The spectre and tragedy of the residential school system is so profoundly revealed in the lives of many of our city’s First Nations people. Regardless of generation, gender or class, this shameful time in our country’s history, has left an indelible mark with tragic circumstances. The violence and poverty, shame and abandonment, the listed 842+ missing and murdered Aboriginal women, highlight a historic and systematic process of trying to make ‘natives’ second class white citizens, turning them into something they were never in the first place.
Although many issues related to these programs have been denounced, there still remains a vicious circle that seems almost impossible to break. But it can and has been broken. There are First Nations men and women who have fought to start new lives without forsaking their heritage and even their challenges. There are elders, leaders, and healthy men and women who have risen above this history, not in spite of these profound challenges, but because of them. They wanted to be more than they ever were told they could be, regardless of their heritage and skin colour.
This is a lesson we should all heed regardless of who we are, or where we are from.
Although many of us will never know the pain of this kind of generational discrimination, we can nonetheless relate to it as humans living in a world that has, ever since humanity’s fall in Eden, sought to make us into something we were never from the beginning: mortal and broken. We live in a world that has ground away the fact that we are created in the image and likeness of God, to be His co-workers and friends. It has tried to comfort us with broken distractions and sins that prey on our brothers and sisters. And it has left us to die without the chance to rise above the pain and suffering we all have to endure.
But the Lord in His mercy, sought to end this tyranny by meeting the world and all its brokenness and sin at the Cross. And by that selfless act of His willing and selfless death, He broke humanity’s cycle of violence and death eternally. The blessing is that we all are given this opportunity to break through the chains of history, culture, friends and family through the Cross of our Lord.
But for this to happen we have to want to change our brokenness, we have to want to live. Really live! Not as a shadow of what we were called to be, nor as second-rate creatures, but as the heirs of the good things to come. This, as any one who has broken through whirlpool of sin and deception knows, takes incredible courage and work. Courage to take up our cross daily, willing to lose our life, its privileges, its power, its comforts however great or small they might be, and save our life for the Kingdom to come.
It takes work, that moment by moment shatters the conventions and routines of a broken life. We must hold on for dear life to the Cross that breaks down the middle wall that separates us from the communion of grace with the God of all.
In the same way, we have seen so many First Nations peoples fight for who they are, against incredible odds, holding onto an eagle’s feather, a symbol of courage, truth and honour. We have seen them conquer the discrimination and oppression, even if the victories are little ones. We too must fight with them and for them, by breaking our own cycle of violence and death, holding onto the Cross, the “invincible weapon of peace.”
As we prepare for the Feast of the Elevation of the life-giving Cross (which occupies most of the month), let us offer to the Lord our inability to change, and make a difference, and by it may we rally towards Golgotha as to the light that reveals not only our blights and shame, but also our true lives as the Children of God.
It is then that we might truly be free not only of the bonds of racism and injustice in this age, but of death and sin in the age to come.