Fear Not: Finding Courage to Share in the Synod

Mark Guevarra

Today’s post is from guest contributor 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. A video of this reflection is available below or by clicking here.

Today’s liturgical readings for The Baptism of the Lord can be found here.

Recently, five women with leadership roles in the Synod on Synodality, named the fear of not being listened to as a primary concern among women engaging in the synodal process. This fear rings true for many within the LGBTQ community. To the fear of being ignored, I would add fears of being marginalized and silenced, too.

LGBTQ people’s fears are legitimate, evident from the institutional church’s long history of oppressing people because of their sexual or gender identity.

And yet, today’s liturgical readings offer courage to those of us with such fear. They remind us that at our baptism we are set apart, we are dignified as children of God, and we are given all the graces we need to face our fears.

In the first reading from Isaiah, God sings the praise of Their servant, “whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; [my servant] shall bring forth justice to the nations.” The servant’s fear is displaced with God’s spirit. May we see ourselves as that servant – upheld, set apart, loved, inspirited, and justice seeking.

In the second reading, Peter brings good news to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius by saying, “I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears God and acts uprightly is acceptable.” Peter’s presence at the house of a Gentile would have been seen as transgressive but he explains his presence as a fulfillment of the saving work of Jesus to all people. Some in the LGBTQ community might see themselves as Gentiles – outsiders, a minority in the church, and considered unclean. However, Peter dignifies the Gentiles by courageously being present among them and proclaiming their equal dignity as children of God. May we be as courageous as Peter, proclaiming the impartiality of God’s love.

In the gospel, Luke applies Isaiah’s song to Jesus at his baptism: “You are my beloved [child]; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus is recognized as God’s child, not a servant. May we accept our divine childhood. In this scene, we can imagine Jesus initially fearing to step into his role and accept his dignity, but the Spirit was already poured out upon him dispelling his fears. May we courageously open our hearts to receive God’s Spirit, already bursting forth upon us.

As we discern if and how we are to participate in the synodal process, we would do well to be reminded of our baptismal dignity. The teaching of the dignity of all the baptized is one of the most important recoveries by the Second Vatican Council and a foundational principle in the synodal process. Each of us is a beloved child of God, empowered by the Spirit with all the graces we need to transgress the boundaries of fear and share our truth. Each of us is called to share our hearts to our siblings in Christ in whatever way we can, setting aside our fears.

And when we set aside our fears and participate, we sometimes see good come of it. The removal of New Ways Ministry from the synod office’s resources list was an example of exclusion happening. But to the surprise of many, the synod management restored New Ways Ministry on its list of resources, offered a full apology, and committed to listening to LGBTQ persons.

Fears of not being listened to are still real, but we cannot let them hold us back. We need not fear our right to share, since we are God’s beloved. We need not fear what we share, since the Holy Spirit is active in our lives. Recalling Christ’s baptism, let us always remember that our own baptismal dignity offers every Catholic voice an opportunity to speak, and it empowers us to blaze new paths in how our church is governed and how its mission is carried out.

To encourage participation in the Synod on Synodality by LGBTQ people and allies, New Ways Ministry is hosting a series of participatory educational programs this spring.

On January 23, 2022 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern U.S. Time, Dr. Brian Flanagan will give a webinar on the synod as a spiritual practice.

Later, in February, Dr. Robert Choiniere will lead a series of Spiritual Conversations, the results of which will be submitted to the Vatican.

For more information on these events and more synod resources, click here.

To view a video recording of Mark’s reflection, see below.

Mark Guevarra, January 9, 2022

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