“Heal the Broken – Hearted”

“Healing” is the central them for today’s Mass (5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, year B). This healing can be either physical (as in Mark’s Gospel, where Jesus heals Simon’s mother – in- law, among others, or it can be emotional and spiritual, as clearly expressed in the response to the psalm:

Praise the Lord who heals the broken-hearted.

For LGBT Christians, it is this spiritual healing that will have particular relevance. Just like everybody else, we too will have need for physical healing at different times and to varying degrees, but will also have a particular need to be healed from the hurt and pain unnecessarily inflicted on us by some elements of Church teaching, and by some other Christians, in defiance of the clear Gospel message of inclusion and love for all. When we feel hurt in this way, we need to remember that while some people may reject us, God will never do so. When we turn to Him,  Christ will indeed “heal the broken- hearted”  – and we can receive that healing either by turning to the texts of the Bible (especially the Gospels), which really are “Good news”, as Paul says, or even better, by applying direct, in prayer

There is more to the day’s reading though, than just the reminder of God’s healing for us. There is also an implicit command to take that message, and offer it to others, so that they too may be healed. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul stresses that preaching the gospel is “a duty which has been laid on me”. That duty however is shared by us all, as Pope Frnncis spelled out in “Evangelii Gaudium”.

First reading: Job 7:1-4,6-7

Psalm: 146:1-6

Second reading: 1 Corinthians 9:16-19,22-23

Gospel Acclamation: Jn8:12 or Mt8:17

Gospel: Mark 1:29-39

“Hold Your Heads High, Your Liberation Is Near at Hand” (Psalm 24).

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.

In Minnesota, just a few months separated the need to resist a constitutional ban on gay marriage, and the passage of marriage equality legislation – with vocal support by many Catholic groups.

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Bondings 2.0: “Patiently Waiting for the Desert to Bloom With Abundant Flowers” (3rd of Advent)

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.

via Patiently Waiting for the Desert to Bloom With Abundant Flowers | Bondings 2.0.

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God’s Inclusive Love for All (Wisdom 11:22-12:2).

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.
morning dew
Yet you are merciful to all, because you can do all things
and 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 11:22-12:2
1st reading, 31st Sunday of OT, year C

Slurs (Proverbs 12:18, James 3:1-12)

Sharp words cut like a sword,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 12:18, James 3:1-12

This proverb is a reversal of the old childhood mantra: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words…” Well, supposedly words will never hurt us, but they do. Not only the slurs flung our way, but the very words that jumble in us as in the word-art above. Those discerning their orientation – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning persons – are especially vulnerable to sharp words, receiving their thrust deep into the psyche.

The queer community for a number of years has been reclaiming words. In a very healthy way we have taken the swords meant to hack us and turned them into shields of honor. “Faggot,” “queer,” “gay,” “homo,” “sissy,” “butch,” “dyke” and others are now internalized as points of pride instead of points of shame.

The lesbian biblical scholar Mona West states it succinctly: “Oppressed peoples over the years have understood the power and importance of choosing their own words to name themselves rather than allowing the dominant culture to assign negative meaning to certain words that are used to demonize a group of people. Words are powerful tools used to describe experience and shape reality” (from the article Queer Spirituality).

-Read David Popham’s full reflection at “The Bible in Drag

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“The Lord is Kind, and Full of Compassion”

“The Lord is Kind, and Full of Compassion”: “I found particular resonance in this Psalm for today, in the light of Jonah’s introductory post here yesterday. He described first how he had once resisted the call to priesthood, and later the need to recognize his orientation and come out as a gay man. In both cases, he wrote, the Lord pursued him – and he later found that on both counts, God was right. Coming to terms with what he saw as God’s insistence that he be both priest and gay, Jonah recognized the absolute truth of the words above – although he expressed this not in the words of the psalm, but in a quotation from Thomas Merton, ”mercy within mercy within mercy”, which Jonah goes on to describe as “relentless” mercy, which heals all wounds.”

‘via Blog this’

Queering the Song of Songs

Gay men and women could be excused for feeling more than a little ambivalent about the Song of Songs as recommended reading.  On the one hand, it is very emphatically and clearly a frankly erotic love song between two unmarried lovers. It is a celebration of physical love, and an important counter to the common religious view that sexual expression must be confined to procreation. The Song is the strongest possible proof that Scripture does not support that view (there are others, too.)

On the other, it is equally clearly an expression of heterosexual love -at least as known and commonly published today.( There is an out of print book which argues that the earliest texts described two men, and that one set of pronouns was altered by later editors. For an account of this, see the Wild Reed on “The Bible’s Gay Love Poem“. However, I have not seen authoritative support for this view elsewhere, and for today I shall stick with the better known version. )

So how is a lesbian or gay male reader to respond to this text? 

One simple remedy is simply to use it as a starting point, and ignore the details of gender, as I have done myself in the past – but this is not entirely satisfactory.

Christopher King, writing in “Take Back the Word”, has another approach, which strikes me as instructive and useful. (“A Love as Fierce as Death: Reclaiming the Song of Songs for Queer Lovers”). The starting point for his reading, which sets it apart from others and makes it come alive for me, is that he recognises in the Song much more than just  the expression of love, but its fuller story.

He reminds us that the text stresses that the woman, whom he calls the Shulamite, is both Black and an outsider. As such, this is not just about love, but about forbidden love – love survives and conquers resistance.

“I am black and  beautiful,
O daughters of Jerusalem” (1:5)

The Shulamite recognizes that because of her relationship to the Beloved, she has become the subject of a discourse that intensifies her experience of marginality. Having become merely an outsider, she has become a taboo person.

King also describes how the “official” church interpretation of the Song has changed dramatically over the centuries: in the Classical period, for instance, her blackness was taken to represent sin.  That view has changed.

Not only is the Shulamite an “outsider”, she has suffered for it. She is hounded by the law, as represented by “the sentinels”, an beaten up for it.

“Making their rounds in the city,
the sentinels found me;
they beat me, they wounded me,
they took away my mantle
those sentinels of the walls
(5:7)

The very men who ought to protect the Shulamite have savagely attacked her. Not only have they thrashed , bruised and perhaps raped her, they have also stolen her outer garment, exposing her body to the physical elements, and more seriously, unveiling her shame to the elemental forces of public scorn.

It really doesn’t take a great deal of imagination here to make the obvious parallel with the violence and persecution that sexual outsiders  have suffered, just like the Shulamite foreigner, and often similarly at the hands of those who should be protecting the weak – the church and the police.

But – she’s a survivor, and love conquers.

A further important point, worth carefully stressing, is not just the joy of their love, but also it’s absolute equality and reciprocity.

My beloved is mine and I am his
he pastures his flock among he lilies (2:16)

I am my beloved’s and he is mine
he pastures his flock among he lilies. (6.3) 

This mutuality and equality within a relationship is commonplace in queer relationships, but less so (probably rare, to this degree), in conventional marriage.

And so, although the relationship that is celebrated in the Song of Songs is not a same-sex one, it is indeed a queer one. The biological sexes are different, but at this level of equality, gender and gender roles fade into insignificance. “Queer” is more than a descriptor of same-sex attraction, but also includes all manner of sexual outsiders. An outsider the Shulamite most certainly is, and like us, has suffered for it.

But still, she can celebrate her love for her beloved, as he celebrates his for her.   Most important of all for me, is that this has been quite literally celebrated in the most public way possible – written down in a book of Scripture, read by those who followed over the following thousands of years.

No secret closet for their love, then.

Source:

King, Christopher:  “A Love as Fierce as Death”, in Take Back the Word: A Queer Reading of the Bible, edited Robert Goss.

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