During Lent, we are called to pay closer attention to gifts of love, mercy, and forgiveness which God offers us all -year round. Catholic LGBTQ people and Allies have experienced that love and mercy in so many unique ways, through so many powerful experiences. Bondings 2.0 asked our readers to write short reflections on selected Lenten themes for today and for each of the six Sundays in Lent. The themes were chosen from New Ways Ministry online resource: “Journeys: LGBTQ Scripture Reflection Series.”
Below are readers’ reflections for the First Sunday of Lent. You can read the day’s Scripture passage and reflection questions by clicking here. If you would like to consider submitting a reflection for an upcoming Sunday, please consult the guidelines, schedule, and submission form by clicking here.
Thanks to all who submitted reflections!
Submitted by: Linda Marucci Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Recently, I had to put my cat to sleep. She was my companion for twenty years. I am grieving her loss and my now indisputable living alone situation.
Yesterday, I saw the movie Portrait of a Lady on Fire. I felt uplifted and affirmed by the film’s beautiful images of two women falling in love. I can never deny the lesbian part of myself. It connects me to my God as surely as any other aspect of my true self and my real life–just as surely as Catholic practices and devotions do.
One of Satan’s temptations for me is to go quietly back in the closet where I could find normalcy and acceptability within the church and society. Satan can wear the face of conformity, compliance, and keeping quiet. At this stage of my life, I hope to resist those temptations.
I pray that Jesus’ holding fast to his true purpose will strengthen me in being true to myself even at the cost of losing face or a comfortable role in the church.
Submitted by: Anonymous Location: France
Times of testing often come with the shame that always brings along a kind of self-hatred. The problem is not about falling into the trap of temptation, which often does happen, but the fact that the very desire or urge that is at the root of temptation must remain unspoken. The apple Eve took was fulfilling a very natural desire of hers, but what about when your desire is deemed “unnatural”? It is silenced, and if it finds no space for expression. It remains unaddressed. Being a priest makes it all the more unspeakable, and unaddressable. And yet, the Lord keeps sending me LGBT people for counseling and confession, despite the fact that I do not advertise anything about my sharing in their community. Unbeknownst to them, they are a source of comfort and strength for me.
I long for the day when their strength, our strength, can become a matter of serious discussion within the Church. We are not failures. We are not an issue or a problem to address. We are children of God fully living the royal priesthood of Christ as prophets in the world and in the Church.
Times of testing are humbling, especially when it comes to being gay, a dimension of my personality that I tend to hide. Yet, as a religious living a calling to be a brother to everyone, I feel God is giving me LGBT folk as brothers and sisters so that I can live in a specific manner. Being LGBT is an integral part of our human nature, wholly redeemed by Christ, and I don’t want that to be left out of my life, nor of the life of the Church and of her ministry to all women and men.
Submitted by: Adolph Dwenger Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
When I arrive at the nursing home I often whisper to myself, “Listen.” When I listen well “my Rick’s” level of confusion and frustration doesn’t escalates.
Rick wanted to host a party for another resident celebrating a birthday. He described the cake he envisioned: shaped like a gift box, bright pink icing with white polka-dots and a green neon bow. A gift tag on top would have “Sindee’s” name.
Two days later Rick asked me if I spelled “Sindee” as he had described. I told him that the tag would read “Cindy,” He became quite upset spelling “SINDEE” over and over again. He ended with “Adolph, you always have to be right!”
After 22 years together my Rick knows my temptations. I like to be right. Even when I am wrong, I like to think that I am right.
To calm Rick down I called the bakery in his presence and corrected the name to “Sindee.” I didn’t sleep well knowing that in 24 hours I was picking up a cake with “Sindee” on it. I did not know how to make it right.
Rick loved the cake and Cindy quickly pulled the confectionery tag off. “That’s my name,” she said and ate the tag. There are no photos of the “Sindee” tag.
I thought, “How could something so wrong go so right?” I am still working on the temptation to always be right.
Submitted by: Michaelangelo Allocca Location: Brooklyn, New York
Luke’s gospel account of Jesus’ temptation includes one of my favorite punchlines, although it was probably unintentional. After saying Jesus ate nothing for 40 days, Luke helpfully adds: “And he was hungry.” Who knew?
Jesus’s desert experience helps me resist the temptation to lose my sense of humor. On Ash Wednesday I was reminded that anger and impatience come from an exaggerated sense of self-importance: when something or someone makes me angry, behind it is usually “Don’t they know who I think I am?”
The antidote to these times is remembering to laugh at myself. (Self-deprecating humor can be overdone, though; for the best homily on this, see comedian Hannah Gadsby’s “Nanette” on Netflix.
A friend who’s in AA said, “If you’re not laughing, you’re not taking your sobriety seriously,” and that applies well beyond recovery from addiction. I have to remain healthy, if I want to help build God’s kingdom; when driven by the Spirit into deserts where the Enemy plays his con game, I must remember that serious does not mean self-important or solemn, and that when I laugh, I help others live the joy of the Gospel.
The challenge of working with LGBT youth is seeing first-hand their struggles in a world, and too often a Church, that treats them in far from Christ-like fashion. The gift is that queer-and-ally teenagers have NO shortage of shade, and no hesitation about throwing it, always making it easier to find the laugh that helps us overcome anger and despair.
Submitted by: Michael O’Loughlin Location: America Media, New York, New York
As a journalist covering the Catholic Church, it can be tempting to give into despair, especially in recent years when challenges facing LGBT Catholics seem to dominate the headlines. But these challenges aren’t new and neither is the temptation toward despair.
For the past several months, I’ve been working on a project about a particularly challenging time in our history, the height of the HIV and AIDS epidemic and the church’s role in responding to it. I’ve spent hours listening to LGBT Catholics and their allies who lived, worked and grieved through the height of the HIV and AIDS crisis. These interviews are the basis of a new podcast “Plague: Untold Stories of AIDS and the Catholic Church.” Because that’s where my mind has been, a few words from this week’s scripture–words that very much point to the temptation toward despair: Judgement. Condemnation. Death. Nearly everyone I interviewed told stories that included judgement, condemnation, and death.
The temptation to despair in the face of so much judgement, condemnation, and death is easily understandable. I sat in awe as some of the people I interviewed broke down in tears, their pain raw still decades later. But another word from today’s scripture was prevalent in many of these interviews: Grace.
So this Lent, perhaps while recalling our challenging stories, we can nonetheless resist the temptation to despair and instead reflect on the moments of grace within them.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, March 1, 2020