Jesus’ Invitation to Disarm Is a Call for LGBTQ Catholics and Church Leaders, Too

Ryan Di Corpo

Today’s post is from guest contributor Ryan Di Corpo, who is a graduate student at Northeastern University and a freelance journalist who has published work in America, Boston College Magazine, Peace Review, and The Washington Post. He works alongside Father James Martin, S.J., in his ministry to and for LGBTQ+ Catholics.

Today’s liturgical readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent can be found here.

During Lent, we are called to model the mercy of God.

Today’s gospel reading contains one of the most familiar and often difficult lessons in the New Testament: Jesus’ encounter with a woman accused by the Pharisees of adultery.

The Pharisees attempt to entrap Jesus with the challenge: “Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” asked the Pharisees. (Jn 8:5) Jesus instead poses a challenge to her accusers,“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Exemplifying the boundless mercy of our loving God, Christ refrains from publicly chastising the woman and instead criticizes those who seek to punish her. With this example, He prohibits us from focusing on the sins of others instead of addressing our own transgressions. He calls us to disarm ourselves by putting down our stones. This same lesson can be found in the Gospel of Matthew, which asks, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” (Mt 7:4)

In our contemporary world, we are quick to call out the inappropriate behavior of those around us or those in the media spotlight, but we are often hesitant to examine our own hearts to discover when we have failed to follow Christ’s message of radical compassion. Like anyone else, I am also guilty of throwing stones, eagerly naming the moral failures and shortfalls of others to distract from my own faults. May we be reminded of the famous words of Pope Francis when asked about the LGBTQ+ faithful: “Who am I to judge?”

It is a bitter truth and a great scandal that LGBTQ+ people have long endured stones thrown at them by church leaders and parish ministers. These stones are not cast in response to some grave injustice or blasphemous insult, but instead they are cast in the name of an intolerance and discrimination that refuses to recognize LGBTQ+ people as valued members of the church. In turn, many LGBTQ+ Catholics, through acts of stunning resilience, continue to remain in the church despite efforts to shame and bully them out of the pews, just like the Pharisees in today’s gospel were doing.

LGBTQ+ Catholics call church members to welcome others in community instead of resorting to self-righteous acts of judgment. True adherence to the Gospel should prohibit church leaders from persecuting LGBTQ+ people for who they are or for their very presence in the church. Even the Catechism explicitly rejects “unjust discrimination” and urges Catholics to encounter this diverse community with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” (CCC 2358).

In today’s gospel reading, Christ does not focus on accusations of adultery, but He instead emphasizes mercy and reconciliation. In St. Paul’s  Epistle to the Ephesians, he tells us that “God, being rich in mercy,” saves us from the ugliness of sin and death not through damnation but “because of the great love with which He loved us.” (Eph 2:4) This is an especially important message for the season of Lent, a season of new beginnings and fresh starts.

Lent provides an excellent opportunity for Catholics to model for others the abundant mercy of God and to work towards reconciliation with our family and friends. Sometimes, this reconciliation proves elusive, especially for some LGBTQ+ people whose families do not understand them and may not desire a relationship. In such cases, the church must affirm the inherent dignity and great humanity of all LGBTQ+ people and pray that those who reject them may one day know the spirit of reconciliation.

Today’s gospel passage, however, must not be misinterpreted as a command for Christians to remain silent when we witness wrongdoing. Conversely, we are called to persistently confront unjust conditions in our communities and to reject systems of sins that abuse, assault, or oppress the people of God. All Catholics should speak out against instances of hatred of discrimination, especially when these sins occur within the church. But to avoid the example of the Pharisees, we must be fully cognizant of our own failings as well, happy to fully partake in the fruitful relationship that God so desires with God’s people.

Ryan Di Corpo, April 3, 2022

1 reply
  1. John McDargh
    John McDargh says:

    Ryan – Thank you for this meditation. It felt especially timely because this past week at the Parish of St. Ignatius of Loyola parish on the Boston College campus there was a liturgy commemorating Transgender Day of Visibility cosponsored by the LGBT Spirituality Group and the Franciscan community at St. Anthony’s Shrine Arch Street. It was a moving experience for all of us of remembering that we are seen by Jesus with the eyes of love and not of judgement – no matter how many stones are held in how many hands. – JOHN

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