary was preserved from sin?  It is the belief that because of her unique mission, Mary was conceived immaculately in her mother’s womb so that sin would not pass on to her child, Jesus, who as son of GOD is free of sin.

It was a common belief in Israel that the sins of the parent were passed onto the child.  If Jesus was to be free of sin, his mother would also have to be free from sin.  My queries are…where does the cycle end…if sin is passed from generation to generation, was Mary’s mother, Anne, also free from sin?  How far back does the immaculate lineage have to go?  If Mary was not marked by sin, did she really have a choice … would she come down with sinfulness if she had said no?  By focusing on conception for future conception, have we limited, distorted, and reduced Mary and by extension all women to worth based on biological breeding?

This feast and dogma has wider implications than explaining that Mary was a suitable receptacle for a son–it impacts how the church treats women and their bodies.  It is a source of much division among Christians … with some believing that women should be subservient to their husbands as baby factories (those who cannot are defective machinery) while others affirm the right of women to be ordained and preach.

It is dogmas like the Immaculate Conception that lead to confusion and misunderstanding about Mary and I believe a neglect women, we coerce their womanhood into mindless biological assembly lines.  It is this theological marginalization that we need to address so that we can proclaim all as being llena de gracia, full of grace.

In this place, I invite us to relook at what it means to be la Imaculada Concepción…To be conceived immaculately.

In proclaiming Mary as the Immaculate Conception, we are also proclaiming our own immaculate conception as children of GOD.  The feast is not about Maria as an exception to the rule, but a celebration of who we are and who we will become.  We are all conceived immaculately, each of us is llena de gracia, full of grace

If we look to Genesis, we are told that we are created in GOD’s image and that creation is good.  From the beginning we are holy, we are perfect. Regardless of the goofs up that we may do upon entering the world, regardless of the run ins with the Sarah’s of the world who reject us and castigate us for being different, we are good, we are llena de gracia.

Past all the mistakes and oopses, past all the things we coulda woulda shoulda, we are good, we are llena de gracia.  Many of the women included in biblical texts are due to their calling to be mothers.  What does this calling mean  What about those of us who cannot conceive children?  Are we less filled with grace?  No … regardless of our capacity or ability or willingness to give birth biologically … we are all called to give birth to the divine in our actions, words, and deeds … we are called to give birth through our vocations and callings.  We too have been entrusted with baring GOD to the world.  GOD has consecrated and created us with a mission from the time of our birth.

The prophet Jeremiah tells us that  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”  We are all llena de gracia.

As the Psalmist proclaims, “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”   Regardless of the defects that society says we have or how denominations may tell us that we are unworthy for being a woman, black, or transgender, or when we are looked down upon for standing in solidarity with the oppressed, may we hold unto, remember, embrace that we are created, conceived and consecrated as good, as holy, as llena de gracia.

No one can take that away… We are Llena de gracia, full of grace.

Like our foremother Mary, we all have a purpose and personal vocation.  It is a calling that we will learn to live out, that we will grow into, that will be revealed to us through out our lives, perhaps with angelic visits in the deserts of life, moments of prayer in chapel, proclamations received through loved ones.

We are not just born and that’s it … No, no, GOD has a special something for all of us to accomplish. Mother Teresa is humorously quoted as having said, “GOD as entrusted me with a specific amount of things to accomplish in this life, I am so far behind in my work, I will never die.”  If we look to all the births that were announced in Scriptures, Isaac, Ishmael, Samuel, John, Jesus… The child born always had special vocation to live out.

This is not limited to Biblical figures, all of us come into this world with a special calling to live out, to be the change, holiness, and love GOD wants in this world.  There is no right or better calling or right or better way to express it…it is expressed through a marian enthusiastic yes and through hagarian righteous anger.  Immaculate conception does not mean we are passive and submissive, but like Mary we embody spiciness and chutzpah to care for those who are sacred to us.

The call to motherhood is not about breeding like rabbits or limited to female bodied individuals, we are called to be fruitful through the evolving multiplication of our abilities to listen, cook, design buildings, theologize, preach, and understand how the physiological makeup of fungus has implications for sexual ethics.   By expanding our understanding of the immaculate conception.  By honoring Mary, we celebrate the prophets and disciples we are all called to be, of who we are now on our journeys of faith and who we will become in the desert.

