The opening of John’s Gospel (“In the beginning was the word”) is familiar to many of us. The opening of the first letter of John, which is the first reading for today’s Mass, on the feast of John the Evangelist is less familiar, although it begins in similar manner (“Something which has existed since the beginning”).
Today we remember St Stephen, the first martyr. Just as Stephen some of his hearers who disliked his words, but could not counter the truth of what he said, were “infuriated and ground their teeth at him“. Stephen, however persisted in proclaiming the truth – and paid the price.
Countless gay men, lesbians and trans people have similarly encountered anger, hatred and violence for living lives of sexual or gender honesty, and even more for speaking publicly about the morality and integrity of our lives. Continue reading Dec 26th: St Stephen, Martyr (Acts 6:8-10,7:54-59)
In today’s Gospel, I see two key take-aways from the words of Zechariah, father of John the Baptist:
One is a reminder that the promise of the Lord that he “that he would save us from our enemies and from the hands of all who hate us” applies to all his people – and that most certainly includes those of us who experience hatred and discrimination in church, allegedly but spuriously in the Lord’s own name.
Another is implied in Zechariah’s words to his son, the instruction to “prepare a way for the Lord”. He is speaking here directly to his son, John the Baptist, but the words are equally applicable to all of us. It is not enough simply to wait passively for the Kingdom of God: it is incumbent on all of us to prepare the way in our own communities, spreading the word that the Kingdom applies to all, excluding none:.
Integrity is obviously important, but for LGBT Catholics, religious and sexual integrity too often appear in conflict. The Catechism extols the importance of sexuality in the human make – up, and instructs that it be fully integrated into our personality – but follows up that sensible instruction with an insistence that this sexuality may only be expressed in marriage between opposite – sex spouses.
2013 has been dubbed the “Year of gay marriage”. Pope Francis was named “Person of the Yea” by gay magazine the Advocate, and as number two “Gay Rights Hero of the Year” by New Yorker magazine. The words of the Psalm for today’s Mass will theerefore have particular cogency for LGBT Christians, as we await the celebration of the incarnation of Christ, later this week.
From Bondings 2.0:
Pope Francis writes that, after we perform a recollected reading of the text, we ask ourselves some questions about the Scripture passage. What does this text say to me? What about my life needs to change? What do I find pleasant or attractive in this text for my life? Francis says that we need to avoid the temptation to apply the passage to other people. Now, this hits home! During the Scripture readings at Sunday worship service, I sometimes find myself thinking, “I hope so-and-so heard that!”
With Francis’ advice at hand, I read and reread the Scripture texts for the Third Sunday of Advent to figure out what God was saying to me. Isaiah speaks of a joyful time when all will be made right and good: feeble hands and weak knees will be strengthened, blind eyes will be opened, and deaf ears will hear. But until this time arrives, the epistle of James cautions us to be patient, just as the farmer waits for the rains to water the precious fruit of the earth. We are not to complain about one another, but look to the prophets as examples of the patience God asks of us.
The Gospel reading gives us an example in the prophet, John the Baptist. John preached a stirring message of repentance for sin and baptism with water to cleanse the body and soul, but John waited patiently for a Messianic figure, who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. From his prison cell, John sends his disciples to ask Jesus if his waiting time is over. “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” John is an example of patience.
The theme of today’s Mass is proclaimed from the first word of the entrance antiphon, and repeated insistently throughout, “Rejoice” – or in Latin, “Gaudete”, from which today, the Third Sunday of Advent takes its name, “Gaudete” Sunday.
The entrance antiphon opens,
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.
(Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete).
Jesus exclaimed, ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’
(Gospel for Wednesday, 2nd week of Advent)
For too long, LGBT people have suffered under Biblical textual abuse, with our opponents brandishing a handful of cherry – picked scriptural texts as weapons to accuse and condemn us, It is not surprising then, that so many of our community view the Bible with suspicion, or even reject it entirely, and with it very often, all religious faith and practice. But this abuse is a gross distortion of what scripture is all about, as today’s Gospel makes clear.
This is also spelled out in “Dei Verbum”, one of the core texts approved by the Second Vatican Council.
From “The Bible In Drag“:
“Console my people, give them comfort,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem’s heart and tell it that its time of service is ended, that its iniquity is atoned for, that it has received from Adonai’s hand double punishment for all its sins.”
From “Body of Work” by Gili Estlin Hirsch and Alex Ogden
As one born and raised in the christian tradition these words are very familiar this time of the year. The passage is paralleled with the advent of the Christ as a way of emphasizing the new thing God is doing. For me the essence of my faith is the ready reception of newness as given by the presence of Jesus. This passage has brought me much comfort as to the role of God in the unfolding of history.
Yet, as a gay person this very same text which once brought me comfort now leaves me a bit weary. As one who stands among a community that has been proclaimed sinful I take umbrage of the notion that Jerusalem has received “double punishment for all its sins.” Historically, we are observing the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians and the seventy years it laid waste until its reconstruction. Metaphorically, I’m afraid we are speaking of a God who acts more like a jealous husband bent on “training” his wife than a loving parent nurturing her children. Or at least that’s how “sexual sinners” have been treated at the hands of those who supposedly speak on behalf of the Divine.
via The Bible In Drag – Queering Scripture, Dec 5th, 2013
At Sunday Mass this morning, I was delighted to able to do the readings, and in particular this superb text from Wisdom – for which the relevance to lesbians and gay men is so obvious as hardly to need spelling out.
In your sight, Lord, the whole world is like a grain of dust that tips the scales,like a drop of morning dew falling on the ground.Yet you are merciful to all, because you can do all thingsand overlook men’s sins so that they can repent.Yes, you love all that exists, you hold nothing of what you have made in abhorrence,for had you hated anything, you would not have formed it.And how, had you not willed it, could a thing persist,how be conserved if not called forth by you?You spare all things because all things are yours, Lord, lover of life,you whose imperishable spirit is in all.Little by little, therefore, you correct those who offend,you admonish and remind them of how they have sinned,so that they may abstain from evil and trust in you, Lord.-Wisdom 11:22-12:21st reading, 31st Sunday of OT, year C