O Come, O Come Emmanuel – PLEASE!

I’ll be honest. I know that the Advent season is supposed to be a time of hope and anticipation of celebrating Jesus’ birth and building peace in the world; but I really haven’t been feeling it lately.I mean, come on. Every time I turn around, there are more and more negative news reports on the LGBTQ+ front: Cruel, insensitive, misinformed pronouncements and policies made by church leadership in our country concerning LGBTQ+ school and church employees and LGBTQ+ faithful in general (including the denial of sacraments) seems to be accelerating. Some prelates from other parts of the world continue to support the passage of laws which criminalize the actions of LGBTQ+ persons who are trying to live their lives authentically. There is an ever-rising wave of anti-transgender legislation being considered and signed into law at a number of state legislatures across our country, especially targeting trans youth. There is a record number of cases of violence against and murder of transgender persons in our country, especially transgender women of color. (To make matters even more discouraging and perplexing, there is the deafening silence of most clergy and members of the church magisterium around these issues of violence and exclusivity.) Add to this, there are the continued contentious issues associated with the COVID pandemic, the persistent presence of racism in our country, toxic partisanship in our politics, the cruel treatment of immigrants around the world, the heightened tensions between the U.S. and China and Russia – and you get the perfect storm for disillusionment, sadness, despair, hopelessness, and frustration.

All of this is so antithetical to the gospel message of love and inclusivity that I have come to know in my own life. Therefore, amidst this deep sense of discouragement, heartbreak, and hopelessness, what am I – someone who is doing his best the follow the Good News of Jesus, someone who is among so many who is working so hard for the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons within church and society – to do? What must I tell my weary, anxious heart?

Thankfully, some great words of wisdom have recently been brought to my attention in the form of a quote from the great Hebrew Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann. It has thrown some sparks of encouragement and deepened perspective of the notion of hope into my exhausted, tattered soul. It states,

“Hope in gospel faith is not just a vague feeling that things will work out, for it is evident that things will not just work out. Rather, hope is the conviction, against a great deal of data, that God is tenacious and persistent in overcoming the deathliness of the world, that God intends joy and peace. Christians find compelling evidence, in the story of Jesus, that Jesus, with great persistence and great vulnerability, everywhere he went, turned the enmity of society toward a new possibility, turned the sadness of the world toward joy, introduced a new regime where the dead are raised, the lost are found, and the displaced are brought home again.” [1]

These words have thus reminded me that this Holy Mystery which we call God/Love in Action is indeed “tenacious and persistent in overcoming the deathliness of the world,” and that God “intends joy and peace.” I must also continue in my efforts to emulate Jesus in his “great persistence” along with his “great vulnerability” (gulp!) to turn all of these great challenges toward new possibilities of living and loving in this world; in other words, transforming death into life. One of the things which gives me hope is the knowledge that seeds of love are always being planted across the world by so many loving people, including my cohorts who are involved in various forms of social justice ministry.  

As we ponder the life of Jesus’ mother, Mary, during this Advent season, I think that it would be appropriate to end this reflection with this prayer written by Laura Jean Truman:

An Advent prayer to our sister Mary

God of our sister Mary—

I’m not always sure when to burst out in song against injustice,

and when to ponder in my heart.

Give me the courage to preach when I’d rather hide, and wisdom to listen when I’d rather scold.

Walk with us this Advent, fierce and gentle sister Mary.


May the upcoming celebration of Jesus’ birth remind us that the Holy Mystery is always with us and appears to us again and again through life’s struggles as well as joys. Have a blessed Advent Season of hope. O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

[1] Walter Brueggemann, A Gospel of Hope, compiled by Richard Floyd (Westminster John Knox Press: 2018), 104–105.