We are llena de gracia, full of grace, in our callings to be hospital chaplains, professors, parents, immigrant rights activists, reproductive health advocates, parish priests, youth ministers…all of the above, none of the above…in our calling to be human, we are full of grace, llena de gracia.

In the chaotic joy of living into our multiple callings, we must remember, hold onto, internalize, and put on a post it that we are not forgotten by GOD as Celie laments in the color purple, we are not abandoned or sent alone.  We must hold onto Shug’s reminder of how GOD provides through laughter, singing, and sex.   GOD does not forget about us for GOD is with us, just like GOD came to Hagar in the desert, meeting her where she was … just like GOD came to the prophet in the stillness after the thunder and storm … just like GOD came to a poor Jewish girl from the barrio … just like GOD was with Mary at the foot of the cross … just like the names Emmanuel and Ishmael … GOD with us and GOD listens …  GOD is always there and is always here.

We may not feel it or believe it in our moments of grief, confusion, depression, chaos … when anger causes us to flee from the world into deserts of despair.  In our earthquakes and hurricanes and pervasive brokenness… in our desolation for being rejected for fulfilling a task given to us–GOD is there, GOD is here…through a friend, through an email, through a butterfly, through an angel who tells us we will be cared for, despite our belief.

GOD is there and GOD is here…through the fact that we manage to get up and face the desert despite our exhaustion. GOD is there, GOD is here, for we are llena de gracia and full of grace.  In this time of Advent as we prepare to celebrate the Word made flesh, may we remember our own births, how we were divinely knit, how we are lovingly woven together with purpose.

Though this homilitecal engagement is perhaps heretical and not what the good ol’ boys in Rome had in mind, I like Mary will not sit and wait, but will be counter-cultural and provide a counter narrative–we are the immaculate conception. We cannot let the church and society take away that we are immaculately conceived with sacred and sassy chutzpath!

We too are good, we too are consecrated with purpose, we too are llena de gracia, full of grace.

Amen!

there’s something about mary

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there’s something about mary

I was drawn to ENZA’s cover of Beyonce’s rendition of the Ave Maria. Just a girl and her voice, nothing more—much like the person whose life inspired the song. Who was this Mary of Galilee?   She has been at the center of controversy and many theological headaches as people try to figure out her place within doctrine.   Beyonce’s Ave Maria moves away from the intellectual conundrums and simply tells the story of a girl–a girl who was confused, lost, challenged, and yet filled with determination and faith to face whatever life brought her way.

According to tradition, Mary was from a poor farming community and was not formally educated. It is this woman, marginalized because of gender, class, and neighborhood, who was chosen to be a messenger of hope. Though art and scholarship tend to depict her as a delicate, submissive girl, her story is one of a woman who fights…who is strong…who takes charge…who does what is needed to fulfill a calling…who trusts without knowing all of the answers.

Like many of us, she did not know what challenges awaited her. She did not know she would be risking her life, she would ride a donkey while 9 months pregnant, that she would be exiled and become an undocumented immigrant, she did not know that her son would be rejected, humiliated and executed. Despite the not knowing, she took a chance…took a risk…got messy…and said bring it on embracing her life with gusto, boldness, determination, and chutzpah.

Whether you engage her story as just a mythological narrative or as actual events at the core of religious traditions, Mary’s story is one that many of us who are facing life’s uncertainties about jobs, vocational calling, relationships, and how to live with purpose can relate to. This poor, marginalized, Jewish mother is an inspiration for me in learning how to embrace life, on how not to give up, and on how to trust the journey bumps and all.   What does her story teach you?

que viva cachita

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que viva cachita

In honor of the feast of Our Lady of Charity, patroness of Cuba, I am reposting a reflection on the revolutionary image and story.   For a basic understanding and background of the story of Our Lady of Charity, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_Charity

¡Que viva Cachita!

