“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

Direct experience and integrity (1 John 1:1-2:3 )

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”).

English: St John the evangelist

English: St John the evangelist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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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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Use Your Queer Gifts (Romans 12:5-16)

All of us, in union with Christ, form one body, and as arts of it we belong to each other. Our gifts differ according to the grace given us. If your gift is prophecy, then use it as your faith suggests; if administration, then use it for administration; if teaching, then use it for teaching. Let the preachers deliver sermons, the almsgivers give freely, the officials be diligent, and those who do works of mercy do them cheerfully.

Do not let your love be a pretence, but sincerely prefer good to evil. Love each other as much as brothers should, and have a profound respect for each other. Work for the Lord with untiring effort and with great earnestness of spirit. If you have hope, this will make you cheerful. Do not give up if trials come; and keep on praying. If any of the saints are in need you must share with them; and you should make hospitality your special care.

Bless those who persecute you: never curse them, bless them. Rejoice with those who rejoice and be sad with those in sorrow. Treat everyone with equal kindness; never be condescending but make real friends with the poor. Do not allow yourself to become self-satisfied.

(1st Reading, Tuesday week 32 Yr C)

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Romans 1 – A Message of Inclusion for Gay Christians.

Conventionally, when people speak of “Romans 1” in the context of homosexuality, they are thinking in terms of the end of the chapter,verses 26 and 27,  with their apparent condemnation. of homoerotic acts. There are two basic flaws with this assumption. As James Alison and others have pointed out, the division of the text into chapters and verses is relatively modern, and arbitrary. It is inappropriate to read these verses in isolation, without consideration of the full context. Reading the whole of Chapter 1, immediately followed by chapter, gives quite a different perspective on the intended lesson – that the passage as a whole, as of the full letter to the Romans, is a condemnation of hypocrisy.in judging others.

Part of a Syriac ms of Paul's letter to the Romans (source, Wikipedia)

Part of a Syriac ms of Paul’s letter to the Romans (source, Wikipedia)

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A Key to Romans 1 – Hiding in Plain Sight

At Bible – thumping Liberal, the straight ally and evangelical Christian Ron Goetz asks a crucially important question:

HOW DO I RECONCILE PAUL WITH MY SUPPORT FOR LGBT FOLKS?

August 27, 2013

I just got an email from Harold, one of my PFLAG friends. He asked the following question.

“How do you reconcile Paul’s words and yet support LGBTs?”

There are several good ways of approaching this question. One way looks at Paul’s specific words, what they mean and don’t mean, and then discover that Paul is not as anti-homosexual as fundamentalists make him out to be. Another way is to look at Paul as a man who was working out his theology, literally, as he went along. Another way is to see how Paul treated other issues of some disagreement, that have been puzzling or unclear to us. Finally, we can look at some of Paul’s own attitudes and interactions, and adopt some of them as our own.

-more at  Bible-Thumping Liberal.

This is important, because Paul’s words in Romans and in Corinthians are the most disturbing of all the Biblical clobber texts for lesbian and gay Christians. The story of Sodom in Genesis should not be troubling at all, as the Bible itself makes clear that the infamous “sin of Sodom” is about injustice, and pride, and has nothing whatever to do with homoeroticism. There are numerous responses to the verses in Leviticus, but the simplest one is just to note that these are part of the Jewish purity laws, like the dietary restrictions, the prohibition on clothing of mixed fibres and shaving one’s beard, and the obligation of male circumcision. As such, they simply do not apply to Christians – as we read in the Acts of the Apostles. The letters of Paul are another matter, less easy to reconcile with our experience of a same – sex affectional orientation.

So, how can we do so? In his post, Goetz goes on, to elaborate on each of these ways of looking at Paul. There is also another, simpler still: the words simply do not mean what they are popularly supposed to mean. I’ve already discussed how this is so for Corinthians, where the Greek words “malakoi” and “arsenokoitai” have been mistranslated as referring to homosexuals. (They don’t). For Romans 1, I suggest that the key is simpler still, hiding in plain sight – in the title. 

This is the letter to the Romans after all.

Hadrian and Antinous

Roman Emperor Hadrian and His Beloved, Antinous

Paul himself was a Roman citizen, and would surely have understood something of how his words would be interpreted. So let’s look at them: Continue reading

Catholic Responses to Sex and Greed (18th Sunday of O.T,)

Anybody paying attention to press reports of Catholic Bishops’ public pronouncements, could be forgiven for thinking that the most important parts of Catholic identity, and of the Gospel message, is an obsession with sex (especially of the same – sex type, including gay marriage). The reality is quite different.

Today’s lectionary readings put things into clear perspective. Take this verse from Paul, for instance (as presented in the missal translation for the church in England and Wales):

That is why you must kill everything that is in you that belongs to earthly life: fornication, impurity, guilty passion, evil desires, and especially greed, which is the same thing as worshiping false gods.

Colossians 3:5

Especially greed.

