Palm Sunday, Pride Parades, and Pandemics

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  Palm Sunday You can read the day’s Scripture passage and reflection questions by clicking here    Thanks to all who contributed this Lenten season!

Submitted by:  Allison Connelly           Location:  New York, New York

I cannot emphasize this enough: it feels hard to connect to Palm Sunday this year. After all, Jesus rode into Jerusalem with fanfare! People laid down their cloaks for him to ride over and waved branches as he passed, singing “Hosanna in the highest!” But honestly, with the chaos of COVID-19 I don’t need any more fanfare right now, and as for laying down my cloak, well, I feel like I’ve laid down plenty, thanks, and with social distancing and the toilet paper crisis I don’t have much more to give.

I look to my queer ancestors for wisdom. I wonder about Pride parades during the height of the AIDS epidemic, especially in New York or San Francisco, where gay people were attending funerals for friends at least once a week. How did they celebrate in a time of global, communal, and personal tragedy? And, more urgently, how do we?

When journalist Nancy Kornblum recounts her experience with Pride celebrations in San Francisco in the 1980s, she explains that she didn’t go to party, she went because she needed it. That same need is why I will celebrate Palm Sunday, with a Zoom Mass in my living room and no palms in sight. I will celebrate because I need something to ground me in the chaos, something familiar to keep me in a liturgical rhythm, and something to tell me there is hope for future Palm Sundays when we will gather in-person and sing together, “Hosanna in the highest!”

Submitted by:  Michael Sennett               Location:  Boston, Massachusetts

“Rising Cairn” by Celeste Roberge

Artist Celeste Roberge accurately portrays the physical feeling of grief in her sculpture, “Rising Cairn.” The 4,000 pounds of stones placed inside of a crouched human frame provide an empathetic visual for the weight of despair.

Navigating faith as a Catholic trans man, I’ve encountered grief. My knees have buckled under the weight of hatred, rejection, and expectations– my stones. These burdens led to a failed suicide attempt at 16; I’d hit rock bottom. But God heard my cries. I found healing in the very faith that broke me. Through my loving family, supportive friends, and inspiring role models, I’ve experienced the grace of deliverance.

Mirroring Roberge’s sculpture, I am not subdued by the weight of my grief, but I rise through the pain in my hope. Jesus directs me to remove my own stones, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As I rise, I stand. As I stand, I emerge from the darkness to celebrate the Glory of God, in a Church where I belong.

Submitted by:  Keith Henry                   Location:  San Francisco, California

“Away with him! We want Barabbas!” Of course we want Barabbas. He, not Jesus, was the one “stirring up the people” and “subverting the nation.” As a gay Catholic who wants change, the cry appeals to me. On the other hand, it’s easy to dismiss the quiet Jesus of today’s gospel. I prefer my insurrectionists a little riper.

Barabbas understands the bullying and intersecting circles of oppression by Rome and by the Temple Priests. Jesus doesn’t seem to think Roman power is important. He provokes the priests but insists that not a jot or tittle of Mosaic Law will change. “Away with him! We want Barabbas!”

I would follow Barabbas on social media! I could retweet icy insults at Pontius Pilate and all the other risible Pontiffs! My conversation starter– admire my courage – is a bold call to CHANGE ROMAN INSTITUTIONS in angry CAPS! Barabbas’ rioting could move the GZSE Community (Galileans, Zealots, Samaritans, and Essenes) to bigger platforms! Jesus set up a MySpace page three years ago and hasn’t updated it since. “Away with him! We want Barabbas!”

I listen for courageous calls to change minds and structures. I want a place for my righteous anger in response to evil. Jesus’ quiet here makes me uncomfortable. Jesus encounters noisy disagreeable people. He listens with compassion, even from the Cross. He doesn’t change the Law, he fulfills it. “Father, forgive them.” He offers himself as victim for his beloved.

LGBTQ fidelity at the foot of this Cross is our witness today. The crowd will eventually notice our quiet application of Church teaching: compassion, dignity, respect. They see our virtue grow in families, between loving partners. Through it all Jesus stirs people up, subverts our hearts. Hearts that burn and bleed, like his, for the beloved. Hearts that turn outward in service, in imitation of his.

They are wrong, those who would say we don’t belong here. “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Submitted by:  Cristina Traina                  Location:  Skokie, Illinois

“Jesus gave him no answer.”  For Herod, for Pilate, and especially for the crowd, “Do you claim to be the Messiah?” is not a question.  It’s a can’t-win accusation of treason against the Roman government that cuts off conversation.  The complex truth—“yes and no, not the way you mean it, let me explain!”—is a useless defense against a crowd bent on blood and precariously posed officials who would rather avoid a riot than risk protecting the innocent.