John the Baptist – Speaking Truth to Power

As I write this post during the season of Advent 2020, our Sunday lectionary readings turn our attention to one of the most colorful figures found in scripture: John the Baptist. We are all familiar with the narrative where he “leapt in his mother’s womb” when he, destined to be his cousin Jesus’ herald in the world, first encountered him who was being carried in his own mother Mary’s womb. Most of us also this image of him as this very imposing “wild man” figure who was clothed in camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, eating nothing but locusts and wild honey, and crying in the wilderness in a booming voice for us to recall the words of the Prophet Isaiah: “Prepare the way of our God. Clear a straight path.” He reminded all that, “One more powerful than I is to come after me. I am not fit to stoop and untie his sandal straps.” His message must have been very effective, for the Gospel of Mark tells us that, “John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all of the people of Jerusalem went out to John and were baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.” (Emphases mine.) Folks obviously believed that something really special was certainly about to take place, and they wanted “in”! What made his message even more profound was that he was speaking truth to power: to the occupying Roman forces and the religious authorities. He followed his sacred call by living this austere life and speaking prophetically because he loved God’s people and wanted all to go deeper by inviting them to get to know the Word of God Incarnate. He was the great precursor of Jesus – this Jesus who challenged all to embrace and fulfill the Spirit of the Law rather than merely following the Letter of the Law. As he reminds us, the Law is ultimately based on love.

His message proves that he is indeed a bridge between the prophets of old and this Christ figure – the Logos – who personified Love. One of his greatest admonitions was for all to “repent”. This word comes from Greek, referring to “change your mind.” 

For those of us who are members of the LGBTQ+ community and all who work for our full acceptance and inclusion within the church and greater society, the bold, prophetic words and life of John the Baptist should speak loudly to us. As we lovingly yet firmly speak truth to power through sharing our own life stories and providing sound educational and spiritual development opportunities, we are hopefully providing an effective message which invites people to go deeper, want “in” and “change their minds”. For those of us who genuinely profess to follow the teachings of the Word of God Incarnate, we know that it is a lifelong journey of learning how to live them out. My prayer is that we all do our best to serve as bridge-builders as we are constantly preparing the way of a loving, inclusive God who loves us as we have been created.

A blessed Advent and Christmas season to all!

The Ultimate Non-Violent One

Jesus Washes Peter's Feet Sieger HoderLast night on Holy Thursday, we Christians commemorated the institution of the Eucharist, where Christ gave wholly of himself. An extremely important event took place that night when he also took on the role of a slave and washed the feet of those present. He told them, “Do you know what I have done to you? If I, as your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should also do to others.” Do we really get that?

Crucifixion 1937 Georges Rouault



Today, on Good Friday, we commemorate Jesus’ death by crucifixion. Jesus – the Incarnate Word – the ultimate non-violent one. Do we really get that?




Top image: “Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet” by Sieger Hoder
Bottom Image: “Crucifixion” by Georges Rouault, 1937

I Wonder . . .

Palm Sunday Meditation:

Jesus entered Jerusalem on a beast of burden, not on a chariot drawn by powerfulJesus on donkey    steeds.

Jesus preached love, acceptance, and inclusivity; not hate, exclusion, and violence. Consider this from The Beatitudes: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

At the Last Supper, Jesus acted as a servant, washing the feet of those in attendance, commissioning them to do the same for others. He did not commission them to go out to Jesus washing feetdo violence toward or kill their enemies.

Consider how Jesus and his disciples evangelized: They traveled from town to town, preaching a message of love and urging his new followers to support each other, share their resources with each other, and be kind to each other. They did not do it with the sword or any other form of violent coercion on the backs of the powerless as has been done over the centuries to convert the “pagans” or “heathens” while colonizing them.

So, I just wonder how Christianity would look today if it had never become the official religion of Roman Empire in the 4th Century, an edict in which Jesus’ message and movement of love and peace (which embraced the marginalized of society) formally converged with the Empire’s trappings of power and dominance?

Note to readers: Although I write this from a Christian perspective, it is my hope that its message will resonate with peace-loving people of all religious traditions and spiritualities.


It is my great privilege to include this guest blog by my great friend and mystic, Thomas Telhiard:


“I was at prayer in the city of Joppa when in a trance I had a vision, something resembling a large sheet coming down, lowered from the sky by its four corners, and it came to me.”

