Today’s post is from Leslye Colvin. Leslye is the Digital Communications and Programs Coordinator for New Ways Ministry. She is a writer, spiritual companion, and contemplative activist. Her bio and previous writings for Bondings 2.0 are available here.
Today’s liturgical readings for the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time can be found here.
The Synod of Synodality invites us to new ways of listening to one another. Many of us were able to participate in the process through our local or electronic faith communities that shared our thoughts with the Vatican. Watching the meetings unfold in Rome last month, questions arose about what was being shared. While the summary may have answered some of our questions, it has given rise to many others and, in particular, questions about the Church fully embracing each of us, including her children who are LGBTQ+.
While it may be painful to acknowledge the need for this question of church acceptance, greater damage is fostered by merely accepting the status quo. Knowing the truth of our being created in the imago Dei, the validity of our baptismal promises, and the presence of the Holy Spirit among us affirm our rightful place in the Church. Systemic challenges and injustices prevent people from fully realizing this knowledge.
Instead of rote memorization of pre-packaged words, Jesus taught in parables to address in new ways the systemic challenges and injustices he witnessed. Like the people of his time and place, we too are shaped by the dominant systems in which we live. Jesus was creative in bringing the margins of society to the center. How can we do the same?
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells a parable which brings to the center three servants of a wealthy landowner. Before traveling, the landowner temporarily transfers the responsibility of varying amounts of his financial assets to the servants. By unknown means, two of the servants manage to double the assets received. The third servant protects what has been entrusted to him by burying it in the ground. When the landowner returns, the first two servants are honored and the third is shamed.
There is not a simple correlation between the systems and structures of Jesus’ time and our own. Yet, one practice that predates his time and continues to thrive in ours is the assigning of honor and shame. This system is a flawed and dualistic way of elevating and dehumanizing one another. In the United States, our past and our present are shaped by a culture dominated by capitalism, colonialism, heteronormativity, cisgender privilege, patriarchy, and white body supremacy.
To encounter today’s Gospel, we need to recognize that these systems in which we dwell are based on the practice of honor and shame. This insight allows us to see today’s parable as an invitation to listen in new ways so as to move past the influences of the honor and shame system that negatively impacts the LGBTQ+ community, women, Indigenous people, and people of color.
Where in the parable do we see God’s love, mercy or wisdom? What are we not hearing? Is there a new way to consider what Jesus is teaching? Can the Synod on Synodality guide the Church to move beyond the practice of shame and honor? In this moment, I hold the participants of the Synod as I pray that my Beloved Church allows the Holy Spirit to teach her to listen in new ways.
—Leslye Colvin, New Ways Ministry, November 19, 2023