cracked mirror image

“how the light gets in”

A homily preached November 17, 2019 by Zach Grant


Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in


My grandfather grew up in New Hamburg, the land of the Wendat Nation
He was a settler there, born into a Mennonite family.
His father, my great grandfather, drove the buggy, down the dirt roads
wrapping the cleared land, and past the gnarled fruit trees
marking lanes to green roofed houses.

He met a woman there who was a braucher-
this is the Mennonite healer,
the midwife and the undertaker,
the charmer of sickness and sorrow,
the keeper of the way.

There were many brauchereis then, who worked with their communities to keep them well, asking for the divine to heal them, to hold them, and to protect them.

There was a time he was asked to drive this woman in his buggy to do her work- from house to house, from settlement to settlement, where she performed her faith. That is how he learned the way, by being with her as she worked.

He too became known in his own way for this healing, and in his area he received people who needed the faith.

He would do very tangible things, tie red string around parts of the body, read verses from the bible in repetition, perform charms with the medicine and the plants and the animals that were there.

In this time there was belief- and there was the need for this work to be done.

My grandfather grew up in a world that was changing-
he straddled the old way, and what was to come.
He saw the cleared land become subdivisions,
he saw the town centers disappear,
he saw the struggle of people to live their culture,
he saw the old way become faint, as the world grew and became more and more complex.

There was a day that a bonnet woman came to his door with her daughter. She knew who he was and who his father was. She told him that her daughter was sick and asked him to heal her.

It was years since his father had died and much of the way had died with him. There were few braucherei, and the ones that were still around, held the way quietly.

He told the woman that he didn’t know what to do, that he didn’t hold the faith like his father had. The woman insisted that he was the son of the Swartzentruber who was the healer and that he could heal her daughter.

My grandfather took her into his house, and with the best of his ability, he made the way as he could.

I remember him as a man with Christian grace, he was humble and honest and true. He straddled the two worlds the best he could, with a great desire to be present to this position.


Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack,
a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in


When I was young, I would lay in bed and imagine what it would be like to die. I was fixated on this idea- of what does dying feel like.

At night it would come to me,
laying in my bed. I would close my eyes and imagine not existing. I would be there tucked in and perfectly comfortable in my loving home, imagining what it would be like to be dead. Not by any gruesome fate, or agony, but rather simply dissolving into the ether.

There was a sensation that would overwhelm me in these moments. Of nothingness, of non being, of non speaking. A world I would inhabit in these moments that while being nothing, and about nothing, was incredibly full, was visceral, was present with me.

I was a young person then, and like all things young, there was no difference between what I believed would happen and what would actually happen.

I would be in this reality, what I thought to be death inviting me into itself, and at a certain moment in this experience, I would scream out from the depths of the darkness in my hand me down Star Wars bed sheets that I didn’t want to die.

I was completely overwhelmed.
It wasn’t a bad feeling but I knew that it was not something that I should be thinking.
There was no way for me to express what I was experiencing, that there are no words that describe those feelings, known to young people.

My equally young parents became overwhelmed by this too, and in their frustration to get me to sleep, sent me to talk to my grandfather.

I don’t remember what he told me in this moment, and I can just imagine what he must have thought. I even remember being scared to tell him what I was thinking about, knowing that saying it out loud makes it seem ridiculous.

He was beginning to be sick at this time, he had tuberculosis earlier and his lungs had deep scars running across them.

The world had had past the point that he could be in it, he was no longer able to bridge two worlds, it had become too great. He was dissolving too.

He would breathe deeply as best as he could, He would offering small things to me there. Letting me be there.

In his last moments alive he said to my mother and his wife,
sweetly with laboured breath “well, I guess it’s time to cross the great divide”

When held tight in fear- we build fortresses to our safety- stifling up the cracks, blocking the light.


But,
There is a crack,
a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in


Now in this time,
we are in a shaking,
The earth is alive to us in this moment
We didn’t always know that she was alive.
She has become alive because
Now we see ourselves mirrored in her
And she is like us
What she is feeling, is what we feel,
We have made her like us.
She became alive to us in expressing her pain
In expressing her loss,
In expressing her sadness and her anger

She was born perfect, as we are
And she called out to us then too
with thunder, and tremor
And wind and weather

In her infant joy
she was there

But now,
we are in a shaking
The world around us has changed,
No longer is it simply changing,
It’s hard to see how it looked before
And what was there
Before, all of the ground, and the sky were covered,
And the air and the water heavied

Seeing our sister earth change
We became fearful
Is this what would happen to us too?
that we would become covered and heavy?
And it would be hard to see how we looked before?

So with mortar and dirt and oil
We built ourselves into fortresses
towers
To stand forever visible in the landscape

When the ground would shake
We would work quickly
Trying our hardest to cover up the cracks
When they started to show
To prevent anything from seeping through
In fear we would not get it back

Now we are in a shaking

As for what you see here,
the days will come
when not one stone
will be left upon another;
all will be thrown down

That’s how the light gets in


The message of the Gospel calls us to be self emptying. To allow the cracks to be there, to not resist the light coming in, to not obstruct its path. It calls us to be present to the light, as the light comes in to witness us. Christ calls us to throw down the monuments we have made, to let go of the tangible in loss, allow for its mark upon us.

Inside of us, we are a mirrored surface.
there to show each unto the other,
the cracks reveal this to us.

I invite you to bring your ray of light into the crack,
that we let it be here with us,
That our eucharistic joy be over this
a celebration of the light held in each of us.

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