Today’s post is by Diane Rapozo, BVM, who is a 62-year member of the Sisters of Charity, BVM, Dubuque, Iowa. Diane has ministered as a primary school teacher, a parish religious education coordinator, and a pastoral minister with the elderly. Now retired, she volunteers for the Coalition Against Human Trafficking in the tri-state (Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois) area and the Coalition Against Gun Violence.
As a member of the LGBTQ community, Diane shares her own experiences as well as those of 22 other sisters in an anthology entitled, Love Tenderly: Sacred Stories of Lesbian and Queer Religious, published this month by New Ways Ministry.
Today’s liturgical readings can be found by clicking here.
“And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my Beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1: 11)
As I contemplated the words of Jesus’ Baptism proclaimed in today’s Gospel, three words resonated with me: voice, beloved, well-pleased. ”Voice” expresses the power of the spoken or written word. “Beloved” describes the permanent relationship between the Father and the Son. “Pleased” signifies something that gives pleasure.
What do these words tell us about the relationship between Jesus and his Father and the ministry that is ahead of him? In order to know who God is and what God expects of us, we look to Jesus. Jesus’ baptism is the beginning of his mirror image of a God we cannot see. As we follow Jesus throughout the Scriptures, we see a reflection of God’s total love and self-giving.
When I worked in a parish as a Religious Education Coordinator, I was responsible to accompany the parents preparing their children for the Sacrament of Baptism. During this preparation, we emphasized the importance of the relationship between parents, child and Church. After each child was baptized during a liturgy, the celebrant held the child and walked among the parishioners telling them to behold this beloved child created in the image of God. The child was gazed upon with a deep love.
What happens to these children as they grow in their faith community? During this time of growth, many discover their identity as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. In this awakening many also discover that the church they love did not return that same love and acceptance. The number of fired gays and lesbians from their place of ministry in the Catholic Church continues to grow. Many have received the love and support of their families, students, parishioners and co-workers. The pain of being fired remains with them.
As a lesbian religious sister I understand this rejection from the institutional Church. With the love and support of my religious community members, spiritual director, friends and a supportive network of lesbian sisters, I have been renewed in the truth that I am a beloved daughter of God created in my God’s image.
Because of this belief I have used my voice in the written word to communicate with bishops who have yet to capture the beauty of the LGBTQ+ community. I write to ask them to gather their diocese’s LGBTQ+ community together with the purpose of listening to their stories, leaving the teaching of the church and doctrine outside the meeting area. With genuine listening, true dialogue can begin. When we are embraced, we are taken into another’s space and opened up so transformation of the heart can take place—not just the head but the whole being.
I have an icon image of the Rainbow Christ (see at right). When I gaze upon this image what do I see? I see the Rainbow Christ who mirrors the image of God in all of us. I see the fragility of our life. I see eyes of love, compassion, inclusiveness and peace. I see Christ who depends upon us to be a revelation of God. The image puts a human face on God.
The Baptism of Jesus tells me God is a relational God, and we are called to be a relational people. We walk in newness in the love of God.
Here is what I pray each day for my LGBTQ+ community:
Rainbow Christ, you embody all the colors of the world. Inspire us to celebrate the diversity among us.
Red gives us life. Self-loving Christ, you are our Root.
Orange stirs our passion. Erotic Christ, you are our Fire.
Yellow awakens our courage. Out Christ, you are our Core.
Green moves us to love. Transgressive Christ, you are our Heart.
Blue frees us to speak. Liberator Christ, you are our Voice.
Violet clears our vision. Interconnected Christ, you are our Wisdom.
Rainbow Christ, you are the Light of the world. May the rainbow lead us to experience the whole spectrum of life. Amen.
—Diane Rapozo, BVM, January 10, 2021