Tag Archives: queer scripture

Pope Francis' Lesson from Emmaus, for Queer Christians

 In the Gospel for the third Sunday of Easter, we read once again the familiar story of the Journey to Emmaus. What is less familiar, but of major importance for LGBT Christians, is the sequel – the journey FROM Emmaus, back to Jerusalem.

Jesus Appears At Emmaus, Gay passion of Christ series
Jesus Appears At Emmaus, Gay passion of Christ series (Source: Jesus in Love blog)

 While in Brazil for World Youth Day last year, Pope Francis also spoke to the bishops of Brazil, about the “Miracle of Aperecida”, about appreciation for the path taken by the Cburch in Brazil – and about the  “The icon of Emmaus as a key for interpreting the present and the future”.

Introducing the subject, Francis noted the context of the disciples who were leaving Jerusalem in a state of dejection:
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The (Gay) Roman Centurion and his "Boy"

In Catholic tradition, March 15th is the feast day of “Longinus”,  the name given to the Roman centurion at the crucifixion who pierced Christ’s side with his spear.  Some writers, like Paul Halsall of the LGBT Catholic Handbook, also identify him with the centurion who asked Jesus to heal his “beloved boy”, who was ill. It is this second person that I am interested in here.  In this persona, he is one of my personal favourites, as his story shows clearly how the Lord himself is completely not hostile to a clearly gay relationship, and also because we hear a clear reminder of this every time we attend Mass – if only we have ears to hear.
It may be that you do not recall any Gospel stories about a gay centurion and his male lover, but that is because cautious or prudish translators have softened the words of the text, and because the word “gay” is not really appropriate for the historical context. You are more likely to know as the story as the familiar one of the Roman centurion and his “servant” – But this is a poor translation. Matthew uses the word “doulos“, which means slave, not a mere servant.  Luke uses quite a different word, “pais“, which can mean servant boy – but more usually has the sense of a man’s younger male lover – or “boyfriend”.Whichever of the two words or their senses was intended by the authors, the conclusions we should draw are the same. If “pais”  was intended here to indicate a lover, the conclusion is obvious.  If the intended meaning was either “slave ” or “servant” – the conclusion does not significantly change. To see this, let us consider the cultural context. For three centuries before Christ, the Jews had been under foreign military occupation, first by the Greeks (which is why demotic Greek had become lingua franca across the region, and was the language of the New Testament), then by Romans. These military overlords were about as well liked as any other military invaders anywhere – which is not at all.  The Jews hated them – but will have been quite familiar with Greek and Roman cultural (and sexual) practices.

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Scripture As Hope: Romans 15:4-9

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 the second reading for today, the second Sunday of Advent (year A) makes clear:

scripture as hope

“Gospel” derives from “Godspell”, that is “good news” – and the hope and good news apply as much to gay, lesbian and trans Christians as to any other:

Everything that was written long ago in the scriptures was meant to teach us something about hope from the examples scripture gives of how people who did not give up were helped by God. And may he who helps us when we refuse to give up, help you all to be tolerant with each other, following the example of Christ Jesus, so that united in mind and voice you may give glory to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  It can only be to God’s glory, then, for you to treat each other in the same friendly way as Christ treated you. The reason Christ became the servant of circumcised Jews was not only so that God could faithfully carry out the promises made to the patriarchs, it was also to get the pagans to give glory to God for his mercy, as scripture says in one place: For this I shall praise you among the pagans and sing to your name.
Romans 15:4-9
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We Too, Are Called To Witness (Isaiah 49:3,5-6; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34)

In the readings for the second Sunday of the year, two themes predominate: that of being called (even from the womb), and that of bearing witness. From the perspective of queer Christians, these are powerful themes – because it’s clear throughout that they are fully inclusive.

In the second verse of the first reading (from Isaiah), we read

Isaiah 49, 5
Isaiah 49, 5

But it is not only “Israel” that is to be gathered to him, but (all) the nations, reaching ‘to the ends of the earth’ (and thereby including, presumably, the the full gamut of sexual and gender diversity): Continue reading We Too, Are Called To Witness (Isaiah 49:3,5-6; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34)

There is no Darkness in God (1 John 1:5-2:2)

It is all too easy for us, accustomed to the experience of textual abuse of the bible used as a weapon to justify bigotry, discrimination and violence to lose sight of John’s first message in today’s Mass reading, from his first epistle: that the heart of Jesus’ Gospel lesson is that God is light, in which there is no darkness:

This is what we have heard from Jesus Christ,
and the message that we are announcing to you:
God is light; there is no darkness in him at all.
If we say that we are in union with God
while we are living in darkness,
we are lying because we are not living the truth.
But if we live our lives in the light,
as he is in the light,
we are in union with one another,
and the blood of Jesus, his Son,
purifies us from all sin.

If we say we have no sin in us,
we are deceiving ourselves
and refusing to admit the truth;
but if we acknowledge our sins,
then God who is faithful and just
will forgive our sins and purify us
from everything that is wrong.
To say that we have never sinned
is to call God a liar
and to show that his word is not in us.

I am writing this, my children,

to stop you sinning;
but if anyone should sin,
we have our advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ, who is just;
he is the sacrifice that takes our sins away,
and not only ours,
but the whole world’s.

 However, we must not overlook the second message. It simply is not true, as some people insist, that we are necessarily sinners because of our sexuality, but that does not mean that we are free of sin.

