The Gospel of Mark for this Sunday puts forth a sequence of events that must take place before we can see the Promised One coming in the clouds with great power and glory. This sequence of events is described in the opening lines of the Gospel as a darkening sun, a dying moon, dwindling stars, and a quaking heaven. Mark offers no enlightenment as to why this uncertainty exists, only that hope will triumph.
Mark goes on to say, “Take a lesson from the fig tree: as soon as its branches grow tender and its leaves sprout, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things happening, you know that the Promised One is near, right at the door.” (Mark 13:28-29).
If we apply the metaphor of the fig tree to the recent happenings in the Catholic world, it does feel like summer is near. The branches of the church have grown tender and leaves are sprouting! Across the United States, priests, parents, and church workers are creating spiritual programs to build a more inclusive church, including for Latinx LGBTQ Catholics. An increasing number of bishops in Austria and Germany continue to endorse church blessings for same gender couples. Religious congregations are taking the lead to address topics like coming out, dismantling heteronormativity, and dealing with homophobia in their own communities. And, of course, Pope Francis’ endorsement of same-sex civil unions is nothing short of seismic.
Here in the northern hemisphere, it may feel like winter, but this sequence of events in the Catholic church carries with it all the promises of summer. We still face some uncertainties as we continue our quest for LGBTQ rights, equality and justice, but could these “happenings” – “right at the door” – truly mean that hope in the Promised One is near?
- If you have ever experienced significant change in your life, whether desired or dreaded, you know about “those days” described in the Gospel (Mark 13:24) and, in turn, you know about Advent. Given your life experiences as an LGBTQ person or ally, what cryptic clues or messages have you received that point to hope in the Promised One? For what are you staying alert and keeping watch?
- As an LGBTQ person or ally, how have you weathered the advents of your life when the usual lights that illuminate your path no longer shine? What do you do when your confidence is shaken like stars falling from the heavens? Where do you go when it seems as if darkness is your only companion and God is nowhere to be found?
- How would you write or tell your LGBTQ advent story? Would the cry of Isaiah, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down” (Isaiah 64:1) reverberate in your writings? How has God restored you over the years?
- “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). In times of weakness how has God’s grace been “sufficient” for you? Do you embrace “waiting” as an act of faithfulness or surrender? Is it a prayer or a problem? In Chapter 64, verse 4, Isaiah writes,“God works for those who wait for YHWH?” Do you feel that waiting for God to work has its rewards?
- How does not knowing the day or hour of Christ’s return affect your personal holiness, commitment to gospel initiatives, stewardship, worship, and love for God, neighbor and self? To what specific tasks do you see yourself assigned?
- As an LGBTQ person/ally, what lessons do you gather from the fig tree this Advent?
The essence of Advent and the struggles of the LGBTQ community are echoed in the lyrics of “A Change Is Gonna Come,” written by Sam Cooke, a civil rights activist and unparalleled soul singer. His politically charged words match the spirit of the Gospel of Mark where uncertainty gives way to the coming of great power and glory.
Click the video, below, to be inspired by Cooke’s anthem to hope, covered by Brian Owens and his father, Thomas Owens.