It’s time for a new narrative. With Vatican II, our church opened its doors to the modern world; it turned our priests around and now speaks our language in an effort to engage us more deeply in prayer. The gift of Vatican II collides with a generation of people whose search for their authentic selves leads them away from the church; they have begun to see and understand what it means to be living in the reality of hypocrisy and conflict.
I was on retreat with young adults involved in the Alumni Volunteer Corps (a program that invites colleges grads to a year of service at their Jesuit high schools), when our priest told us the story about the threat of change his peers experienced with Vatican II. In a time of great change, the loss of identity is real. While some were able to re-orient themselves to this renewed direction, some were left behind unconvinced that the new way was do-able, like-able or even worth it at all. The resurrected experience may be too overwhelming for our very bodies, heart and minds to take. We are like unforgiving old wineskins to the new, fresh iteration of hope, change and insight.
Our priest remembers, “I am the only one in my class left to minister. So many of my generation left because it was not what they signed up for.” For the first time I heard; I felt the deep sadness, the deep wound that Vatican II invoked for some in a generation where the world was “turned upside down.” And now we find ourselves in another time of our human story where our identity is shifting, a time when we are invited to get beyond ourselves in order to heal and repair our relationships with one another.
I wonder if all the political newness of electing Barack Obama, amongst other things a black man, to the highest office in the land has caused an unexpected shift in identity for many. Like new wine being poured into a wineskin whose fibers have already been stretched, this external change seems too much, and the body, mind and heart revolt. We voted for Trump to restore what we know about the idea of who we used to be.
I am devastated. No form of logic can help me grasp the gravity of the sin we are permitting. I sit restless to restore the broken identity that comes with experiencing the paschal mystery. The story of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven has become sterilized or whitewashed and seems to have lost its flavor.
We must reclaim our most central truth and allow this generation to orient itself to today’s vision, giving people space to live into a reality of love and justice that emboldens them to find out who exactly they are. We need to listen to their new narratives even when we feel threatened by them.
Lin-Manuel Miranda has captured the imagination of this generation like no other artist has. His brilliant mind has been able to communicate a way forward for a community, not just for individuals. “Hamilton,” a musical set in the time of forming our first United States government, tells a new story of our core truth through the bodies of people whose lives and narratives have minimally been recorded. His mixed cast of latinx, black, white and LGBTQIA people tells a new narrative of the struggle to define democracy and capitalism in this new adventure. He gives an experience of resurrected life for new stories to be seen in history.
The cast sings, “Look around, look around, how lucky we are to be alive right now.” He helps this generation see themselves in the story of America’s coming of age.
Miranda goes a little further when he worked to create the music and score to “Moana,” Disney’s new animation centered on the restorative adventure of a young girl and her ancient tribe. Nominated for a Golden Globe, his song “How Far I’ll Go” captures a deep sentiment of vocation and calling that many in this new generation are wrestling with. Pray with these lyrics:
I know, everybody on this island seems so happy on this island
Everything is by design
I know, everybody on this island has a role on this island
So maybe I can roll with mine
I can lead with pride, I can make us strong
I’ll be satisfied if I play along
But the voice inside sings a different song
What is wrong with me?
See the light as it shines on the sea it’s blinding
But no one knows, how deep it goes
And it seems like it’s calling out to me, so come find me
And let me know, what’s beyond that line, will I cross that line?
Moana, a true hero, restores life to a dying planet by simply having the courage of taking her curiosity to where it matters — to the heart of the hurt, the pain, the suffering. She speaks to the most hurt and says,
“I have crossed the horizon to find you / I know your name / I may have stolen the heart from inside you / But this does not define you / This is not who you are / You know who you are”
I am practically speechless as I witness what we as a nation have done. I am empowered to let the death of the past overcome me so that the newness of resurrection can jar me out of the resentment, pain and suffering of what could have been but was not realized.
Through the very act of calling love out of myself, out of one another, I want to experience this resurrection in new ways with new people in new communities where, yes, we may have to rebuild, restructure, re-imagine what new life for all — Christian and other-than-Christian communities alike — could and will look like
As the cast of “Hamilton,” contemplates Alexander Hamilton’s opportunity to participate in the construction of a new way of living together, the cast sings,
“Rise up! / When you’re living on your knees, you rise up / Tell your brother that he’s gotta rise up / Tell your sister that she’s gotta rise up.”
Let us listen to the new narrative that is based on an orientation to the original truth, reset to love deeply and more, and act to restore our faith in one another. Let us all rise up!