Embodying Advent Series
Embodying Borderlands: Maria’s Song
This week’s reflection is a juxtaposition on the Virgin Mary from the Gospels and Maria Mesa, the Honduran woman depicted at the Tijuana border with her twin daughters fleeing from tear gas.
Our sermon today is about two special women who risked their lives for their children. We are also going to look two women who occupy a space known as the Borderlands. The Virgin Mary’s story and Maria Mesa’s story both contain the narrative of living between displacement and transitory replacement.
Both women travel hundreds of miles by foot through dangerous terrain and conditions, with hardly any resources to protect their families and to flee persecution in order to come into a place of safety, peace, and rest. Mary in the gospels, is being pursued by forces who are trying to kill her newborn son, Jesus. Her life and her family’s life are being threatened by governmental powers. She is on the run.
Mary must flee Bethlehem and seek asylum in Egypt in order to protect her child. She is fleeing for safety into the very nation that symbolizes oppression for the Israelite people. But she has little choice. If she remains in Judea for any length of time, Herod would have them slaughtered.
In recent news, Maria Mesa, attempted to cross the border at Tijuana from Honduras with her children. Her photo has become iconic in the media. She along with hundreds of other refugees are fleeing extreme violence, poverty, and a government which will not protect its basic human rights. Maria is a modern representation of Mary’s situation.
During a lecture series I attended this week on Latinx people and racism, Reverend Jose Morales Jr., asked the question, “If I have ‘no place’ what does that say about my body?”
Many of us who are Queer and People of Color, find ourselves in this very position; in the Borderlands. Many of us have no place as LGBTQIA people and People of Color in society and within the church—we have had to create those places for ourselves—we have had to carve out a place for our identities, constantly having to negotiate our identity who we are. Many of us who are Queer and POC, occupy multiple cultural identities. Because of this, our bodies are objectified. Our bodie are subjected to hatred, violence, homophobia, othering, and racism.
The core of racism is anti-blackness mixed with White privilege and this people; White, cisgender, heteronormative people— this people occupies a place called the Centerlands. The Centerlands contains an active system which takes and consumes resources and keeps them away from those who need it the most.
Those who need it the most, occupy a space on the fringes and on the margins called the Borderlands. They are decentered from society, they are the marginalized, they are Queer folk, Transgender bodies, Black bodies, Brown bodies, and our other Siblings of Color. They are poor, they are the disabled, they have physical illness, mental illness, etc., etc.
Mary in the gospels’ own identity contains many diverging components; she is Jewish, yet she is under Roman imperial rule and occupation, she is beholden to the laws of both of these identities, she has brown skin, she is poor, she is in her early teens, she has no affluence, influence, no power, and there is nothing about her external being that would make her stand out remarkably against the backdrop of the rest of her people. What’s more is that Mary is a virgin betrothed to Joseph and she is pregnant, but Joseph is not the father.
Yet God favors her and chooses her to become the bearer of the body of Christ and to be the human vessel which carries the body of Christ and gives him to all of us—she shares Christ’s body with us—all of humanity.
In Luke 1:46-55, Mary is singing to God and she is talking about us—those of us who live in the Borderlands. God sees us and through Mary God delivers to us the most precious gift—the gift of life and love; the gift of flourishing and thriving.
She delivers to us the body of Christ, as if all of humanity is being invited to partake in the Holy Eucharist as One People; as children of God; children who are constantly negotiating our identities.
We are following the tradition and narrative within the Bible—of discovering and rediscovering who we are everyday as God’s children—dying and being restored and made new over and over again. We are a chosen people who are God’s beloved children. We, like Christ, give new life to others instead of our oppressors who are taking away lives. Let us look for ways to be restored and to restore others while we eagerly await the return of Christ as we make Earth like it is in Heaven.
Grace and Peace,
Co-Executive Director, Brave Commons