Reading and reflecting on the story of the apparition of Our Lady of Charity, affectionately Cachita, has created an opportunity for me to profundizar my religious and cutltural roots as a Cuban-American (something that I have rarely done).  As with all stories that involve the divine, the story of Cachita carries with it a multiplicity of theological meanings.  Juan Moreno, one of the “tres Juanes,” shares a simple and very human narration of what took place almost 400 years ago demonstrating how the divine reached out to his community.  His personal testimony reflects how GOD continues to find ways to connect with us in order to create new spiritual and cultural identities within changing spiritual and cultural realities—a testimony and messenger whose radicalness not only lies in the message of his witness but also is in the testimony of his person as he was a black slave, a true embodiment that GOD speaks in the most prophetic and unexpected ways.

Much of my Marian Theology or Mariology has focused on the image of Mary as a disciple who journeys with us on el camino de fe para locos y apasionados (the path of faith for the crazy and passionate).  Juan’s story is in this same spirit presenting Cachita as a mother who walks with the people, especially the poor and oppressed.  Her image is found in the sea by a black man and two Indians; symbolically representing a beacon of hope and revived dignity in the chaotic waters of marginalization.  Though there is much discussion on her appearing both wet and dry as Juan shares at different parts of the narrative, this phenomenon shows that Mary is a mujer atrevida (a bold woman) that reverses social and cultural order by demonstrating that she is a woman who is with the people and is not afraid to get dirty (or in this case wet).

Juan shares that upon returning to shore with the statue an altar was built to place her on in the middle of the town. I believe that this is an attempt to keep the divine close to home.  Juan states that upon seeing the image, both he and his companions felt joy.  GOD does not speak through the image; simply being in her presence brings peace, comfort, and a sense of feeling acompanado.  The community built a place to both honor Mary and hold onto the joy her presence brought.   Despite the fact that Juan, Rodrigo, Juan, and los del pueblo were oppressed, they were able to carve out a refuge where people could relate to the divine on their own terms.  There is no command to build a chapel, shrine, or church—this is done instinctively as a way to create sacred space to keep the heavenly close by.   This is a mutual desire in that La Virgen wants to stay close to the people by demonstrating through lights where to build her iglesia; she wants to stay close to her children reminding them that GOD has not and will not abandon them.

Often times Marian images are used to uphold women’s faith.  Juan’s story of Cachita, however, also upholds the faith of men (the divine feminine kindles and rekindles the spark of faith in people of all genders).  Though men’s voices have dominated theological reflection and doctrine, it is often the case that lay men, especially my experience of hombres latinos, are reluctant to demonstrate their faith because eso es de mujer (that’s what women do).  The story of Cachita as told through Juan reverses this notion in that it is the every day joe smoe that mobilizes el culto for Cachita.  Juan describes how the men take the initiative to build the initial shrine, keep watch over Cachita, have conversations with Cachita, and lead the procession that leads to a miraculous quenching of a severe drought.   The devotion described through Juan’s vivienda is a reminder that faith goes not only beyond social class and race but also gender.   Though the men set out to retrieve salt for cooking and preserving food (a radical act of breaking gender norms), their lives become “salt for the earth.” Their experience not only preserves and spices up their faith and dignity but also that of the community and generations hasta la fecha (until today)

As our siblings in la lucha in the United Church of Christ share, “don’t put a period where GOD placed a comma—GOD is still speaking.”  The story and image of Nuestra Senora de la Caridad  continues to speak to Cubans and non-Cubans alike with new insights into how to encounter the divine within one’s own unique context and how that context can be transformed.   Que viva Cachita!!!

OurLadyofCharity

a mosaic that is still speaking

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a mosaic that is still speaking

The United Church of Christ’s slogan is that G-d is still speaking; G0d’s word is not finite but is something that continues to evolve.  Every time we reread a particular passage from the Bible, we are able to gain new meaning and insight.   I believe that this concept also applies to Mary; with each study of her apparitions, scripture passages that mention her, and of church teachings, one is able to gain a new perspective on the Jewish handmaiden whose yes led to a spiritual revolution.  Mary, like all people, is a mosaic made of many pieces; a single piece does not embody her completely but is only a fragment of a much larger picture.

