THE SECOND WEEK OF PENTECOST
IN THE CHURCH IN THE STRUGGLE
“Let Go of the American Dream”
In scripture today, Peter heals the cripple outside the gate. Afterwards, Peter and the Disciples continue their ministry, the ministry Jesus was crucified to stop. Remember, the scripture in the book of acts tells the story of the reorganization of the movement beginning 40 days after the crucifixion of Jesus. For us, these scriptures guide us in the renewal of our movement –and this year especially as we begin the organization of “Iglesiacitas” in our homes and neighborhoods.
The people were amazed and praised Peter for his power to heal, but Peter told the people that he had no special power. Instead, Peter told them that the cripple was healed in the name of Jesus, “whom you crucified.”
The gospel of John explains the Romans wicked manipulation during the crucifixion of Jesus. It wasn’t enough to kill Jesus, the leader of the movement: the Roman made the people choose between Jesus and the revolutionary Barrabas. Why? Because, the Roman wanted to put the guilt of the crucifixion of Jesus on his own people. That is how you kill a movement. That is how you kill the spirit of a people.
After the miraculous healing, Peter offers repentance and forgiveness to those people. He freed them from the trap of betrayal and self-hatred, the trap which the wicked Roman had put them in.
Who really was healed – the cripple or the people? It was really the people who were healed, healed of their guilt and self-hatred, restored to their faith and their unity. We need to understand why this was so dangerous to the Priests and the Romans that soon after Peter was arrested. We need to understand what it means to our faith and our families. The faith that calls us, that can save us, began with that healing, the healing of repentance and forgiveness.
During our 25th anniversary celebration last month, the procession into the church was led by two young “Juan Diego’s”, the Hernandez boys. They make us remember the story of Juan Diego and the Virgin of Guadalupe. That story brought the movement of Peter’s healing to the continent of the Americas.
The Virgin challenged Juan Diego three times to confront the Bishop who represented the Spaniards which had violently conquered his people, made them into slaves to steal their gold. Juan Diego was afraid, afraid to stand up for his people, even with the appearance of the Virgin who told him that his people were the people of God. She told him that God had sent her to him, not to his conquerors, who were claiming to be Christians. Still afraid, Juan Diego used his sick and dying uncle as an excuse not to return again to the Bishop, so the Virgin healed his uncle to restore his faith and take away his excuse.
The uncle was healed by a miracle: but the person whom the Virgin sought to heal with this miracle was Juan Diego – and the people here in this church who are challenged to walk in his footsteps. She sought to heal him of the fear of his conquerors and the pressure they put on him to reject his own culture and spirituality.
We need to talk today about continuing this movement, about healing ourselves.
You know we had a problem with Senator Durbin’s Dream Act, with separating the legalization of the students from the legalization of their families and the other young people who did not get the opportunity to go to college. Durbin manipulated the students just like the Roman manipulated the people before the crucifixion. He made them denounce their own families as criminals to win their own papers.
The same manipulation was done to Latinos with papers for years. They were asked to denounce the “Mohados” – and by doing so, to deny their own history and unity as Latinos who also faced discrimination. We defeated that manipulation in our movement and millions marched together – with and without papers.
Yet that spiritual struggle continues. It continues in our families with children put against their parents – and against their faith. I have heard children disrespect their parents, saying “You cannot tell me what to do, you are just someone who cleans houses or sells churros.” Their parents have worked hard, often working without papers, to give them a better life. In disrespecting them, they accept the hypocritical “American Dream” and they disrespect the struggle and unity and history of their own people. It leads them to disrespect the faith of their parents and their people. Then when the “American Dream” disappoints them, when they are denied the opportunities they see others get on television, they have nothing to fall back on – accept the culture of death of the street.
Elvira Arellano said she did not come here for the American Dream but because of what the American Nightmare did to Mexico and the Mexican people. She took her stand to heal her people, and her son, so that the next generation would not be lost.
Jesus taught that the road is narrow because the road is true. But it is hard to let go of the false promises this country makes, even when those promises disappoint us and divide us from our people.
The Preachers tell a funny story about this “letting go.” A man was climbing a mountain. He fell over a cliff but grabbed hold of a bush to save himself. Hanging on to the bush, he cried out to God to save him. God answered, “Just let go of the bush and I will save you.” The man then called out, “Is there anyone else up there?”
Today we live with many contradictions. Some of us have jobs, even small businesses. We are providing for our families. A united Latino community elected Barack Obama with the promise of legalization. At the same time, under Obama, over a million people have been deported. We struggled. We have protected some people – but people are still being deported. And the street and the drug economy reaches up to steal young lives every day, stealing young fathers from their children. We survive – but many lose. Many do not.
Still the greatest danger is what we do to ourselves –and what we don’t do for ourselves. Our struggle will be successful. We will win legalization. We will win the right for our families to stay together. We will win the chance for the next generation to live decent lives. But that victory depends on our unity, and on our faith. We need to organize – and to organize we need to heal ourselves and each other.
We can heal with unconditional love for our families and our children. We face difficulties with each other. We need to show understanding for the many contradictions we live with. Children need understanding for their parents and parents for their children. We need to learn to rely on the love that is there and LET GO of the anger and the resentments that false illusions and false promises have created
And we need to rely on the truth. Don’t lie to your children. Don’t cover up the truth and allow them to be fooled by illusions. Teach them about your struggle –and be patient with them. If you have faith in them, if you teach them your faith, they will be the soldiers that will defend you.
Rely on God – Rely on your people: That is the heart of our faith and our ministry.
We are struggling very hard to make the 4 plus 1 to get 20 program work this summer. Not just to provide health care to the sick who are denied insurance – but to heal our young people by giving them the chance to understand and to struggle for their people
We are struggling very hard to keep our Legal/political healing alive to stop the separation of families – not only to save those families but to heal that part of ourselves which is indifferent to their suffering, that part of ourselves which would turn our backs on God’s people.
Most important, we call on each other to organize our families, friends and neighbors. The program of the Iglesiacitas, of organizing the little churches in our homes, is a program of healing and self reliance. It is a survival program but it is also a spiritual program. The last words of Jesus to his disciples was a call for them to organize, for when you are healing others you are healing yourself, but when you turn your backs on your people, your children, your parents, your neighbors, you are dying in your heart, you are dying to the Lord.
Today, make a commitment to rely on the Lord. Start by making a commitment to bring someone new to church next Sunday so they will be inspired to organize with you. Remember the words of Jesus; remember when you are discouraged or when your heart grows cold. For Jesus said, “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, so I am with you.” He was with Peter. He was with Juan Diego. Build his church. Build his movement. He will never leave you.
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES FOR THE SECOND WEEK IN PENTECOST
Acts 3: 3-10 Peter Heals a Lame Beggar
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money.Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
Acts 3: 11-15 Peter Speaks to the Onlookers
While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade.When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.
Acts 3: 16-19 “Repent, then, and turn to God”
By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see. “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.
John 18: 28-40 Jesus Before Pilate
Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?” “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die. Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.