Today’s liturgical readings for the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time can be found here.
“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27)
Today’s reading can sometimes be triggering to LGBTQ Catholics, yet understood properly, it is extremely rich for us in understanding what the cross we carry truly is.
For so long, well-meaning Catholics have told us that, for LGBTQ Catholics, “carrying our cross” entails staying single for a lifetime or conforming to traditional notions of gender, even if we have have discerned that neither is our vocation. People encourage us to hide who we are or seek to pray away essential elements of the way God made us. Many of us have gone through a journey where, at one point or another, we believed this version of “carrying our cross” is what was required of us. But then we find ourselves being embraced by God who tells us: I made you exactly the way you are because I love you.
If we know this version of “carrying our cross” is false, how do we understand today’s readings as LGBTQ Catholics? Perhaps the following insights can give a new perspective.
First, Jesus’ ministry and teachings do not endorse pain as a way of spiritual purification. LGBTQ people may experience the pain of family rejection, homo/transphobia, violence, and discrimination, and sometimes those who minister with them experience the same situations. Jesus is clear that it is our responsibility to accompany vulnerable communities nonetheless. We minister so that future generations may experience a renewed, more loving, more inclusive, more Christ-like Church. We minister to bring healing to family relationships, so that Catholics don’t feel they have to disown their children, family members, or friends who are LGBTQ. And when we focus on the ultimate goal, the Resurrection, we can know this suffering will not continue forever.
Second, we should interrogate any gospel where Jesus’ words do not seem centered in love. Often, difficult passages can be the result of variations in translation. The New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE) is the version of the Bible promoted by the U.S. bishops. In this translation, today’s reading says “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26) Is Jesus really asking us to hate our life and our parents? Not at all. Reading this text in different languages helps us gain a better insight into the meaning of the original text. For instance, a Spanish version of this text is translated not as “hate” but as “preference.” A better understanding of this passage is that if we don’t prefer our ministry of love over any obstacles imposed, including by our loved ones or even by ourselves, then we cannot be disciples.
Finally, Jesus’ ministry is a ministry where love is at the center. Love is what should motivate Church members to listen to and accompany each other, to encounter and befriend each other, to address the needs of our communities, to be one Church as the one Body of Christ despite our differences. We must always read the Gospels through this lens of Jesus’ love.
What is Jesus really saying to LGBTQ Catholics and allies when he speaks of carrying our cross? Often in LGBTQ ministry, we must overcome our fears, our doubts, even our shortcomings. We must let go of our need for approval and, sometimes, even our need to be loved and celebrated in ministry. We must focus more on bringing love to the world, even if the world does not yet fully understand our ministry.
Discipleship involves an unwavering commitment to love, even when things get hard. This unwavering commitment to love is the litmus test of the disciple—and it is this commitment, not our identities, which is the true cross we carry.
—Yunuen Trujillo (she/her), September 4, 2022