Over the last few months of reflecting on “there’s something about Mary,” I have been able to ponder new pieces of the Marian mosaic that I had not considered before that stemmed from re-readinging scriptures and sacred stories, personal reflections, and conversations with friends.  These insights are reminders that G-d is still speaking—there is always something new to learn about God’s divine mystery whether it is about Mary or ourselves.

Some new pieces of the mosaic for me are:

  • In the Bible we see a reversal of Luis de Monfort’s motto of “to Jesus through Mary” that becomes “to Mary through Jesus.”  By looking at Jesus we see glimpses of Mary.
  • Rereading the Gospel accounts, I realize that Jesus’ humanity came entirely from her; his eyes, color of hair, skin complexion, height, allergies—it all came from her genetic material.  The stories he shared are reflections of the home-life she taught him.
  • Mary’s relationship with G-d is a reflection of the Star of David.  Mary lowers herself (point downward) so that God is exulted (point upward).
  • She was a woman of firsts – she was the first to say making her the first  Apostle, the first to see him walk, who motherly nudged his first miracle, she was the first charismatic encounter by visiting Elizabeth, and as Ignatius of Loyola teaches the first to know about the Resurrection.

Mary is a mother, wife, daughter, party planner, widow, cook, worker, teacher; she is a mosaic of images and meaning. With each new reading of a text we learn something about this feisty woman who lived a life of faithful and loving service to God.  With each new visit in my personal devotion and academic study I discover a new piece of the mosaic that makes up the image of Mary.   She is a reminder that we too are mosaics and that G-d continues to work through and in us!

mary’s radically just hospitality

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mary’s radically just hospitality

I recently shared reflections on the apparition accounts of our Lady of Guadalupe and of our Lady of Charity, through which we see Mary as a person who embodies radical hospitality.  She reaches out to the outcasts in society to be the hero just as she herself was an underdog turned heroine.  Not only in these two apparitions but in all her apparitions, she uses those who are cast out or who are marginalized to be the messengers of God’s word and truth.  Her apparitions remind us that as God’s creations we are inherently good.   By speaking with Juan Diego and appearing to Los Tres Juanes she returns the dignity that was taken away from their communities by imposing groups who treated them harshly and whose doctrines promulgated that they were less than and un-human.  Cachita and la Morenita do not see class or skin color or height or language—Mary sees the divine spark within each person knowing that there is more to them than the characteristics used to separate and marginalize.

Her hospitality can serve as an example for our churches today.  We should not be bickering over who is in and who is out, who is holy and who is sinful, who holds truth and who does not—like Mary we should follow the example of Christ who widened the circle of acceptance and embraced all without reservation or condition.   In a country that prides itself for equality but that is rampant with inequality, Mary’s example of reaching out to the oppressed is a reminder that church should be a place where all people have a space at the table.  Church is where LGBT individuals, Hispanics, the differently abled, individuals with HIV/AIDS, all people are not tolerated but celebrated for being made in the image of God.

mary, radical disciple and discipling radically

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mary, radical disciple and discipling radically

Many of my reflections and sermonettes have focused around Mary as an example of faithful discipleship.  She was the first to stay yes to Christ and remained by his side from womb to tomb.  Throughout her life Mary is an example of radical discipleship.  She said yes to GOD without considering risk and not knowing what would come.  Cuban Mariology describes Mary as la Virgen Mambisa, for she is la Virgen que lucha.   She is a mujerista who does not wait for a man to tell her what to do.   Hers is an active discipleship; she is not one to be sitting around doing nothing.

As a practicing Jew, she knew of the promise of the Messiah.  During the annunciation the coming of the Messiah is revealed and her yes reflects that she knew what she had to do regardless of the unknown hardships that were to come.  In the Gospel of Luke, we see how she sets out to help Elizabeth despite the scandal that could place not only her life but also the life of her child in danger.  Perhaps a bit reckless on her part, she wants to share Christ with others not for her own personal glorification, rather it is to bring GOD glory through selfless and loving service.   Her yes was lived out “on the go”.

