Periodically in Lent, Bondings 2.0 will feature reflections by two New Ways Ministry staff members: Matthew Myers, Associate Director, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder. The liturgical readings for the Fourth Sunday of Lent are: 1 Samuel 16: 1, 6-7, 10-13; Psalm 23:1-6; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41.
God makes unlikely choices. If in doubt, these Lenten readings confirm it.
In the first reading, Samuel was sent by God to Bethlehem to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as king. God instructed Samuel to disregard what he would normally look for in a king – strength, lofty stature, and regal appearance. Instead, God looked into the heart of each of Jesse’s sons and told Samuel to anoint the youngest son, a shepherd named David. Samuel, Jesse, and David were probably shocked by this improbable selection – but this choice illustrated God’s ability to work through an unlikely person.
In the Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul uses the light/dark imagery to emphasize that we are adopted sons and daughters of God. In our own ways, each of us is an incredibly poor choice by God to “produce every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.” We are far too talented at producing not-so-good fruits on our own, yet God nonetheless adopts through baptism and slowly molds us into children of light capable of remarkable goodness. God chooses us – unlikely choices all – to build the reign of justice and love in our own ways.
The Gospel parable of the blind man is often interpreted as a comparison between physical sight and spiritual awareness. As the blind man regained his physical sight, he came to know and worship Jesus as the Messiah. There is nothing wrong with this interpretation, but perhaps we can change one word in the Gospel to reveal a new meaning for us:
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born gay?”
Many LGBT people and their parents have asked similar questions. LGBT folks ask themselves, “Why did God make me this way? Did I do something wrong or not try hard enough?” Parents often ask, “What did I do wrong in raising my child? Is it my fault?”
However, Jesus gives an incredibly affirming reply to all these questions: “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” Jesus responds that some people are created a bit differently on purpose so that God’s love can be made manifest through them in an equally unique way. God gives LGBT people, an often marginalized and maligned group, the opportunity to teach the rest of humankind about self-acceptance, just relationships, and the unimaginable power and durability of love. God makes unlikely choices.
An interesting side-note: the Pharisees in the parable turned the man’s blindness into a theological problem. The Pharisees wonder who was responsible for God’s punishment upon the blind man. But they never ask how God’s love might be revealed through the blind man – how his difference can enrich the community and how his presence might be an experience of God to others. Perhaps this is a problem among some Catholic leaders – they have turned sexual orientation and gender identity into theological problems that must be solved. However, Jesus invites us to understand LGBT identities as gifts to be accepted and appreciated within our church.
I recently heard a new song entitled, “With Every Act of Love” by Jason Gray, which fits so well with today’s scriptural message. Gray sings, “God put a million, million doors in the world for his love to walk through, and one of those doors is you.” God makes many unlikely choices – you and me among them. May we rejoice in the opportunity to be doors for God’s love in our world today.
–Matthew Myers, New Ways Ministry