This moment in the passion distills a sinful human dynamic all too familiar to LGBTQ people, and especially poignant for LGBTQ Catholics. In our context “Do you identify as gay/lesbian/bi/trans queer?” too often means “Do you abuse children? Do you exploit people sexually? Do you reject God, Church, and marriage? Do you try to convert people to your identity? Do you reject your God-given role in life?” The honest answer–“I am gay/lesbian/bi/trans/queer, but not the way you think!” will not get a hearing.

Fear drove Herod and Pilate.  If they did not maintain some control over these unruly and incomprehensible Palestinians, they’d be fired.  Fear drove the crowd. If any among them claimed to be a rival to Herod or Pilate, and gathered a following, the Romans would come crashing violently down on them.  Far better to execute anyone who could plausibly be accused of treason.  When fear gets the better of people, they’re willing to sacrifice the innocent.

LGBTQ Catholics know this too well.  Fear drives the clergy.  What will become of people’s faith in Church teaching if the Church suddenly reversed course and said, “We were wrong all along, actually there are many ways to embody sexuality and gender faithfully!”? Fear drives many ordinary Catholics too:  will they go to hell?  Will their children?  Will they or their children be rejected? And can they get used to this weird and unfamiliar way of being?

Is there a way out of this horror?  Luke drops many hints.  Pilate could have had the courage of his own authority and refused.  He could have sent a message when he delivered Jesus to Herod, asking Herod to refuse.  Herod could have believed in his own authority. And if “all those who know Jesus” had been braver and more numerous, they could have shouted down Barabbas’s fans—or better still, insisted that Pilate release two prisoners.

We see glimmers of hope and courage, too.  The community gathered around New Ways, including the friendly parishes on our list; the words of James Martin, S.J. and Father James Allison; and Pope Francis’s affirmations of both men; Catholic schools that put welcome rather than judge. Although there have been objections, the fact that no worldwide riot has resulted can encourage slightly less brave people to speak up.

God, empower us to courageous love.  And forgive us for the terrible things we do when we chose fear over loving power.

Submitted by:  Michaelangelo Allocca                 Location:  Brooklyn, New York

The Passion Gospel resonates for me most personally through two people in the story which map perfectly onto opposite ends of my “career” as an LGBT Catholic: Peter at the moment of his denial, and Simon of Cyrene.

Once upon a time, as a still-closeted teenager, not even out to myself, let alone anybody else, I went to an all-boys’ Catholic high school. On the broader spectrum, the school was reasonably enlightened and accepting, but still miles away from the sort of place where a frightened boy like me could easily be open about his identity. We knew there were gay students and teachers among us, but this knowledge came in the form of whispers and snickers and rumors. This is where I identify with Peter: the easiest way (or so I believed) to deflect suspicion was to be the first to tell jokes making fun of gay men. Because I feared that someone, anyone, might say, “This one too is one of them, a Galilean,” I learned that telling jokes was  good way to say, “No, I don’t know him!”

So, I am vastly grateful that I am now able to be a Simon of Cyrene, as well. Recently, I was a teacher at that same school, and I moderated the gay-straight alliance whose very existence was unimaginable in my student days. Beyond just being an adult willing to offer guidance and support, sharing my whole truth both past and present, as a sign of hope for the future, gives me me a real way to help others carry their crosses.

Submitted by:  Mark Guevarra                   Location:  Berkeley, California

Life experiences shape the way we read the Bible. On December 6, 2017, I was summoned by an Archdiocesan official who placed a file folder one-inch thick in front of me. I was told that it contained growing evidence proving that I am gay and in a relationship. I was not allowed to open the file or read its contents. The official asked me to confirm or deny the evidence. I refused to answer the question because I was convinced it was unjust. The investigation went on to focus on a new ministry to LGBTQ+ Catholics that I helped form and which I did not seek permission to start. I was asked to explain my reasons for starting the group and my underlying “agenda.” I said that as a Pastoral Associate I heard the cries of my queer siblings and felt the call to minister to and with them. I am baptized and a trained catechist, and I have a vocation to echo the Good News, even to them. Two months later I was fired. The following week, the most meaningful Lent I had ever experienced in my 37 years as a cradle Catholic began. I recall praying the Way of the Cross and staying at the first station while others went on. For the first time in my life, this station was made real to me. Eventually, by the grace of God, I made it to the Resurrection and continue to do so day after day.


Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, April 5, 2020

2 replies
  1. Michaelangelo Allocca
    Michaelangelo Allocca says:

    Keith Henry, on behalf of all “Life of Brian” lovers, my deep thanks for “risible” and “GZSE.”


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