“The Beatitudes Have Become a Balm for My Queer Soul”

M. Hakes

Today’s reflection is by guest contributor M. Hakes (they/them), the Assistant Director of Campus Ministry and Director of the Youth Theology Institute at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota. Their work is focused on helping students delve into spirituality, engage in service and justice work, and participate in discernment of identity, values, and vocation.

Today’s liturgical readings for the 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time can be found here.

“I am a queer, trans nonbinary person.” How frightening those words seemed to me growing up in a conservative Christian family. It was a phrase that risked everything—my faith, my family, my future. It colored me as an outcast, as someone condemned and unredeemable. I tried desperately to make those words less true.

So many queer folx have similar stories. Ridicule, estrangement, and vitriol often came from the people around us. Family, friends, colleagues—people who call themselves Christians speaking from a misguided place of concern or judgment. Our Church and our scriptures were often used as swords instead of plowshares.

For a long time, I didn’t know what it is like to not feel broken; to know instead at a heart level that I am good, loved, and worthy. The Beatitudes seemed to me like unattainable goals, aspirations from which my queerness excluded me.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit…blessed are those who mourn…blessed are the meek…blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness…blessed are the merciful…blessed are the clean of heart…blessed are the peacemakers…blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness…blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you…”

The Beatitudes have now become a balm for my queer soul. In the words of Joseph Tetlow, SJ, they “charge my senseless sorrows with meaning and…make my pain pregnant with power.” Step by step on my journey of faith I have been called to a fuller surrender to God’s incomprehensible, transforming, life-giving love. God invites each of us to begin the work to no longer lose ourselves in our crucifixions, but to, through Her resurrecting power, find in our wounds sources of deepest grace.

Amir Rabiyah, a trans and two-spirit disabled queer femme poet, wrote these lines:

“…My beautiful people let us dream towards

what we want

beyond survival

Let us dream towards loving ourselves

till we become love over and over again

My beautiful people

I can taste our honeyed victory

My beautiful people…”

To other queer folx, I hope you hear in the Beatitudes an affirmation of your journey. You are beautiful and good and loved. I know that this world and our Church doesn’t always feel hospitable, and it often seems those with power to affect change are comfortable being complicit in oppression. While the world isn’t always safe, there are safe people and places, and I hope that you find them.

We are stronger together, as our liberation demands our solidarity. As Paul writes in today’s second reading, “…God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.” Keep shining your fabulous queer light and together let us “dream towards what we want beyond survival…dream towards loving ourselves…”

To those who want to journey with us toward liberation, know that queer folx are reminded daily that the choice to openly and outwardly live the truth of who God has created us to be carries substantial risk. Take time to consider what you actually know about the queer community and better educate yourself. Interrogate the systems of which you are a part. Use any power and privilege you might have for our collective liberation, always rooted in the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity. As the prophet Zephaniah reminds us today, we are to seek justice, seek humility. Remember, if you aren’t actively listening to and working in solidarity with queer folx for queer liberation, then you are likely complicit in our oppression.

St. Francis de Sales once said: “be who you are and be that well.” To which, a dear friend of mine, Sr. Mary Margaret McKenzie, VHM, of blessed memory, added these wise words: “But in order to be who you are, you must know who you are. And that takes hard work. But you start with Love.”

Our call as Christians is to minister to the frontiers, the peripheries, the margins of our society. We are called to stand and speak in solidarity with the most vulnerable, the rejected, the marginalized. To quote St. Francis de Sales again, the reason to live is “…to receive and carry the gentle Jesus: on our tongue by proclaiming Him; in our arms by doing good works; on our shoulders by supporting the yoke of dryness and sterility in both the interior and exterior senses…”.

Today, may we each more fully embrace the fabulous, unique people we have been created to be, may we each live a little more fully into who we are and who we are becoming, and may each we listen deeply to and learn from the stories and experiences of those around us.

M. Hakes, January 29, 2023

6 replies
  1. Paula Mattras
    Paula Mattras says:

    I pray that every person becomes the best version of themselves……God made us into a beautiful bouquet of colors, sizes, orientation…. Everyone belongs. Have a beautiful day.

  2. Jen Cabigas
    Jen Cabigas says:

    Thank you for this beautiful reflection! The reference to pain becoming a place of power reminds me of a translation of the Beatitudes by Elias Chacour: In the Aramaic language of Jesus, being “Blessed” might be more of a call to action. Being blessed is to stand up, rise up, get up and move. Let us all rise up and walk in loving solidarity with our LGBTQ family.

  3. Olivia Latiano
    Olivia Latiano says:

    I am a Sister of Notre Dame, a straight old lady, and I loved your beautifully written article. You obviously have a deep understanding of what you write. So I would like to ask you why “queer.” Maybe because I’m an old lady, in my experience that word is just so negative and divisive. I understand lesbian, gay, trans; they make sense to me. But I still can’t wrap my head around “queer.” It feels like an insult. Can you help me understand?

    • Carolyn
      Carolyn says:

      Dear Sister, as a mom of a trans daughter, I too grew up hearing this word in a negative context. My daughter explained that the word ‘queer’ has been taken back from it’s harmful origins and is now used by the LGBTQ+ community for empowerment.

  4. Jenny Naughton
    Jenny Naughton says:

    What a beautiful reflection! Thank you. “Remember, if you aren’t actively listening to and working in solidarity with queer folx for queer liberation, then you are likely complicit in our oppression.” This sentiment is so true. There are so many ways to support the queer community. I hope this post encourages people to seek ways to help!


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *