Fishing for Souls: 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 7th February.

Isaiah 6:1-8

Psalm 137: 1-5, 7-8

1 Corinthians 15: 1-11

Luke 15: 1-11

What does “apostle” mean to you?  For many people, there is an assumption that it ahs something to do with being of the elect, one of “the twelve”, or the inner circle.  But the word itself has nothing to do with this- and Scripture itself is not at all clear that there were just twelve apostles:  where the word is used, it refers in different contexts to different groups.  At times it is indeed used to refer to the twelve- at other times it is used interchangeably with “disciples”, to refer to a wider body of followers (and at least one woman, Junia, is described as an apostle).
The word itself simply means one who is sent – derived from “apostello” – I  send.  Today’s readings from Isaiah and from Luke remind us that in this sense we are all apostles. Isaiah tells how, seeing himself as unworthy, as a wretch, he nevertheless heard the Lord asking “Whom shall I send?”, to which he answered (to his own surprise, I suspect), “Here I am, end me.” Simon, on the lake shore after the miracle of the fishing boats, is overwhelmed by his own unworthiness, and pleads with the Lord to be left alone in his sinfulness. But the Lord will have none of it, and assures him that henceforth, he will be a fisher of men.
Now, being chosen does not mean that Isaiah and Simon were mistaken in their earlier self-assessments.  They believed they were wretched sinners – and so they were, just as we all are.

When Jesus went recruiting his band of twelve, he did not go among the recognised holy men and religious leaders:  instead, they (the pharisees and scribes) were the ones who later came under frequent attack for their misplaced  religiosity and legalistic scruples. No, the ones who were chosen, for their very ordinariness, were definitely not the religious elite.  People like us, in fact.
Just like Isaiah and Simon Peter, we too are wretched sinners, not because we are gay but because we are human. As humans, we too are fallible, just like the others, and we too are called.  Paul, in telling the story of his own calling, reminds us that is is not by his own words and actions that he is doing God’s work, but the grace of God within him that is doing it.
As gay men and lesbians it is too easy to be misled by the arrogance of the self-righteous into believing that we are somehow more sinful than anybody else, and are on that account  “excluded from God’s people” in the offensive words of the CDF. But today’s readings remind us that in our sinfulness we are no different from the mass of humanity- and like them , are equally chosen. So, next time you hear in the depths of your heart, “Whom shall I send?” reply with Isaiah, “It is I, Lord.”

(For a more extended reflection on the Gospel from a gay perspective, see Gospel for Gays: Gayness at its Best: That’s Peter)

For a discussion of all of today’s reeadings, from a multi-denominational perspective, go to Out in Scripture. This week’s panel are

Michael Miller, Charles Allen and Helene Tallon Russell.

For a seasonal reflection for Ordinary Time from a trans perspective, go to  Out in Season)

Sunday Readings, 17th January: the Civil Partnership Celebration at Cana.

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On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”  And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?  My hour has not yet come.”  His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.  Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.”  And they filled them up to the brim.  He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.”  So they took it.  When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (although the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk.  But you have kept the good wine until now.”  Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. John 2, 1-11; Gospel for Sunday, January 17.

For a specifically gay reflection on the Gospel, Gospel for Gays” is exactly what it says:  a site with a particular focus on Gospel  reflections by Canadian Catholic blogger Jeremiah. For this week’s Gospel on the wedding at Cana, Jeremiah asks us to imagine the scene as a “gay” wedding. 

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This is not as far-fetched as it might at first appear. There is an intriguing little bit of history buried in the name of the village – “Cana”.  This is not the same as the “land of Canaan” we know from the Old Testament, but if it were, the idea of a miracle at the gay wedding feast would have been entirely feasible.. Canaan is one of several middle eastern lands where it is known that same sex marriages were recognized in law.  (Egypt and Mesopotamia were some other examples). We must also remember that for Jesus Himself, it is highly unlikely that a same sex marriage would have bothered him in the least.  We know for example, that he did not hesitate to heal the Roman centurion’s “pais“, or slave almost certainly used for sexual purposes, and probably with an emotional component added to the relationship;  among his closest friends were the household of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, who at the very least represented a most unusual household by the strictly gendered standards of the time,  but for whom the reported relationship of “sisters” may have been a euphemism for a lesbian relationship; He explicitly stated that “eunuchs” (the closest equivalent to the modern idea of “gay men”) were welcome in the Kingdom of heaven.  At this evening’s LGBT Mass in Soho, our celebrant, Fr Sean Middleton, introduced his homily with a (jocular) reference to the “civil partnership” at Cana.