As we move into the 4th week of the Easter season, Spring is brimming over and rushing forward with the Good News Joy of the empty tomb and beyond.  Seeds planted in the earth break the ground and blooms take their turns at glory in the Sunlight, coloring the waking earth that shakes the drowsiness of death from its eyes.  All that has been bleak and bland, dormant and reclusive, now bursts forth with vigor.  The protecting mulch both nourishes and uncovers new beauty’s rebirth.

It’s amazing how fast-paced the Acts of the Apostles is, recounting the seedling Christian church that struggles and flourishes in somewhat equal proportionality, through the efforts and openness of Peter, Paul and many other disciples.  In today’s first reading, (ACTS 11: 1-18), we hear the description of how Peter was enlightened through a trance, wherein a revealing tapestry drops down from heaven and he must cast away the prejudices that he might have regarding the particular manner in which we can participate in the Good News story.  At question is the holiness or cleanliness of that which we can consume or eat.  Peter, in the dream, is invited to partake of food that is considered “unclean” in the Jewish culture.  In correction, he is told outright, “What God has made clean, you are not to profane.”

We discriminate by nature.  Our conceptual mind allows us to do so, and this is an important faculty that permits us to operate in our lives on a daily basis.  But the odd thing is that it is precisely the discriminating nature of our mental faculty that can lead to destructive forces in our relationships.  In a world of diversity, we struggle to allow and tolerate, much less embrace and celebrate, the differences that we have as cultures, societies, and even families and individuals.  Peter was criticized for eating in the household of uncircumcised people in the Acts story.  It took not only a heavenly screen in front of his eyes, but the company of strangers that enabled him to grasp the value and necessity of, shall we say, meeting people where they are and walking and talking with them, i.e., MERCY…

Just then three men appeared at the house where we were, who had been sent to me from Caesarea.  The Spirit told me to accompany them without discriminating.”

It was in the company of these strangers as well as others, that it was revealed to Peter, a most important lesson…”If then God gave them the same gift he gave us…who was I to hinder God?”

Life is nothing without the diversity of giftedness.  Paul called this the body of Christ.  Yet, we so often unjustly treat the lives of each other in a way that dishonors, demeans and dehumanizes the precious particularity that we have all been given.  In doing so, unwittingly, we are disrespecting ourselves.  Why would we be given a gift not to share?  We poke fun at re-gifting presents that we have received, but I am amazed at how at white elephant or dirty Santa parties, a gift that did not mean much to one person truly ended up surprisingly enough to be precious to another.  I think this says something about discrimination and discernment, mercy and giftedness.

Just as Peter was instructed to accompany these men without discriminating, so are we led to accompany each other in our differences that can cause us skepticism, irritation and even pain at times.  If we can bracket our seemingly natural powers to discriminate and walk far enough along in the company of differences, my experience has been that the Spirit of openness begins to stir.  Appreciation is born from patient journeying.  To sit long enough with something or, more importantly, with SOMEONE, grants a gift beyond measure.  The gift of realizing that, as the Scriptures say, is that the Holy Spirit “falls upon” all of us without discrimination.  We simply must have the eyes of compassionate discernment to see that there is nothing that God has created that is profane  – nothing unredeemable!

Ironically, the most beautiful experiences in life are oftentimes birthed from pain, suffering, and something perhaps what we would initially consider ugly or unreasonable.  If you have ever spent time with someone who is nearing death, you may have witnessed what I am speaking about here.  It’s the letting go that leads us home to each other and empowers us to replace discrimination with participative mercy.  Again, we have the image of the Body of Christ that feeds us – our selves as community.

Interestingly, in the Gospel story today (JN 10: 1-10), we have the image of Christ as the Sheep Gate.  Coming off of yesterday’s celebration of Good Shepherd Sunday, we now have the image of Christ as not just the Shepherd, but the gateway that provides care and protection.  I love the image of Christ as the Shepherd who lies on the ground across the opening in the hilled-in areas where the sheep can rest peacefully within.  Though, I wonder if the thieves and marauders that the ‘Christ gate’ is protecting us from could actually refer to our own attitudes toward ourselves and others.  Could Christ as the Sheep Gate be referring to the Holy Spirit’s field of openness that can pervade our hearts and minds so that we can, not so much look beyond differences, but actually look into them, celebrate them, let them speak to us and bring out the graceful and specific giftedness of ourselves in a way that would otherwise be unimaginable.

