Today’s post is from Bondings 2.0 contributor Ariell Simon (she/her). Ariell is currently an adjunct instructor of Religious Studies, and has served as a healthcare chaplain in hospitals and nursing facilities. She entered the Catholic Church in 2011 as an undergraduate student at Loyola University Maryland, and later received a Masters of Divinity from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.
Today’s liturgical readings for the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time can be found here.
For LGBTQ folks, living into one’s God-given sexual and gender identity comes with sacrifices. It’s not popular to admit this idea. The media, affirming friends, and allies tell us that we shouldn’t have to give up anything to live into ourselves. Throughout Pride Month, we heard messages that queer families are just like other families, that love is love, and that we should not have to compromise anything to be ourselves.
As well-intentioned as those assurances might be, they somehow ring hollow to me. We don’t live in a perfect world. The Reign of God is not yet fully realized “on earth as it is in heaven,” so in this still-imperfect world, being ‘out’ always comes at a cost. For some, the price is strained or estranged relationships with family. For others, reputation, job and housing security can be in jeopardy. And still far too many LGBTQ individuals around the world pay the ultimate price of personal safety.
In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jesus speaks frankly about sacrifice: giving up father and mother, son and daughter, and even life to follow Him (Mt 10:37-42). He is realistic with his followers, warning them that the path of discipleship will come at a very high price. Jesus isn’t telling his apostles that love of family or of life is a bad thing, but he warns them that some things are more important than “family values.” Some things are worth the sacrifice.
When I read Jesus’ words, I feel his solidarity with the sacrifices made by LGBTQ people. Many of us have traded parental approval for romantic love. We have given up the hope of having our own biological children for the sake of building different kinds of families with our partners. And even for those of us who reject the message that we are risking eternal life, we bear the weight of others’ condemnation.
Catholics have long believed in the power of “uniting our sufferings to Christ.” I have to admit, the idea of “offering up” my suffering to God seems old-fashioned. It sounds like something an ancient saint might do with a more church-appropriate type of pain. But perhaps it’s time for LGBTQ Catholics to reclaim the unity of our sacrifices with Christ’s sacrifice.
Jesus gave up his life as an ultimate act of solidarity with the suffering of our world. If Jesus suffered in solidarity with us, could we join our suffering to His in our daily sacrifices as LGBTQ people of faith? By being in solidarity with the suffering Christ, could we find meaning in our own suffering? We ache because of the injustice of the world. So did Jesus. Let’s recognize our suffering as truly “dying with Christ.”
Today’s reading from the letter to the Romans spells out why making this connection matters: “If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him” (Rom 6:8). Claiming meaning in our sacrifices allows us to reclaim hope!
Too often we picture dying with Christ and rising with Christ as a linear process by which embracing the cross now allows us to rise with Christ one day in heaven. Queering our faith means blurring those lines to complexify the binary of sacrifice and salvation. The reality is that most of us experience both suffering and joy in this lifetime–often mixed up together. Our faith teaches us to sanctify both, experiencing the highs and lows of life in solidarity with Christ.
Today’s first reading, the story of the prophet Elisha and the Shunammite woman, gives us a hint of the type of reward Jesus is talking about when he promises that the person who offers kindness “surely will not lose [their] reward” (Mt 10:42). The woman offered Elisha a place to stay, and out of gratitude, he prophesied that she would have a child in the midst of a seemingly impossible situation.
The Shunammite woman was like so many queer people who have opened our homes and our hearts to strangers even though traditional family structures have failed us. Perhaps the very fact that she didn’t have children allowed this woman the extra room to host the prophet. Perhaps she suffered and mourned the absence of biological children, and in that grief chose to reach out to someone in need. She could never have imagined that God would reward her kindness with a miracle.
This Sunday’s scriptures remind us how God uses our simple actions – hospitality, a cup of water – to create new ties and new families that endure. Hope springs up in the unlikeliest of places when our sacrifices give way to new life.
May God open our eyes to the ways that the Spirit of Resurrection is ever at work, raising us up even in the midst of our suffering.
–Ariell Watson Simon (she/her), New Ways Ministry, July 2, 2023