A constant theme in discernment for me is how to live, gracefully, at the intersections of many faith experiences.
Today’s Gospel reading was Luke 4: 21-30. The summary is basically that Jesus was preaching in the synagogue, saying that prophecies were being fulfilled and the congregants asked him for proof of his divinity. Seeing where they were going, Jesus said “no prophet is accepted in in his own native place” and quoted scripture as a justification for not performing miracles in front of them, which was a way of saying ‘hell with you, I don’t need to show you my I.D.’ Now, objectively, that crowd was absolutely justified in its anger because reading it, I cock my head to the side, squint and think, ‘now that’s pretty slick, Jesus, what else can you obfuscate?’
The joy that red flag brings me is knowing that for all my church-going, I haven’t checked in my ability to reason. I have doubts and I accept them and they help me to understand the context of human nature. Now, if Jesus did exist and this account was written by a human, I get to be fairly certain that the author got to rewrite history. But, we believe the Gospels and scripture to be true and the Word of God. So where does some snitty little person like me get to doubt the Word of God?
So the one thing I like to rely on is the catechism’s teaching about the nature of God: God is eternal, infinite, incomprehensible and ineffable. Incomprehensible and ineffable give me great comfort in faith, believe it or not, because it means that paradox also gets to exist in the incomprehensible and the ineffable. So when I read about Jesus doing a quick song-and-dance after being called out on some miracle-working, I get to live in that doubt, because the Word of God – like god – is paradoxical. What registers clearly to me as fairly fraud-laden behavior can be true because my faith in god is based in my inability ever to truly know god fully. And who would want to, all argument would cease; or it would all continue with all sides being right (though archconservative Catholics would say I was entertaining subjective truth or worse, relativism, rather than objective truth).
But the part of the scripture that I appreciate is the last part, where the crowd goes to throw him off a cliff for being so cavalier about their need for proof. He walks away and continues His ministry.
As a Sicangu Lakota who was raised in Wolakota and the church, I’ve made my peace with being able to stop giving a care about what other people think of my faith. I have relatives who are archconservative Catholics and Born-Again Christians who have told me I need to accept Christ fully in my heart by voting against marriage equality and being washed in the blood of some lamb at the nearest Republican Party headquarters. Conversely, I’ve also been told by former American Indian Movement leaders that I’m not a ‘real Indian’ because by embracing Christ’s message of love and understanding it in terms of being a good relative, I’ve abandoned or rejected so-called ‘Red Ways.’ Being raised by traditional parents, I don’t know what these pan-Indian terms are because I grew up with the faith practice that my Lakota ancestors practiced for generations without the need to conflate them with other tribal traditions in the need to overcompensate for any lack of cultural knowledge.
What those of us who live our spirituality and religion as genuinely as we can in Native communities do know for sure is that sovereignty isn’t just a buzz word that tribal council candidates use to get elected. Sovereignty is a way of living our lives where we’re free to practice – without seeking validation by outsiders – what faith resonates with us, whether it’s Wolakota, Catholicism, paganism or Buddhism.
When my mother died, I carried out her wishes for her wake and funeral just as she wanted me to do it. We honored her with song, as the women in my family trilled each time my mom’s name was sung, and we said the Rosary before the funeral Mass where we processed to the Four Directions Song. During this, one of my favorite cousins pulled me aside and said, “If grandma were still alive, I think you’d be her favorite because you’re doing everything she would have wanted.” To hear that was a greater comfort than I can express, because it wasn’t just kind words, it was the moment of connection from my cousin who grew up with my grandparents (who both passed before I was born) to me and my brother’s children. It was a moment where the infinity of god existed by witness of one, small Native family’s journey of faith through centuries.
Though those are moments of subjective truth, they exist in the objective one that god’s nature is indeed ineffable and incomprehensible. So god threw me a moment where I can understand that connection a little deeper, if only for a moment.