The tapestry dropped down from heaven before Peter’s eyes becomes present in the strangers who became his companions in the sharing of the Holy Spirit.  This is the way in, the Christ opening or gate where the only strangers that can harm us are those attitudes of death that trample the precious uniqueness that always returns in the Spring and blooms in our gardens of Mercy!



WE’RE A RESURRECTION PEOPLE (and I’m really trying)

Tears stung my eyes and my emotions welled up as I took part in recent Good Friday services. I tried to identify the source of my emotions. Sadness? Grief? Of course – this would be expected as we commemorated the brutal death of Jesus the Christ. Yet, there was something deeper going on within me – something mingling with the tears . . . . That’s it – it was anger! We’re doing it again, I thought. We keep on doing it again – over and over! Jesus was tortured and put to death in the most horrific fashion that the Jesus scourgingoccupying Romans could muster, not to mention being deserted and betrayed by those closest to him. Why was he put to death? It was because he dared to challenge the religious establishment. He dared to love and embrace those in the margins – those who were despised and outcast from the temple and society. He dared to turn the church law upside down in order for all to really understand what the love of God really means, even if it meant going against those in power. . . and, yes, even among God’s people, we continue inflicting the violence . . .

Yes, we continue with the persecution of people throughout the world who dare to speak and act prophetically, often at a severe cost – torture, banishment, excommunication, and even death – at the hands of religious and civil authorities and individual members of society. This includes those of us who are members of the LGBTQ+ community and our allies, created as we are by a loving God, who have no choice but to speak our truth and work for a society which is loving and violence imageinclusive, as Jesus taught us to do. The abuse continues, though, in spite of information from reliable science along with the testimony of our lives that a wide diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity is indeed quite natural and has always been with us. (My heart is freshly broken as I write this post. Last night, I learned of the news of  the 23-year old African American transgender woman who was beaten unconscious in a Dallas apartment complex where she lived three months ago was shot to death yesterday on a Dallas street! I was also informed in the same message that an 18 year-old transgender person from Louisiana was recently kicked out of her home and was homeless – looking for a safe place to reside. Our circle is feverishly working on finding immediate and long-term resources for this precious person.) Quite naturally, then, I continue to be frustrated, frightened, perplexed; and, yes, angry at this situation. It seems that we, as a society, often take two steps forward and one step back when it comes to issues of social justice and our ability to embrace “the other”.

So, what to do as we continue to experience these constant waves of crucifixion? In the midst of this latest round of internal malaise and despair, I have prayerfully turned to some mystics of our time. Bishop Thomas Gumbleton insists that “we must have complete faith in the resurrection” In his 2019 Easter homily, he recounts a time in the life of Bishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador when, in the height of violence in his country several decades ago, a reporter asked him, “Why don’t you flee the country, leave? They’re going to kill you.” His name was on the death list; everybody knew it. But the archbishop said, “Of course I’ve been threatened with death many times, but I don’t believe in death without resurrection. Even if they kill me, I will rise again in the Salvadoran people.” (1). I must also remember that, even though there is often a “one step back” within our “two steps forward”, these steps still are an important part of an Oscar Romeroevolutionary process within our own God-given humanity, which is part of the cycle of dying and rising. Sr. Ilia Delio breaks this open so well when she states, “Because we humans are in evolution we must see Christ in evolution as well – Christ’s humanity is our humanity, Christ’s life is our life . . . . To live Christ is to live community; to bear Christ in one’s life is to become a source of healing love for the sake of community” (2).

