This past weekend, hundreds of Catholics gathered for New Ways Ministry’s Symposium focusing on how justice and mercy can work together for LGBT Catholics in the age of Pope Francis. The event proceeded with an awareness about the injustices LGBT people currently endure in our world: persecutions in Chechnya, Uganda, and elsewhere; the firing of LGBT church workers; criminalization laws; gay men being rejected from the priesthood; exclusion from the sacraments at parishes; lack of access to quality healthcare; and many more.
Facing these realities can be difficult; it is easy to slip into hopelessness. But imagination can help keep hope alive in darkening times. Bonding 2.0’s Associate Editor, Robert Shine. explored this topic in Pax Christi USA’s latest newsletter.
Claiming this perplexing historical moment is a “decisive moment to choose Christ anew,” Shine wrote:
“But we cannot recommit to the Gospel and offer resistance that is sustainable unless we can imagine what is to come, glimpsing at the reign of God. Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley describes imagination as the ‘greatest instrument of the moral good,’ yet exercising this instrument can be difficult when we are overwhelmed or despairing. Is it possible to imagine a time beyond the present? If we close our eyes and open our beings, what do we glimpse of the horizon from which Christ beckons us?”
Shine observes that imagination helps to “root ourselves in dangerous memories” that remind us of those people who strove before us for liberation and to “propel ourselves into the future.” He continued:
“”We see a time acceptable to God when people on peripheries become centered: the poor know Good News, the captives live in freedom, the wounded are healed, the oppressed attain liberation. In this time, swords have become the plowshares used to break open creation’s richness so it is accessible to all. Every person is seated at the divine meal, known and accepted as their truest self. We experience absolute unity with one another and with God.”
But Shine also cautions that imaginations can be “hazardous instruments” that are difficult to control and challenging to implement in real life. We need to focus our visions and accept our limitations so that God’s work flourishes more abundantly:
“We need only to reach out, establishing and developing relationships without quantifying our efforts. We set foundations for encounter, yet let the mystery of knowing the Other do its work. We nurture communities to grow and tighten them, but accept that it is the community’s power over us by which we are enabled to go about ‘doing good and healing all those oppressed.’ We need only provide the basics, relying on grace’s provision for the rest. A humbler path towards our imagined vision is the only way we can sustain our work against today’s many intensifying dangers to the common good.”
This path of choosing Christ anew is what allows us to still hope, even if the horizon is barely visible. Shine concluded that:
“[W]itnessing to the Resurrection, we can emulate Mary Magdalene and the women of the Gospel, those first and most faithful disciples. Like them, we are not only remaining at the Crucifixions of our world today; we are running forth from death to proclaim life. We are imagining the Reign of God into being.”
For LGBT Catholics, their families, and allies, both political and ecclesial atmospheres can make it seem like the mercy so often preached about by Pope Francis will never kiss justice. A common good where all people are recognized as equal people with full dignity seems so far off. But if we imagine a church that is, to quote the pope, “home for all,” we can hopefully live that very church into being.
How do you keep hope alive? What do you imagine for LGBT justice in the church and in the world? Leave your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below.
To learn more about Pax Christi USA or access the full version of Shine’s article by becoming a member, click here.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, May 1, 2017