Today’s reflection is from Mark Guevarra. After being fired as Pastoral Associate for not revealing his relationship status, Mark has become an advocate for LGBTQ+ inclusion in the church. Mark is a PhD student at the Graduate Theological Union, in Berkeley, California, with an interest in synodality.
Today’s liturgical readings can be found here.
For Catholics who seek equality for LGBTQ people in the church, now is the time to redouble our efforts to speak our truth for the sake of justice. Beginning in October, the global Catholic Church will embark upon a synodal journey that has the potential for renewal that we haven’t seen since the Second Vatican Council. As the synod handbook describes, the entire church will enter into an intense period of prayerful “listening and dialogue” towards “personal and communal discernment” and “humble learning” to enable us to hear “how God is calling us to be Church in the third millennium.”
Who we, as a church, should listen to is clear in the handbook’s telling. Rather than being “tempted not to look beyond the visible confines of the Church” we are called to hear from “all the baptized” and “the widest possible audience” especially “those who feel excluded or marginalized,” “women, the handicapped, refugees, migrants, the elderly, people who live in poverty, Catholics who rarely or never practice their faith, as well as children and youth.” The list includes those who have been “sexually abused and abused by the power of clerics and consecrated persons.” What’s more, it calls Catholics to listen to their siblings in other Christian traditions and those in other faith traditions. While not explicitly named, LGBTQ people are clearly voices to which the church in its synodal journey should be listening.
The guidelines for the synod make it clear that the purpose of the Synod is “not to produce more documents; rather, it is to inspire people to dream about the Church we are called to be, to make people’s hopes flourish, to stimulate trust, to bind up wounds, to weave new and deeper relationships, to learn from one another, to build bridges, to enlighten minds, warm hearts, and restore strength to our hands for our common mission.”
The difficulty of this invitation to listen and to dream is captured well in the today’s liturgical readings. In the first reading, we hear of concerns from Joshua, Moses’ aide, that Eldad and Medad are teaching, even though they present with the seventy elders when the group received the spirit. Moses rebukes Joshua accusing him of jealousy and counters by saying, “Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!” Those of us speaking from and working in the margins know all too well the rejection by leaders in the church. Hopefully with the direction from the synod’s preparatory document and handbook, and through the synodal process itself, LGBTQ+ voices and others might finally be seen as of God and for the kin-dom.
The Gospel reading amplifies these ideas. The Apostle John dutifully reports to Jesus that the other apostles prevented someone for driving out demons in his name because he “does not follow us.” Like Moses, Jesus rebukes them: “Whoever is not against us is for us.” Instead, he shifts the condemnation from any person who does good, to those who would cause others to sin: “it would be better if a great millstone were put around their neck and thrown into the sea.”
Looking back through 2,000 years of Christian history we can think of times when our church has misread the situation and rather than trusting the Spirit, we place our trust in power and fear, fueled by jealousy and tribalism. And on an individual level, we are all guilty of the same thing. Consequently, our actions have led to grave sins like cultural genocide and deep division.
The synod handbook warns against misreading the times and “the temptation of wanting to lead ourselves instead of being led by God; rather, synodality is a spiritual process that is led by the Holy Spirit. We can be tempted to forget that we are pilgrims and servants on the path marked out for us by God. Our humble efforts of organization and coordination are at the service of God who guides us on our way.”
So many of us have been calling our church to reform, even if few listen or even if change rarely happens. So many of us have been and continue to minister to each other even if we’ve been rejected by church authorities. We do this because, empowered by the Holy Spirit, “The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart,” as the psalm for the day reminds us.
As we embark on the synodal journey, let us be renewed in our work as ministers raising the voices of those on the margins for the sake of dignity and justice, and the joy of the kin-dom of God.
For a video of Mark’s reflection, click here or view below.
New Ways Ministry will be holding a webinar, “From the Margins to the Center: LGBTQ Catholics and Synodality,” on Sunday, October 24, 2021 at 3:00 – 4:30 pm Eastern U.S. Time. This 75-minute webinar featuring Dr. Robert Choiniere will look at how all Catholics, especially LGBTQ people and allies, can help make sure that every voice is heard and recorded during the Synod on Synodality these next two years. For more information or to register, click here.
—Mark Guevarra, September 26, 2021