I therefore must believe (not always easy) that, in our often difficult “rubber meeting the road” moments in our ministry to build a just, loving, and inclusive community for all, death is not the end nor does it signal defeat. On the contrary, we must be prepared for our small and large deaths – which will inevitably lead to resurrection. I must believe and trust that to live Christ is to live community and to bear Christ in one’s life is to become a source of healing love for the sake of this community. As Gumbleton said of Archbishop Romero (a human being who experienced his own process of evolution), “Here is a person who, like John in the Gospel, has complete trust, belief, confidence that Jesus is risen from the dead and that his resurrection is a sign, a promise of our resurrection that we too will rise from the dead and share everlasting life and joy, fullness of peace and happiness forever in our risen life” (1). These words have helped me to articulate what is honestly on my soul: “’Yes I believe, but help my unbelief because it’s a struggle.’ Sometimes we think that faith is a gift and once we have it, we’ll never falter. Not true. Faith is a choice” (1). Thanks, Bishop Gumbleton.




My good friend and fellow member of the Marianist Social Justice Collaborative LGBT Initiative, Beth Garascia, wrote this wonderful essay which was published in the latest edition of Justice Jottings, a monthly publication of the Marianist Social Justice Collaborative. I was so moved after reading it, I requested permission from her to re-publish it in my blog. She graciously granted my request. In in, Beth calls us to “work on improving our language about LGBTQI persons and continue to strive to live with the compassion and mercy our faith calls us to.” Thank you, Beth, for your prophetic voice and actions in the name of love, peace, and justice.


Recently Bill, a friend of my husband’s and mine, forwarded us a Richard Rohr column in which Rohr referred to LGBTQIA persons. Bill wrote “I know what LGBTQ means (lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender and queer), but what does the I and A stand for? I immediately replied, “intersex and asexual.” Tony didn’t see my reply and wrote “inquiring and allies.” I’m not sure which of us is correct, or if we both are. However, that interchange as well as watching Hannah Gadsby’s new comedy special “Nanette” and listening to a sermon by Justo Gonzalez, inspired me to reflect on how very much I don’t know about what it means to be LGBTQIA in today’s world. These experiences also revealed to me how vulnerable some of these persons are and challenged me to become more merciful and compassionate to others.

First, here’s a short clarification of terms. Psychologists are now telling us that not only is sexual orientation on a continuum, but gender identity, biological sex, and gender expression are not the clear-cut binary phenomena that many of us were taught.

Sexual orientation is the internal experience that determines whether we are      physically and emotionally attracted to men, women, both, or neither (asexual).

Gender identity is one’s internal sense of being male, female, somewhere in between, or fluid. Since gender identity is interior, it’s not necessarily visible to others.

One’s genitals, chromosomes, and hormones all play a role in determining biological sex. Most of us are either male or female, but those of us born intersex can have any mix of sexual characteristics.

Finally, gender expression is how persons represent/express their gender identity to others, a combination of behavior, dress, hairstyles, voice, body characteristics or other gender-related behaviors.

These unfolding ways of looking at our gender and sexuality can cause deep internal conflict for some of us since they challenge our previous assumptions about a complex personal and important subject. Others of us may simply throw up our hands in confusion and wonder why young people present themselves in ways a more traditional person might label weird or just plain bizarre. What’s the matter with kids today anyway?

Consider the case of Caster Semenya, the 2016 South African Olympic track and field
phenomenon. It’s a complicated situation because she registers for track and field events as a woman and has a female phenotype (observable physical characteristics), but she has XY sex chromosomes. According to several news articles, she has broad shoulders, narrow hips and a prominent Adam’s apple. Her voice is deep and masculine. So despite having the morphology of a woman, she has many of the traditional attributes of a man. She definitely challenges the conventional understanding of our binary system of classifying individuals as men and women. If one considered who she is by using our traditional binary system of classification, one might label her with the previously mentioned adjective, weird. She is, however, a child of God, and as such deserves to be treated with dignity and love just as all of us do.