Sexual sin is certainly in there, but note that fornication does not refer to sex per se, but to the trivialization or commercialization of sex. Impurity and guilty passions, evil desires can all be interpreted as referring to sex – but only to inappropriate sex. Sex is not necessarily impure,guilty, or evil. In the right context, it can equally well be healthy, life – giving, and an experience of the divine. It all depends on the context, on the quality of the relationship, and on the attitude underlying the experience. It is hard, however, to imagine any circumstance in which simple greed is good, as we are reminded in the Gospel.

Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.

– Luke 12:15

For LGBT Christians of any denomination, it’s important to keep this in perspective. Although we are often told that homosexuality is “obviously”  contrary to scripture, this is simply not true. Christ himself had nothing at all to say in opposition to same – sex relationships, and little enough on any kind of sexual matters, but a great deal to say, as here, on the evils of greed ( Think of the rich man told to sell all his goods to follow him, or the aphorism that it easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than to enter the kingdom of heaven, or the instruction to consider the birds of the air, and the lilies of the field). In the entire Bible, there are only a handful of texts, of dubious relevance, that even appear to condemn same – sex relationships, but many, many more that strongly condemn greed.

Even the infamous story of Sodom, so often used to support claims of biblical opposition, and which gives its name to the legal offence of sodomy, has nothing at all to do with sex. Instead, the bible is clear elsewhere, on the nature of the sin of Sodom:

Ez 16: 49-50

Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom; pride, fullness of bread, and prosperous ease…..; 

“prosperous ease”  : again, too much obsession with material comfort, not sexual sin.

This does not let gay people off the hook. It’s an uncomfortable fact of gay reality, that for too many of us, once we find some personal peace with our orientation and come out as gay, we slip from one closet into another. Rejecting the perceived hostility of conventional religion, we may reject religion altogether. Rejecting the conventional norms of suburban family life, we may enter instead a ghetto, geographic or mental, of the urban gay stereotype – obsessed with the socially approved fashions, home decor, and gourmet foods – to say nothing of clubs, pubs and designer drugs.

Gay men in particular should take comfort in today’s readings, in the reminder that their sexual lives are not implicitly the great sinful evil that the popular imagination presents. But we must also guard against the very real danger of the sin of greed, and preoccupation with material comfort and pleasure, at the expense of more spiritual lives.

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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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Queer Love (1 John 3:16-18)

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ died for us. And we, too, ought to lay down our lives for our sisters and brothers. If you have more than enough material possessions and see your neighbors in need yet close your hearts to them, how can the love of God be living in you? My children, our love must not be simply words or mere talk – it must be true love, which shows itself in action and truth.

 1 John 3:16-18

“Lila” by Philip Shadblot
@ http://www.philipshadbolt.co.uk/gallery/272108_lila.html

Love in this passage is portrayed in very down to earth terms. As Christ died for us so we ought to give our lives for others. Got more than enough to live on? Then share with those in need. Unlike those who only drone on about the virtues and beauty of loving we must love through our deeds.

While not perfect, and far from being a cohesive entity, queer love mirrors what the writer of 1 John aims at. By virtue of being outcasts our “forbidden” love is a love of deeds. Queer love stands in the face of hatred. Queer love teaches in the presence of ignorance. Queer love leads in the journey to liberation.

If there is a special “role” for the christian queer in the contemporary church, or queers of other faiths, this may be it. Who better to rekindle the flame of active love in an aging and increasingly unfeeling institution? Who better to quicken the spirit of inclusivity? Who better to buttress the ramparts to the onslaught of injustice? Who better to name the sins committed against the fringe and the weak?

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

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Bashed: Queer Martyrdom (Philippians 1:12-14)

I’m glad to announce to you, sisters and brothers, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the Good News. Consequently it has become clear throughout the Praetorium and everywhere else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of our sisters and brothers in Christ have been encouraged to speak the word of God more fearlessly.
                It’s true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others do so with the right intention. These latter act out of love, aware that I am here in the defense of the Good News. The others, who proclaim Christ for selfish or jealous motives, don’t care if they make my chains heavier to bear.
                All that matters is that in any and every way, whether from specious or genuine motives, Christ is being proclaimed!
                   Philippians 1:12-1
Paul writes from jail. His crime? Being born a christian, or at least being born again a christian. Paul was jailed because he lived out of his center. Being true to his own self-identity Paul couldn’t help but feel and live as he did. Born again in Christ, it was not a choice but a compelling inner compass that led Paul into a life contrary to national laws and natural schemes (resurrections are not a part of the natural order of things). Paul paid the price – imprisonment and ultimately death.
Paul considered his jail time an honor as it resulted in the love of God being spread even more vigorously than before. It did not matter if people were speaking maliciously and malevolently. What mattered was that a way into the heart of the Sacred was being articulated and shared with those who were unaware.
We call Paul and others like him martyrs as they paid the ultimate price in giving their lives for their beliefs. Martyrs are esteemed by all expressions of faith for their blood cemented the various paths into the heart of the Sacred. As a person of faith I join the ranks of those giving homage to martyrs.
Continue reading at The Bible in Drag
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