Today’s post is from Allison Connelly. Allison is a graduate student at Union Theological Seminary studying liberatory approaches to disability theology. She identifies as queer, disabled, Catholic, and United Church of Christ, and is a co-author of Dear Joan Chittister: Conversations with Women in the Church. To read Allison’s previous writings for Bondings 2.0, click here.
To read the scriptures for today, please click here.
Once a month for the past fourteen months, my fiancée and I have sat at our kitchen table to plan our wedding. We talked about the hymns we want at our liturgy, we chose our Eucharistic ministers, and (after much debate) we settled on donuts over cake for our reception dessert. But, like the king in today’s Gospel, we’ve run into problems with our guest list. We knew that getting married in the deeply red state of South Dakota, especially when we were determined to have a Catholic liturgy, would be complicated. That is why, despite vastly different contexts, I see myself in today’s parable when it comes to my gay, Catholic wedding during COVID-19.
When the king in today’s Gospel story (Matthew 22:1-10) issued invitations for his son’s wedding, the people who were invited refused to attend. The king persisted, and sent more invitations, but with the same result: the invitees sent rejections, and this second time they went so far as to inflict violence upon the messengers. I connect with the king and son in the parable because just like in the Gospel, so many of the people with whom I would love to celebrate my wedding would refuse to attend. Even those who would accept the invitation could cause violence—not in the form of physical violence, like in the Gospel, but in the more insidious form of Catholic-based homophobia.
The rejection that I experience as a gay Catholic is similar to the rejection described in today’s Gospel. When I announced my engagement via group text to six of my closest friends from college, three of them (all Catholics) responded with silence. When confronted about their notable lack of response, the three replied, “Since we cannot support your wedding (because you are marrying a woman), we cannot congratulate you and thought that silence was the nicest response we could give.”
A few months later, I informed my parents that I would not be inviting guests to the wedding whose political and religious views did not support my liberation. My family and I have friends and relatives who take a “love the sinner, hate the sin” approach to queer love, and even though they are kind to my partner and me, I have no desire for them to bring their deeply-rooted homophobia to my sacramental celebration. I will not be inviting these “friends” and family to my wedding.
The Bible doesn’t tell us, but I like to imagine that the son in the parable was gay, like me, or that he experienced some other form of systemic oppression in which the desired guests were complicit. The king responds, like I did, by turning to a less conventional but more supportive community. In his case, the king issued new invitations to anybody his messengers found on the street—“the bad and good alike”. My partner and I chose to send our invitations to an alternative community, too: the radical Catholics, welcoming family, and closest friends who surround our queer relationship with love, care, and celebration.
This alternative community, like “the good and bad alike” invitees, reminds me of the picture painted for us in today’s reading from Isaiah. We are told of a feast “for all peoples,” with free-flowing food and drink, when God will “destroy the veil that veils all peoples” and wipe away all tears. When I hear about this feast, I imagine God destroying the veils of homophobia, white supremacy, misogyny, and oppression which keep us from truly rejoicing together. I imagine God wiping away my tears, the tears I have cried with every rejected invitation to celebrate my queer love.
God does not only invite oppressed people to this table—our straight allies must be there, too! To use Paul’s words from the second reading, as a gay Catholic I have experienced both “abundant” welcome and the “deep need” for inclusion, and it is a blessing when allies share in my distress and work to create the feast of liberation that God promises for all of us.
Next August, at my gay, Catholic, COVID-safe wedding, the hall will not be filled with guests. It will be mostly empty as we have had to pare down the guest list even further for safety. Our few chosen beloveds will be scattered six feet apart, with masks on, throughout the sanctuary of a Protestant church in Sioux Falls. But it will be filled with joy, with celebration, and with feasting. The only tears we will wipe away will be tears of laughter, happiness, and love. I wish you and those you love similar moments of rejoicing, even under the veils of sorrow and rejection, even as we share in one another’s distress, until a time when such distress is no more.
—Allison Connelly, October 11, 2020