While pregnant she rides a donkey and after giving birth she goes into exile with her husband and newborn child.  In Matthew’s Gospel we see how it is her example of entrega that influences Joseph to accept GOD’s invitation.  In John’s account of the Wedding of Cana, she is aware of a need and turns to her ”baby boy” to help remedy the situation.  We discussed in class how perhaps she felt it was time for Jesus to begin his ministry; however, on a basic level she knew that in the moment something had to be done not knowing that it would lead to a slew of miracles simply for changing water into wine.  In the few glimpses of Mary in the New Testament, we encounter a woman who takes charge of her life and whose chutzpah will impact how her husband, Son, and the Apostles live out GOD’s will in their daily lives.

As Latin@s we are familiar with la lucha cotidiana.  Like Mary, GOD calls us all to enfrentar la lucha and to keep going pa’lante; knowing, as she did, that God will take care of the details and will see us through (even if GOD has to drag us by the veil, guayabera, or sombrero).  Mary’s yes reminds us to think outside the box of what is possible.  A young poor Jewish girl from a forgotten town was asked to do the incredible; we who are from the barrios are also called to do the incredible, to be GOD-bearers to the world.  Often we talk about Mary as being better because she was the mother of Jesus.  On the holy path of locos y apasionados who love beyond the norm there is no better and there is no worse.  Like la Mambisa, we are all called to be faithful to God’s evolving plan and to live out the change that God wants for the world.  We need to remind those we minister to that nothing is impossible for God.  If Mary could do it, we can do it too!  Despite our marginalization in this country and the barriers we face, we must move pa’lante as she did not letting society and its imposed limitations stop us.

We are to bare the sacred in our every day life as she did.  On the journey we will make mistakes and take chances but we are always moving pa’lante reveling and revealing GOD in our day-to-day lucha of radical discipleship and discpling radically.   ¡Que asi sea!

feature image is by artist Yolanda Lopez

embracing guadalupen theology

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embracing guadalupen theology

This will be last reflection for the series “There’s something about Mary” (for now, looking and relooking at Mary is a passion so other reflections will come).  My reflection looks at the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a “still speaking” text of liberation and wholeness.   ¡Que viva la Guadalupana!

As I reflect over one of my favorite images of Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, I realize the rich complexity and beauty within the apparition of la Morenita del Tepayac.  Just as in Galilee Mary’s yes and life pointed to God; so too in Mexico on a sacred mount Mary again points towards the path to God.   It is an apparition that does not have one meaning but speaks to us today on several levels.   The apparition has social, historic, and theological implications with new discoveries and meanings to consider with each look at the story.  Theologically, Guadalupe demonstrates God’s revelation through the unlikely hero, the need for safe space for divine encounter, and of the “un-boxing” of God’s revelation.

Throughout Biblical and Christian history, there are many examples of the underdog that saves the day.  In Guadalupe we come to see what God can do through the “nobody”, the outcast, and the rejected.  Just as God chose a poor Galilean Jewish girl to come into the world, God chose a poor indigenous man to reveal God’s plan for a new creation.  It is through the marginalized community that God planted seeds to fix the mess created by misguided, well-intentioned European colonizers—a revolu that is still being dealt with today.  Similar to stories in the Hebrew Bible, God demonstrates that God does not abandon God’s people but walks with the people and will provide a messiah. Mary, Joseph, Hagar, David, and Rahab are examples of people who were not hero material on the outside because of their gender, size, class, or fulfillment of cultural expectations but whose lives revolutionized their communities and history; Juan Diego is in this same line of known and unknown individuals that God uses to reveal truth, bring about change, and reflect divine love.  Though indigenous people were looked down upon and their culture seen as threat by Europeans, God sees potential and uses Juan to evangelize the Europeans and ultimately the world.   God holds up the rejected by calling an indigenous farmer to be a prophet, using the language and symbolism of the “conquered” to deconstruct harmful rhetoric, and comes to the people through Mary’s apparition as one of them through one of them to bring wholeness and liberation.

