For the four Sundays of Advent, Bondings 2.0 will feature reflections on the day’s Scripture readings by two New Ways Ministry staff members: Matthew Myers, Associate Director, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder. The liturgical readings for the first Sunday of Advent are Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122: 1-9; Romans 13: 11-14; Matthew 24: 37-44. You can read the texts by clicking here.
A heavenly-muse-turned-stripper named Serendipity made these observations in Dogma, a 1990s satirical film about two renegade angels banished for eternity to Wisconsin. Her point was that many Christians understand their relationship with God in terms of rules, judgment, and punishment, which produces a rather grim spiritual life and an outward emotional disposition to match. Fewer Christians appear to understand their relationship with God as a source of love, acceptance, and freedom, which can cultivate an exterior joy that is difficult to miss.
Pope Francis echoed the sentiments of this stripping celestial being earlier this year when he lamented sour-faced Christians whose hearts have “grow[n] old and wrinkled” and inhospitable to others. If we are grim and pessimistic Christians, what does that say about the God we proclaim? How will others come to experience and trust in God’s love if we are miserable? Unfortunately, gloominess is a terminal illness for our spiritual life.
Our cure is in the readings for the first Sunday of Advent, which remind us of God’s ever-increasing nearness. The psalmist calls us to “go rejoicing to the house of the Lord” to celebrate God’s presence among us – indeed, we will soon celebrate the Incarnation of God-with-us during Christmas. We must “stay awake” for God “is nearer now than when we first believed.” How can we be gloomy Christians if we truly believe that God has become one of us and continues to be with us now?
As LGBT Catholics and allies, we have many reasons for gloominess. Numerous LGBT church workers have been fired from Catholic institutions for their sexual orientation, gender identity, and beliefs about marriage equality. Our bishops take every opportunity to oppose state and federal legislation that ensures employment non-discrimination and marriage equality for LGBT people. If the story stopped here, then we would have good reason to be gloomy Christians.
However, our story continues with many reasons to rejoice. Pope Francis has made several positive remarks about LGBT people. More and more LGBT Catholics (including priests and nuns!) are leading lives of fullness and integrity by coming out to their families, friends, and faith communities. More parishes than ever are welcoming LGBT people and their families as active members of the community. As we build a more inclusive and loving Church, God is able to draw nearer and nearer to us. Indeed, we are incarnating God for one another! What an awesome reason for rejoicing!
Perhaps Dorothy Day is helpful to us: “The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution that has to start with each one of us?” Our work to create a more welcoming Church is difficult, but as LGBT Catholics and allies, our task is to be joyful people. Others may disagree with us about LGBT issues, but they will see our love and joy — and see God in us. If we are joyful witnesses, not gloomy and sour, then others will recognize the beauty and love that LGBT people bring to our Church – and we will transform it!
Let us resolve this Advent season to be joyful Christians. If we focus on reasons to rejoice and celebrate our faith, not mourn it, then we will transform ourselves and touch the hearts of others.
–Matthew Myers, New Ways Ministry