When one reflects on how Jesus responded to the outcast, our path forward is clear. Among those Jesus reached out to were women, the poor, the unclean, and racial enemies. Jesus spoke directly and tenderly to women although it was not the social custom at the time for men to speak openly to women. Jesus called one woman he cured “daughter” (Luke 8:48). He told His disciples that when they had a banquet, they should invite the poor (Luke 14:13-14) even though it was important for Jewish people at the time (and most people everywhere) to consider themselves better than the impoverished. The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10-:25-37) is perhaps the
best-known example of Jesus teaching us to reconsider our stereotypes. In the story, a racial enemy of the Jews, a Samaritan, cared for the victim of robbery and was thus the merciful one. In Mark 1:40-45, Jesus is approached by a leper, a member of the most stigmatized unclean group of His time. In this story, Jesus not only cures the man, he touches him. In all of these stories Jesus is tender, merciful, and compassionate to the other.

In our culture today, LGBTQI persons are definitely the other. Although their situation is
improving, still there are pockets of prejudice where they are unaccepted and even bullied. In his sermon to the United Church of Chapel Hill, Justo Gonzalez tells with great emotion the story of his young Catholic friend of Hispanic heritage, Julio, who was told by his dad that he could never disgrace the family and that he must be macho. Julio, who was gay, eventually died by suicide rather than cause scandal to his family by coming out. Gonzalez labels this rigid way of acting by Julio’s father bullying. In her 2009 study of LGBTQI youth and their families, Caitlin Ryan and her colleagues document the importance of families accepting and supporting their LGBT youth in concrete and loving ways. Struggling with family expectations, and sometimes the rigid way they are enforced, is one problem many LGBTQI young adults contend with.

Finally, in her comedy special “Nanette” Hannah Gadsby challenges stereotypes of LGBTQI persons with humor and personal stories. Gadsby jokes about growing up as a lesbian in Tasmania in the 1980’s. The general attitude, she says, was that gay people were not welcome: “You should just get yourself a one-way ticket to the mainland, and don’t come back.” While some of Gadsby’s stories of her experience as a gender non-conforming woman are uproariously funny, others are chilling. Americans are no better at welcoming LGBTQI persons than Tasmanians. The cases of Matthew Shepherd, the firings of many Catholic LGBT persons from Catholic institutions, and the gunning down of 49 gays at the Pulse nightclub in 2016 come to mind. Let’s continue to examine our deeply held assumptions about gender and sexual orientation, work on improving our language about LGBTQI persons and continue to strive to live with the compassion and mercy our faith calls us to.


Peace vs. Violence

Within many civilizations throughout history, members of sexual minorities have frequently been met with exclusion and even violence. I recently read a passage from a book written by two respected authors who noted, “[LGBTQ+ persons] have often been thought of as embodiments of evil, creatures of darkness, or carriers of the worst traits of humanity.” Evidence abounds, both past and present, in official church doctrines and civil anti-sodomy laws in many countries that these persons are condemned. Thousands were imprisoned and murdered in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. In February 2014, Washington Post writer David Gibson reported that the leader of the Nigerian Catholic hierarchy fully supported that country’s new harsher antigay laws, violence imagewhich unleashed a wave of violence against gays when the laws passed. Over seventy countries have criminal laws against sexual activity by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex individuals. Four countries impose the death penalty for those convicted of engaging in same-sex acts. The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey indicates that people who identified or perceived to be transgender experienced much higher rates of physical and mental trauma, murder, loss of employment, homelessness, and suicide ideation compared to the general population. According to the 2015 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, approximately 75% of bisexual women and 46% of lesbians within the United States report experiencing sexual violence as compared to 43% of heterosexual women.

Two 2018 news items exemplify more recent violence or threats of violence aimed at sexual minorities in the United States. One is about the violent attacks, both physically and emotionally, against Aaron Bianco, a gay married man, who had been part of the pastoral team at St. John the Evangelist parish in San Diego, California. After more than a year of harassment by anti-LGBTQ+ people who identified as Catholics, Bianco arrived to work one morning to find the message “No Fags” spray-painted on the side of a building. He eventually resigned his position, but vows to continue his work in confronting such evil in the Church.

