The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah saying: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
The Creator knows each one of us intimately from the time before we were born. And the Creator consecrated each one of us when we were born. Each one of us, every woman and man, is appointed a prophet. Some are prophets in their families, some are prophets in their relationships, and there are prophets for the whole world to hear what is in their hearts. Pope Francis is a prophet on the world stage. But the prophet I want to talk about today is Reverend Mari Valjakka. She is the pastor of the Sami people. The Sami are an indigenous nation in Finland. Reverend Mari Valjakka is a leader and a spokesperson for her indigenous people.
On Sunday, January 16, the eve of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Francis met with a delegation from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. Reverend Mari Valjakka was part of the delegation.
In an interview with Benedetta Capelli, of the Vatican News service, Reverend Mari spoke about the connection she feels with the Pope and about the ecumenical journey in Finland, a journey of renewal and reconciliation with the indigenous people. Her community of indigenous people have suffered discrimination and injustice.
Mari Valjakka is a Sámi pastor at Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. Photo: Dinesh Suna
Reverend Mari said: “that 80 % of the planet’s biodiversity is to be found in areas populated by indigenous people. These people have been custodians of their lands so they have a centuries-old tradition with respect to that.”
Reverend Mari noted that the Arctic is warming up much faster than anywhere else on the planet. “So when I heard the Pope touch on these essential issues it gave me so much hope because I think the Gospel needs to be spread, and by spreading, it can have a beneficial impact. We have a task to pray and also ask the Lord to show us how indigenous people can communicate their wisdom to others.”
“There has been an attempt to assimilate us into the dominant culture. However”, she said, “we have begun a process called ‘truth and reconciliation’.”
“The fact that I am a woman and that I come from a minority group within the Sami minority itself, means, I find myself “fighting windmills.” But being here (in Rome) to meet Pope Francis and also being able to talk and exchange views with Catholics…gives me the feeling that maybe the windmills are not so strong, so powerful” she said.
Reverend Mari is a woman of conviction. She is like a “strong fortress”. She spoke from her hope, the basis for her trust. From the time she was in her mother’s womb God has been her strength and gave her and still gives her strength to speak up for her people, for Christian unity and care for creation. She spoke from her heart about her dreams of the future for her people, the Christian community and the environment. I felt she spoke like a prophet for our time.
As Sisters you strive to be prophet leaders in our Church, in Canadian society and in the world. All mothers, all women, have touched many lives over the years.
Canadian women and men have been and are prophetic. You have concerns about the present day Church and its future. You have concerns about the effects of climate change on our country and on all creation. The rights of our indigenous people, migrants and refugees, food insecurity, stress on our health care, domestic and sexual violence to women are some of the current topics.
Don’t stop expressing your views, ideas and your prophetic stance for a Gospel based church and a better world. Be prophetic and speak “with courage and love.” Your views and concerns are prophetic, and should be heard.
What are your prophetic concerns for our time, for the Catholic Church and the environment?
Homily for January 30, 2022 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time C
Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19; Ps 71; 1Cor 12:31-13:13; Luke 4: 21-30
By Friar Ed Debono, OFM Conv.