The story of Guadalupe reflects the need for safer spaces to connect with God.  Europeans came and destroyed the lives (on every level) of the Indigenous people of the Americas.  Native communities were flattened through a “salvation” of coercion and  humiliation—all in the name of God and in the name of progress, globalization, and evangelization.  People along with their traditions, beliefs, and way of life were completely eradicated because they were perceived to be less human (difference, like today, was seen as a threat to be silenced and conquered).  European notions of God, customs, dress, and education were forced upon tribes.  The conquest and colonization did not give people the space to desahogarse of their traumatic experience or grieve the loss of their livelihood as a community who became strangers in their own land—land that they had worked, bought with their sweat and blood, built homes on, and was a source of connection to the divine.  They were violated, blamed for being violated, and had no outlet to express these feelings. A dynamic that sadly continues today with other marginalized groups who are re-victimized by being blamed for the dominant group’s harsh treatment of them.

The missionaries’ church was not a place of encounter with God but a place of fear, pain, and terror.  Why would the indigenous people who were being evangelized and forced to convert want to come close to a god or deity who obliterated their sense of self, their land, their families, and their way of life?  Before any relationship with God could be created and fostered, it was necessary to establish spaces where people could heal and find God in travesty and tribulation.  God was not freely found but imposed—that is not healing, forgiving, liberating, or “whole-making” but just deepens the wounds.  As with other forms of violence, people than and now begin to believe the lies told to them by their oppressors.  It is beautiful and amazing how Mary greets Juan Diego; her greeting in his mother tongue begins to restore dignity that was taken from his people. Guadalupe provided a safe space by reclaiming a sacred site as a place of divine encounter, demonstrating that indigenous practices were not evil but good, and planted the seeds for a new beginning for both natives and foreigners.  Though the story of Guadalupe has brought healing and created a safer space, I believe that the Church needs to take a step further to apologize for its actions in the 1500s and not hide behind the image of Our Lady.  The story of Guadalupe shows how God reached out to create a sanctuary where people could encounter the divine on their own terms and through their own unique self and to begin a new creation from the pain of chaos and confusion (a message that has many implications for pastoral work today).

God’s work through the unlikely hero and the creation of safer spaces demonstrates that God’s complex and liberating revelation can be revealed to us through simple means that truly pack a punch.  Through Juan Diego’s testimony, the tilma with Our Lady’s image, and guadalupen roses God continues to speak to us today in a truly remarkable way.  We sometimes get caught up in the grandiose and in the bells-and-whistles; we often forget that God speaks in the “still small voice”.   Guadalupe was a reminder than and now that God can use anything as a microphone to speak God’s message of love and justice for all.  Guadalupe shows how God spoke and continues to speak through the rejected and marginalized to the Church and to society.  God’s message can come through the institution and hierarchy of the Church but it is not confined to it.  God speaks through the whole church choosing prophets from every level of church from bishops to forgotten campesinos.  The message of Guadalupe did not come from a learned philosopher but from a simple man eager to please his dulce Señora­—the message that was given was directed from the pueblo to the higher-ups (not vice versa as is often the case). God used Juan Diego and La Morenita to remind us that God’s revelation is bigger than the neat little box we try to put it in and is not limited to one person or a select few.

The story of Guadalupe has multiple meanings and was an event in history that continues to speak to us today. It’s messages take on new significance with each reading of the events that took place.  Hopefully we continue to learn, listen, and live what Guadalupe said and continues to say to us today as individuals, community, and church.   ¡Que viva la Guadalupana!

feature image from:  http://historyandtheologyblog.blogspot.com/2010/12/today-is-feast-day-of-our-lady.html

witness of mary on good friday

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witness of mary on good friday

As we commemorate Good Friday, I wanted to offer reflections told from the point of view of Jesus’ mother, Mary…who witnessed his life, passion, ministry, ups, downs, and radical inclusivity from beginning to “end” to ascension to pentecost.   What was going on in her mind and heart as her baby boy was tortured, abandoned, humiliated, and executed?  Many have portrayed her as quietly accepting, but I wonder of the rage, confusion, and pain she must have felt as any parent who witnesses their child suffer.  Like within many families, when one suffers, all suffer–the passion was not only Jesus’ experience but was lived by those he loved and who loved him, especially the person who truly was flesh of his flesh…who first hand knew the hardships and joys of being chosen to be a prophet…who understood that living God’s will did not always come with clear instructions.   Mary gave birth to Jesus, witnessed the birth of his ministry at Cana, and would eventually experience his rebirth at the resurrection.   Below are reflections by writers Robin of the blog “robin’s journey” and Kathryn House of “Feminism and Religion.”  Each captures different moments from Mary’s experience of Good Friday.

