In his historical mission, Jesus, the light of the world, constantly encountered the dark forces of sin. It was found all over, from those who claimed to be pious followers of God to people living in the tombs. Wherever he went, the darkness would make itself known. Demonic powers were everywhere, for where there was sin, there was the darkness which confronted the light, trying to entrap it so that it could be set aside.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn. 1:5 RSV).
It is the same today. Wherever the light shines, darkness confronts it. Darkness will attack it, try to shout it down, indeed, it will try to overcome the light. But the light will shine on, and the darkness will not remain victorious: all it will do is reveal its true character so that those who seek after the light will know to avoid it.
This is exactly what has happened with the Amazon Synod. The church has shined the light across the world. It continues to bring the presence of Jesus to those in need, preaching the way of the light. Just like in the time of Jesus, so we have today, many who pretend to support the light who try to trap it with legalistic traps, and when those do not work, the violent underbelly of the hate which is contained in the darkness reveals itself.
“He who has ears, let him hear” (Mat. 13:9 RSV).
The Amazon Synod, and the Pope, revealing once again the care and compassion the light has for those in need, has brought out the darkness to confront it. The demonic powers which have revealed themselves can be given names: Racism. Sexism. Iconoclast. Supremacy. Destroyer of the Earth.
The light has shined forth; the church continues to bring the presence of the Lord to the world, and the darkness has reacted. The church, with the love of Christ, has shown concern for the people of the Amazon. The church knows such compassion, such concern, is not to be established through colonial imposition on the other, but rather, by integration with the other: as grace perfects nature, so the good found in the traditions of the world, in the cultures of the world, is to be lifted up and brought into the church. This is the way of successful missions; this is the way the church has historically established various rites and traditions which so many now take for granted. It took in and accepted the legacies of Europe: now some think the representation found in Europe is univocal with the church and its representation, but that cannot be, since before its missions across Europe, the church existed and its rites and images differed from that which came later.
But with the church following its own tradition, bringing the light of Christ to the world, the dark powers that be, especially those which have lived within the dark corners of the church itself, have come out to attack the light. They will not win. The darkness cannot overcome the light. But they can and will put up a fight. The light will shine on them and reveal them for what they are.
Racism has revealed itself, especially in the way those following the darkness try to call indigenous people “savages.” Racism is also shown in the hate which is given to various non-European cultural symbols which have been adapted by the church to represent the church’s teaching in a new setting. This racism is in bed with colonialism, and the vision of the church which imposes one culture over another, confusing the culture and all its symbols with the fullness of the church’s possible representation of itself. Thus, those who decry “Mary should not be depicted naked,” despite accepting bare-breasted images of Mary into the churches, are imposing a cultural norm; in other cultures, there is no shame understood with representations of women being naked, indeed, many of them honor women through such images and so honor Mary by applying their own symbols to her to demonstrate her own feminine nature.
What then links racism and sexism together is the demonic ideology of supremacy. Through supremacy, some people are unjustly elevated, and everyone else is denigrated. Women, non-European cultures, when seen trying to take their authentic place in the church, are taking on and overturning the powers which try to repress them, the powers of supremacy which like to hold them down in order to stay in power and in charge. Some fear that what they have done to others, others will do to them; it is possible, especially if they keep fighting and pushing ideals of supremacy, but it does not have to be. The authentic Christian witness is to realize the equality of humanity, that we have the same human nature, the same dignity, where in Christ we transcend visions of supremacy based upon race and gender: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28 RSV).
Supremacy encourages destruction when it is confronted. This is what brings about iconoclasm. Not only is it manifest when actual images, such as a statue of Mary, are destroyed, it is also manifest when the image and likeness of God is under attack due to racism and sexism. Jesus said what people do to the least of all is done to him (cf. Matt. 25:40). What is done to undermine other cultures, and the people in those cultures, what is done to undermine women, is being done to him. It is an attempt to destroy the light which is found in them. Iconoclasm certainly detests symbols, and always tries to use symbols against themselves to justify the destruction of images, but its root cause is a nihilistic hatred which lashes out at all things so that it can rise up and shake its fist at the creator of all things, God. This is why the Destroyer of the Earth rises up with Supremacy and Iconoclasm. It brings about to fruition their ultimate end. It is also why the Amazon Synod rightfully spoke out against the wanton destruction of the earth and the need for humanity to reconsider its relationship with the earth so as to return to its proper role as stewards of the earth. The light shines forth: the demonic hate responds, bringing forth constant contempt for the church in its proclamation that taking care of the earth is a Christian responsibility and tied to the salvation of souls. How can it not be?
The Amazon Synod has brought the light of Christ once again into the world. It has revealed the dark powers that be. It has, in this way, been a needed exorcism, revealing the demons within. Some of the demons have likely come out as people have listened to the church and repented of their ways. More will need to be done. In this way, the exorcism has only just begun. It needs to continue. The mission of the synod needs to continue. Let us pray it is a success.
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