Like everyone else, we too are subject to sin, and like everyone else, we need to confront the sin in our lives, and do what we can to root it out. Like everyone else, that sin may sometimes be in the way in which we use our sexual faculties selfishly or irresponsibly – or it may be in other matters entirely.

In the eyes of God, we really are just as everyone else: each of us unique, each of us deeply loved, each of us equally able to share in the joy, and the light, of God’s word.

 

" No one is shut out from this joy" – Leo the Great

An extract from the second reading for the Divine Office, Christmas Day, taken from a sermon of Pope St Leo the Great:

No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness. Let the pagan take courage as he is summoned to life.

Here follows the full text:

Christian, remember your dignity

Dearly beloved, today our Saviour is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness.

No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness. Let the pagan take courage as he is summoned to life.

In the fullness of time, chosen in the unfathomable depths of God’s wisdom, the Son of God took for himself our common humanity in order to reconcile it with its creator. He came to overthrow the devil, the origin of death, in that very nature by which he had overthrown mankind.

And so at the birth of our Lord the angels sing in joy: Glory to God in the highest, and they proclaim peace to men of good will as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all the nations of the world. When the angels on high are so exultant at this marvellous work of God’s goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men?

Beloved, let us give thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit, because in his great love for us he took pity on us, and when we were dead in our sins he brought us to life with Christ, so that in him we might be a new creation. Let us throw off our old nature and all its ways and, as we have come to birth in Christ, let us renounce the works of the flesh.

Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom.

Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not drive away so great a guest by evil conduct and become again a slave to the devil, for your liberty was bought by the blood of Christ.

via Universalis: Office of Readings.

Gaudete Sunday: "Rejoice, Queer Christians, and Again, Rejoice"

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.

Gaudete in Domino

The entrance antiphon opens,

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.

(Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete).

Continue reading Gaudete Sunday: "Rejoice, Queer Christians, and Again, Rejoice"

"Celebrating" (Nehemiah 8:10)

From “The Bible In Drag“: 

Nehemiah continued, “Go now and enjoy rich food and sweet wine, and be certain that you send a share to those who cannot provide for themselves, for this day is holy to Our God. Let no one be sad, for Our God’s joy is your strength.”

Nehemiah 8:10

From the 2011 film “Circumstance”

Nehemiah and the returned exiles to Jerusalem are celebrating. They are celebrating a resettlement of the land their grandparents and parents had been forcefully evicted from. They are celebrating that the presence of God, which had been with them in exile, is also with them in the resettlement. They are celebrating with joy not because of what they have, but because of whom they worship.

We, who are queer and allies, need to take note of this scene. “God’s joy is your strength,” proclaims Nehemiah to those huddled in the ruins of what was once a great city. Often when life is either less than expected or overwhelmed by the ruins of hopes and expectations unmet joy tends to slip away from us. We allow our surroundings to shape our inner being as oppose to allowing our inner resources to shape our environment.

Nehemiah calls us to heed the very core of our being – the great Heart of the Universe beating within our own hearts. Openly and wonderfully the Sacred trips over the divine-Self just to say, “I love you.” Here within this intimate relationship with the Holy lies the only sustained source of joy. Since it ignites from within we can easily miss it by looking without. The right partner, family acceptance, full legal rights, safe work place, these and others are certainly points of joy in our lives. Yet, as wonderful as they are we can never be assured of their presence in our lives.

via The Bible In Drag – Queering Scripture November 27, 2013

"Relax, Let Go, Trust" (Luke 12:22-31)

from “The Bible In Drag:”

Then (Jesus) said to the disciples, “That’s why I tell you, don’t worry about your life and what you are to eat. Don’t worry about your body and what you are to wear. For life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Take a lesson from the ravens. They don’t sow or reap. They have neither a food cellar nor a barn, yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable are you than birds? Can any one of you, for all your worrying add a single hour to your life? If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why worry about the rest?

“Notice the flowers grow. They neither labor nor weave, yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was robed like one of these! If that is how God clothes the grass in the field – which is here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow – how much more will God look after you! You have so little faith!

“As for you, don’t set your hearts on what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink. Stop worrying! All the nations of the world seek these things, yet your Abba God well knows what you need. Set your sights on the kin-dom of God, and all these other things will be given to you as well.”

(Luke 12:22-31)

by AlicePopkorn

I start with a confession – I have always wrestled with these words: don’t be anxious, don’t seek to control, trust. This advice is hard enough in general, yet from a queer perspective they seem to have even more weight. There are a thousand things to fret about. For those just discerning their orientation the whole issue of managing the closet, of who knows, who doesn’t know, when do we want someone to know, and each and every individual with which a potentially difficult conversation needs to take place with the risk of rejection. For those yearning and fighting for marriage equality and the constant and seemingly unending battle for respect and legal justice. For those who’ve mourned quietly over a break up, or even the death of a lover – not understood, or simply ignored by others.

via The Bible In Drag – Queering Scripture.November 11, 2013

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The Lord Seeks Out Outcasts, Dining With Us. (Luke 19:1-10)

The story from Luke’s Gospel, telling of Zacceus in the sycamore tree, has a direct parallel with the situation of gay men and lesbians in the Christian churches. Zaccheus is a tax collector, and so seen as an outcast, an obvious sinner, in Jewish society. Yet even so, Jesus not only accepts him, he invites himself to Zaccheus’ home.

zacchaeus in the sycamore tree

Jesus entered Jericho and was going through the town when a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance: he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. He was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see him for the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him: ‘Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.’ And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully. They all complained when they saw what was happening. ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house’ they said. But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, ‘Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.’

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