Today’s scriptural reflection post is from Fr. Greg Greiten, a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Currently, he serves as the Pastor of St. Bernadette Parish, Milwaukee, and is the Administrator of Our Lady of Good Hope Parish, Milwaukee. Fr. Greg came out as gay to his parishioners in an Advent 2017 homily. You can read accounts of that experience here and here.
Today’s liturgical readings can be found by clicking here.
If you have ever had vertigo, then you understand the experience of your whole world spinning around when you move your head in a particular direction, as if you were on a merry-go-round, while praying that the spinning will stop. However, it doesn’t. Nausea churns in your stomach, your hands reach out to grab onto anything to stabilize yourself, and your entire body strives to regain some sense of balance.
For the past seven weeks, I have been suffering from episodes of vertigo, feeling like life is spinning out of control. This experience brings to mind another time when my life was out of balance: when I was coming out of the closet.
In the first of today’s liturgical readings, God asks Solomon, “If you could have anything you asked for, what would it be?” Rather than asking for riches, or long life or fame, Solomon asks for the gift of wisdom which would enable him to govern God’s people with care. Solomon had realized that he was young and inadequate for the task of governing the Davidic dynasty. Therefore, this new king prayed for a listening heart open to God’s Word and to God’s ways.
As a young man, I wished I had the insight of young king Solomon because in my youthful gay prayers I remember crying out to God, “Please God! No, God! Anything but this. God, do not let me be gay. Please, make this go away!” Having listened to the stories of others in the LGBTQ+ community, I know that some of you, too, had similar thoughts and prayers to God. “I will do whatever you want, just don’t make me this way.”
Coming out in a traditional, Catholic family was not easy. The day when I finally accepted the truth that I was indeed a gay man is the day that I was filled with so much self-hatred that I wanted to end my life. I was 24 years old. I wanted this to be over. But by the grace of God, something stirred deep within my heart telling me that I wanted to live.
Soon after my realization, I went to see a friend who was a professor at a local Catholic university. As I was sitting outside his office door waiting for my appointment, my heart was beating so fast inside my chest. Inside his office, I could hear a conversation between him and a student journalist discussing the situation of gay and lesbian faculty members on campus. That’s how and when I learned he was gay himself. At that point, I couldn’t wait to greet him and come out to another gay man who understood what I was going through at the time. I will never forget his supportive words to me, “While it may not feel like it right now, the day will come when you will be proud and happy to be gay.” At that particular moment in time, I couldn’t feel it inside and remember thinking to myself, “You must really be crazy!”
In those early days of coming out, I discovered a VHS videotape by gay Catholic author Brian McNaught entitled, On Coming Out. I listened to his message over and over. He spoke about the times when people would ask him, when did he “choose” to be gay. He humorously responded back, “I chose to be gay that day when I decided that it would be fun to be condemned by the Church and fired from my job and kicked out of the family and landlords would not rent to me. That’s when I decided to be gay. I thought it would be real fun.” Then, he concluded, “You do not choose it.”
As I was fighting with this truth in my life, I knew that I did not willingly choose this for myself. However, I was taking the initial steps to accept that this is who I am and this is who God created me to be. Stop hating! Start loving! I worked hard to remove the toxic shame and negative self-beliefs so that I could truly love myself and fully step out of the closet.
Today, at Mass, we hear the gospel speaks of God’s Reign as a treasure and as an expensive pearl. What is the treasure in life that, once found, is worth selling or trading all that you have? What is the pearl of great price for which you would sacrifice everything? What is it that makes this moment of life so precious? For me, the answer is clearly LOVE, the love of God poured out into my life. This is truly worth everything!
By peeling away the layers of shame and homophobia, I finally connected with the Spirit of God flowing through me which lifted me out of the darkness and despair. With the help of supportive friends, I discovered how deeply God loved me and cared for me, and now, in return , I need to live in that love and share it with others. With the love of God surrounding me, I no longer desired to hide myself from the world, but wanted to let my light shine forth.
As with the vertigo, there are times that life still remains challenging as issues are brought into our awareness that spin and swirl around us attempting to knock us off balance. In those moments, I have learned that I must turn to the divine love within which has the power to restore peace and calm in the midst of any storm. Like Solomon, I need God’s wisdom and a listening heart to guide me and lead me each day. I trust that God will illuminate the pathways in life where I need to invest my time and energy in serving the people of God.
Jesus uses parables in the gospel encouraging us to use our imaginations and see the endless possibilities. He invites us to look for God breaking into our lives in surprising, unexpected ways. As his followers, we are to remember always, “The kingdom of heaven is in your midst.”
–Fr. Gregory Greiten, July 26, 2020