“Once the human being declares independence from reality and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundations of our life begin to crumble” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, 117).
The tenants of today’s Gospel have declared independence from reality: they have mistaken their call to cooperative stewardship (power with) as a right to acquisitive dominion (power over). Those who would enter into their midst to return things to right relationship—in this case, the landowner’s servants and later his son—are rejected. Alienated as they have become from their true nature, the tenants see the landowner’s emissaries as threats to their comfortable way of life, and so they respond by enacting violence on the bodies of the very people who would guide them back to their true identities as temporary stewards on borrowed land.
The year 2020 has brought immense fear and contraction into the hearts of many. We—and by “we” I am referring to those who, like me, have largely benefitted from the historical project of whiteness—have built a society on stolen labor, stolen land, and stolen time and called it our own. From the fires in the western United States to the festering wound of racism, the amplification of existing inequities by a global pandemic to the frightening polarization of public life, the fruits of our protracted courtship with unreality are many and fearful.
It is tempting during times of fear to tighten the radius of our circle of care, to barricade its borders with power and resources, and to comfort ourselves inside of our echo chambers with stories of our moral superiority. Through the prophetic cries of the poor and vulnerable, all too often left on the margins of our circles, God invites us to remember our vocation as human beings is not one of dominion over competitors, but of stewardship among friends.
Today, we pray for eyes to see and ears to hear so that the cries of the prophets among us might instead soften our hearts, fortify our spirits, and remind us of our true nature as co-creators of God’s kingdom on earth.
Anna Robertson is campus minister for retreats at Seattle University. She is a writer, musician, yoga aficionado, and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for supporting the emergence of the widespread ecological conversion of hearts called for by Pope Francis in Laudato Si’. Prior to her current role, Anna has supported families of women experiencing incarceration, conducted research on collective memory in El Salvador, and coordinated international immersions in Latin America. She has her master of theological studies degree from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.