In December, Bondings 2.0 invited readers to share the stories of their relationship with the Catholic Church by writing on the theme of “Why We Came, Why We Left, Why We Stayed.” We “borrowed” this topic from a feature that Commonweal magazine published recently. We felt it was important for LGBTQ people to share their own stories, so we made the invitation to our readers.
We asked contributors to keep their contributions under 500 words, and also asked how they would like to be identified in terms of name and gender/sexual identity, location. Anonymity was offered as an option.
We received many responses, and we will be posting a selection of them them over the next few months on Sundays (barring any important breaking news). Many thanks to all the contributors.
Name: Jacqui O.
Identified: From Tucson, Arizona
Why I Stay: Pushing Back Against Those Who Would Treat Us Like Dogs
I was in Tyre, Lebanon, when I learned that Jesus visited Tyre once.
I was familiar with the story, but I hadn’t paid attention to the location. A woman—maybe Canaanite, maybe Syro-Phoenician—comes to Jesus and asks him to heal her daughter. (Matthew 15: 21-28)
And he sends her away. He calls her a dog. He’s here for the children, the lost sheep of Israel.
I went to Maronite Mass in Tyre because it felt less threatening than Mass at home. I called it a cultural experience, an opportunity for language immersion. But when the priest read the Gospel—”Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters”—it felt like the wind had been knocked out of me.
I’ve read a lot of interpretations of the Canaanite woman’s story. Maybe Jesus was testing her? Maybe he was acting something out for the disciples’ benefit? This does not satisfy me. These answers do not justify the unspeakable cruelty of the exchange.
I do not know the answer to the question—but I do know that the story is a question. It is my question. The question I have carried since I was told that the Bread of Life could not enter this queer body of mine. “Lord, I am not worthy…,” but I must be particularly unworthy.
Why does the mercy of God fall so heavily on some while the rest of us crawl in the dust begging for that mercy—begging to be treated like dogs if not human beings? How do you find faith in a God whose disciples would send you away?
The woman doesn’t get answers, but she does receive mercy. She asks for crumbs and God gives her abundance.
I asked God for crumbs in that dusty Maronite church that smelled like a psalm, and he gave me bread. I haven’t stopped taking the Eucharist since, and I go to Mass in English now.
Maybe the Church is like Jesus in this moment, and there’s some deep, mysterious reason for why it tries to send me away. But I know my part. Like the woman in Tyre, I’m here to push back. I’m here to stay.
—Jacqui O., January 20, 2019