A Historical Burden

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It is amazing how the Scriptures can confound our understanding and upend our complacency. Some rest? Why, yes please. An easy yoke and light burden? Don’t mind if I do. A way that is smooth and path that is level? Of course! There is no doubt that at some moments of our lives these are precisely words we need to hear. However, today’s readings also contain more difficult truths that can’t be ignored. 

Isaiah’s consoling vision occurs while he proclaims the judgment of God upon an earth that must learn justice. The psalm points out that God hears the prayer of the destitute and the groaning of prisoners. Jesus’ words have us ponder: who are the laborers and burdened he addresses? Through the lens of these texts, conversion must precede consolation. 

How appropriate, then, for these readings to coincide with the feast of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. For if we separate the remembrance of this daughter of Algonquin and Iroquois parents from the long history of dispossession and cruelty that indigenous peoples have experienced, we’ve missed the point.  

The story of Christianity in the Americas is woven into the fabric of colonization, slavery, and genocide. That is a burden we feel today in people that are divided and an earth that is scarred. In that light, St. Kateri invites us to convert by reimagining sanctity (and virginity) away from the lens of the powerful and instead with that of the meek and humble seeking justice. Though it seems a heavy yoke, it provides a consolation for which we can hope and work together. 

© Liturgical Press.

Michael Lee

Michael E. Lee is professor of theology and director of the Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham University. He is also the author of Revolutionary Saint: The Theological Legacy of Oscar Romero.

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