As a priest, I do celebrate Canada Day.
We are very fortunate to be living in Canada. It may not be a perfect place to live, but it is a nation where we make an effort to care for our sick, we will respond to help the vulnerable, and we provide public education to our children and young people.
Our Christian faith did have a hand in many foundational values that shaped Canada as it grew as a nation, but for all those common values rooted in Canada’s history, Canada has become more and more secularly guided and shaped. As a nation among nations we are still an example to other nations in ways that show we care for each other. Yet as a country, the nation’s economic strength has become, more and more, the predominant measuring stick by which we gauge our overall value and our benefit to the world.
I must confess that I do celebrate Canada a little less than I once did.
Setting our nation’s priority on secular and economic goals does present challenges to us who have chosen to follow Christ on the Gospel path with a growing dilemma as the two goals pull us in different directions.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven.”– Matthew 19:23 (NRSV)
For example, a foundation of our earthly economic system rewards selfishness and greed. The unfettered market of supply and demand takes advantage of people’s needs and wants and its own massive marketing and advertising feed that cycle. The single minded focus on profit creates imbalance, grows injustice, and gives increasing power to the rich. The current system gives more influence and importance to huge corporations and industries over our laws and policies, so that individuals, like you and I, find ourselves with less and less say in the society that we live in.
This has been made increasingly clear in the continuing upheaval and impact caused by the pandemic on our world’s economy which has amplified the suffering of the poorest on the planet, and made the richest few even richer.
As Christians, we understand the power and responsibility of living together in community because we understand ourselves as members of the Body of Christ. We are citizens of God’s community and yet, we also live within our Canadian nation with our fellow Canadians. Our faith invites us to live following Jesus and his teachings and those teachings are founded on different principles from our nation’s earthly principles.
“As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.”– Matthew 13:22 (NRSV)
Yet, God’s economy is love and our world’s is money. This difference in what, love or money, is being given and received makes a huge difference to how we think, set goals, and how we act. I believe it is very important for us as Christians to ensure that we are living in a manner that helps grow God’s economy and does not sacrifice God’s goals for the sake of our world’s system of constant consumption and profit seeking.
Jesus taught that every person was valued for being a fellow child of God and that every person had a place in the community. Jesus taught that we are to respond to all people, even our enemies, with love. Jesus taught that we should strive to have compassion for the needs of others and that in living in community means that we take responsibility for the wellbeing of others.
These are challenging goals. Jesus knew this when he taught them. They are even harder to live out as our secular society continues to give growing priority to earthly profit and power and the growing attitude of indifference towards other people that it encourages.
“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”– Matthew 6:24 (NRSV)
Our faith community is a place where we can be encouraged and supported as we try our best to live into the Gospel call and exemplify its goal and Jesus’ teachings. Even as our church communities struggle with declining membership, made worse by the pandemic, it remains an
place where teaching about God’s economy of love is proclaimed and with God’s help practiced to the best of our abilities.
Ultimately God will see the full victory of Gospel as God intended. Jesus’ victory on the cross ensure that final outcome for all creation. But we each have our part to play in these days before its completion.
As we approach Canada Day, I do celebrate Canada and consider my life here a blessing, but even more I truly celebrate my blessing of being part of the Body of Christ. I do hope and pray that our earthly communities prosper and grow, but I will stand up for the relationships of love over and above the cold reality of relationships founded on the priorities of money and power.
The Rev’d Canon Rob Park