I also wanted to share a play, The Testament of Mary…it is a one woman show portraying Mary years after the painful events of Good Friday reflecting on her experience.  To learn more, visit:  http://www.testamentonbroadway.com.  The feature image comes from the play’s poster/playbill.  

On this day may we live into solidarity with all who suffer, the individual and their loved ones, as we wait in hope for the birth of new possibilities at the Resurrection. 

Good Friday Reflection:  Mary’s Journey
From the blog:  robin’s journey (http://walkingwithyeshua.blogspot.com/2010/04/good-friday-reflection-marys-journey.html)

As I entered Mary’s story, the Mother of Jesus, and reflected upon her mother’s heart and considered how she must of felt watching her son be crucified, my own mother’s heart broke.

What mother could bear the pain and suffering of watching helplessly as people mocked, ridiculed, spit upon, and tortured their precious child?

Somehow, I thought Mary would have been spared some of the anguish most parents face. However, her anguish and body numbing pain, was the kind that cuts deep into the heart and soul. Mary’s story is one of incredible faith and trust, in the midst of immense mystery, rejection, humiliation, suffering, and sorrow.

Numerous times throughout Mary’s life journey she pondered and treasured within her heart all the events that took place.

The words spoken by the angel Gabriel concerning how she had found favour with God, that she was not to be afraid, she would give birth to a son, he would be great and would be called Son of the Most High. His kingdom would never end, and with God all things are possible.

When Jesus went missing and after his return, he said to her that he was doing his fathers business, her heart was broken, he had disappeared, and he was gone for days.

It was in this moment, the sword the old man Simeon had predicted started to prick her heart.

When Jesus left her home and entered his ministry she knew the long years of silence where coming to an end. Mary saw and heard how he was rejected by her own people.

She now had to relate to her child not just as an adult, but as “Immanuel” God with us. Her role as mother had now moved into a role as a disciple and follower of Christ.

At the wedding at Cana, Jesus asked the question, “Dear woman why do you involve me?” That must have hurt! Really, really hurt!

Another prick from the sword Simeon predicted.

When Mary went to look for him, he had asked the crowd, “Who is my mother, brothers and sisters?” What a crazy question to ask! Deeper the sword went leaving an invisible wound no one could see but a mother could totally feel.

Mary was at the cross, she did not leave. She stood silently as the sword cut her heart entirely. She stood there, lost in grief, with sorrow covering every part of her mind, body, and soul.

Then the words came from her son’s mouth, “It is finished.”

The sword went completely into her heart breaking her spirit totally.

Then she remembered Jesus speaking words from the cross that comforted her soul: “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to John he said, “Here is your mother.”

In these last words Jesus’ love for her covered all the wounds from the predicted invisible sword.

Jesus gift to his mother was to restore her role as mother in a new way. Feelings of rejection and humiliation were removed completely from her soul. Mary never gave up. She pushed through the rejection and pain and quietly followed her son. She knew within her mother’s heart Jesus was born for greatness.

She pondered and treasured within her heart Simeon’s words of praise, “My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

This part of the journey was finished, but Mary knew this was just the beginning of a new God story and with him all things are possible.

Jesus’ kingdom will never end.

(Scripture Passages for Reflection: Luke 1-2; John 2:1-11; Mark 3:31-35; John 19:27)

“Reflections on Good Friday” by Kathryn House
from Feminism and Religion (http://feminismandreligion.com/2013/03/28/reflections-on-good-friday-by-kathryn-house/)

…this year I agreed to preach at a Good Friday service that will reflect on Jesus’ final words. I have thus spent the last few weeks reflecting on and studying John 19.26 and 27 which read, “And Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.” What follows here is where my sermon has started. It is influenced by the questions and work of feminist theologians and by my coursework this semester on body, gender, and sexuality, and on theopoetics, too. It is offered in remembrance and reclamation that there is goodness in our flesh and bones, bodies and breath.