Fr Middleton also raised some important points which struck a chord with me, in connection with the reading from Paul, and the recent observations of Pope Benedict on creation and homosexuality.  Recall that the reading from Paul to the Corinthians was the well-known passage on the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Listening to the words, I remembered how many psychotherapists and spiritual directors state clearly that sexuality is a gift, and that to is a gift that comes to different people in different forms – one of which is a homoerotic orientation. Elsewhere, Paul teaches that celibacy too is a gift, not given to all. Referring briefly to Benedict’s claim that “homosexuality” is a threat to creation, because if the whole world were gay, humankind would become extinct, Fr Middleton pointed out that exactly the same argument applied if the whole world were to embrace celibacy (and I’ve never read that Benedict has condemned celibacy as a “threat to creation”. )

Out in Scripture” is an interdenominational enterprise with a full set of readings, and reflections by a team of theologians and pastors, covering all the readings of the day from the “common lectionary”. For more on their methods, history and approach, see their home page.  Follow this link for today’s reflections. (For last week, which they confusingly label this week, go to this page)

Share your own reflections, on the readings or on the week, in the comments thread.

“The Civil Partnership Celebration at Cana”.

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”  And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?  My hour has not yet come.”  His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.  Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.”  And they filled them up to the brim.  He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.”  So they took it.  When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (although the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk.  But you have kept the good wine until now.”  Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. John 2, 1-11; Gospel for Sunday, January 17.
For a specifically gay reflection on the Gospel, Gospel for Gays” is exactly what it says:  a site with a particular focus on Gospel  reflections by Canadian Catholic blogger Jeremiah. For this week’s Gospel on the wedding at Cana, Jeremiah asks us to imagine the scene as a “gay” wedding.

This is not as far-fetched as it might at first appear. There is an intriguing little bit of history buried in the name of the village – “Cana”.  This is not the same as the “land of Canaan” we know from the Old Testament, but if it were, the idea of a miracle at the gay wedding feast would have been entirely feasible.. Canaan is one of several middle eastern lands where it is known that same sex marriages were recognized in law.  (Egypt and Mesopotamia were some other examples). We must also remember that for Jesus Himself, it is highly unlikely that a same sex marriage would have bothered him in the least.  We know for example, that he did not hesitate to heal the Roman centurion’s “pais“, or slave almost certainly used for sexual purposes, and probably with an emotional component added to the relationship;  among his closest friends were the household of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, who at the very least represented a most unusual household by the strictly gendered standards of the time,  but for whom the reported relationship of “sisters” may have been a euphemism for a lesbian relationship; He explicitly stated that “eunuchs” (the closest equivalent to the modern idea of “gay men”) were welcome in the Kingdom of heaven.  At this evening’s LGBT Mass in Soho, our celebrant, Fr Sean Middleton, introduced his homily with a (jocular) reference to the “civil partnership” at Cana.
Fr Middleton also raised some important points which struck a chord with me, in connection with the reading from Paul, and the recent observations of Pope Benedict on creation and homosexuality.  Recall that the reading from Paul to the Corinthians was the well-known passage on the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Listening to the words, I remembered how many psychotherapists and spiritual directors state clearly that sexuality is a gift, and that to is a gift that comes to different people in different forms – one of which is a homoerotic orientation. Elsewhere, Paul teaches that celibacy too is a gift, not given to all. Referring briefly to Benedict’s claim that “homosexuality” is a threat to creation, because if the whole world were gay, humankind would become extinct, Fr Middleton pointed out that exactly the same argument applied if the whole world were to embrace celibacy (and I’ve never read that Benedict has condemned celibacy as a “threat to creation”. )
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