***

Jesus dies betrayed, but he also dies beloved. The women were there, four of them – his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. His beloved disciple was also there. There they were at the foot of the crosses, huddled together, holding each other, be-holding Jesus, be-holding the precious flesh and blood of this one who is and was their friend, teacher, nephew, child. Jesus sees and speaks to his mother:

“Woman, behold your son.”

“Woman, here is your son.”

With these words, we are reminded that the foot of the cross is a borderland, a liminal space.[1] His mother is with him at this, the end, as she has been with him since the beginning. She is there when it all begins: the wedding at Cana, when he turns the water into wine, when he transforms scarcity and impossibility into abundance, extravagance, celebration. But she has been with him before that, too. He is flesh of her flesh, after all. There was a time when her breath was his breath, when her body nourished and sustained his own. How many sleepless nights and endless days did she hold, rock, feed, sing to, pray over, and bless this one, this child, her son? And the other women, too: they are his family and his friends. No doubt that over the years, some of them rocked a crying Jesus to sleep, or when he was older, lingered over just one more glass of wine, to parse out stories of coins and sheep, of things lost and found, of vines and branches, bread and fish. Do they remember while they stand there? Is there only static? Silence?

To behold is to view, to regard, to acknowledge, and it involves not just our minds, but our bodies, too. “Behold” also means to keep hold of, to belong to – it is an invitation to consider the flesh and blood of another, not to possess or define, but to cherish, to honor, to hold, to love.

In these last few, fleeting, ragged moments, Jesus sees these beloved, these bewildered, these shocked, and mourning ones and his words are an invitation not just to behold him, but to behold each other. After speaking to his mother, he turns to the beloved disciple and says to him: “Behold, your mother.” “Here is your mother.”

His words are brief, but the relationship they imply is one of possibility for the most crucial question of all: Who is my neighbor? Whom must I love like my own flesh and blood? Whom must I behold?

We follow one whose last will and testament involves a radical invitation to behold one another. To be beloved by one another. To be here to one another. To love each other, broken as we all are, scared as we all are, bewildered as we all, as they must have been as they beheld their friend, as she beheld her son.

Is there flesh and blood we do not see, do not behold as we could?

I think so. There are mothers who rock their babies, who hold and behold their babies just as gently as Mary rocked her own – while drones drop around them, while their homes and neighborhoods and schools shatter. There are mothers who rock their babies, who hold and behold their babies just as gently as Mary rocked her own – in detention centers, at border-crossings. There are mothers who rock their babies, who hold and behold their babies just as gently as Mary rocked her own – in refugee tents along the Syrian border. And there are women who love their friends, who stay up late to parse out stories of coins and sheep, of things lost and found, of vines and branches, bread and fish – and who are attacked, who are mercilessly brutalized when they take the bus home. And there are women who love their friends, who stay up late to parse out stories of coins and sheep, of things lost and found, of vines and branches, bread and fish – who cannot visit their partners in the ICU or adopt a baby or get married if they so choose.

There is other flesh and blood we do not love, will not see. Prefix people. People fixed by what they are not, human beings defined in the very first syllable. Un. In. NonIl. It is breathtaking to realize how many ways we have to say that someone is not like us, not quite right, not deserving. Undocumented. Incarcerated. Uninsured. Un-American. Illegal.

Unbind what seems fixed. In the end, we are asked to hold one another as beloved – to behold one another. Here is a radical invitation to consider what it means to be kin to, what it means to care for, honor and love one another. Here is an invitation to abide with each other, to not be limited by the names and titles and ways of relating you once thought were the only ones available.

Jesus sees the ones he loves. He asks them to behold him and to behold each other. What would it mean to behold each other’s beings, whatever those beings might be? What would it mean to love each other, broken as we all are, scared as we all are, bewildered as we all, as they must have been as they beheld their friend, as she beheld her son?