The other item concerned the burning of a rainbow liturgical banner at a Catholic Parish in Chicago by the pastor and several parishioners, in spite of previous order from the Archdiocese to stop this planned action. The banner was created in the 1990’s to be hung in the church’s sanctuary as a sign of the parish’s welcome to members of the LGBTQ+ community. The pastor who led the burning revealed that they  said a prayer of exorcism over the banner, cut into seven pieces, and was burned over stages in the same fire pit that is used for Easter Vigil mass.

It is little wonder then, that LGBTQ+ people, who live counter-cultural lives, often feel alienated, are fleeing oppressive homelands, and are increasingly leaving any type of organized religion behind. In the United States, for instance, a Pew Research Center 2013 study reveals that 48 percent of the LGBTQ+ population identify as having no religious affiliation compared with 23 percent of the general population.

I often wonder what is within the human psyche that cause individuals to have such visceral negative reactions when it comes to encountering people whose lives are outside of cultural norms, particularly in sexual identity and expression. It is even more appalling when there is violence perpetrated by people who identify as Christians. This is true in cases such as Bianco’s and the burning of the rainbow liturgical banner (a banner which was created to symbolize the very people being welcomed). Should violence and hatred be the appropriate Christian response? Would Jesus recognize this behavior?

Within Catholic liturgies, how often do we say the words “peace” and “love” each time we gather? How many times does Jesus say these same words in sacred scripture? The answpeace doveer, of course, is many times. The basis of Catholic Social Teaching is the dignity of and respect for the human person. In the case of gay persons, Church teaching (Always Our Children, USCCB 1997) tells us that:

“God loves every person as a unique individual. Sexual identity helps to define the unique persons we are, and one component of our sexual identity is sexual orientation . . . the fundamental human rights of homosexual persons must be defended and that all of us must strive to eliminate any forms of injustice, oppression, or violence against them.”

In his major writings during his papacy, Pope Francis constantly admonishes us to sincere encounter and to engage in genuine dialogue. It is through these actions that we will be able to recognize our common humanity and to build bridges of understanding, which lead to peace and life.

Are we even paying attention?

And I wept . . .

Jesus on crossFor those of us who identify as Christian, the observance of Good Friday services is a commemoration of the suffering and death of Jesus the Christ. A time-honored tradition during this most somber of days in our church calendar is the reading of the Passion account from one of the gospels during this service. I have participated in this presentation in various forms for all of my life; yet, I felt that this one was taking on a deeper meaning for me – especially at yesterday’s service which I attended. It could be best encapsulated by my really taking notice of how some individuals and institutions (religious and civic) throughout history have inflicted the utmost cruelty and agony on people with whom they disagreed and posed a threat to their status and power. Quite often, the victims are those who have spoken prophetically and proclaimed messages of peace and justice. These gospel accounts certainly describe the worst of both religious and civic leaders, and this realization jumped out in front of me as though I had heard these words for the first time. They especially yanked at my emotions since such abuses still continue in our world.
“Where is God now?”, boomed the impassioned voice of the presider during the homily of the service. He was quoting someone from the well-known true story written by Elie Weisel Nazi concentration camp entranceabout his days as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. In the gruesome scene, a young boy was being hanged by the prison guards and the inmates were forced to observe the execution. Taking a relatively lengthy time to die from suffocation due to his light weight, he struggled for breath, his tongue was protruded, and his face turned blue. The anguished question came from someone within the crowd, and the response from someone else was, “He is hanging at the end of the rope.” Our gifted homilist then began to remind us that Jesus, who is love personified – God with us – became human in order to become one of us – to enter into humanity’s suffering – to walk with us.
Thus, who are the suffering in our midst today with whom this Jesus suffers? Our presider listed several:

• Families who are being torn apart in our country due to arrests and deportations of parents who are undocumented.

• Refugees from a number of countries who are mistreated by and dying at the hands of cruel people from their own country, the often-dangerous voyages they must make to find safety.bullied child

• Children who are being bullied at school.
As he shared these thoughts, my emotions were deepened, and tears began to sting my eyes.
What happened next, though, caused the tears to flow. As we processed forward to kiss the feet of the corpus on the large crucifix, I imagined examples of the above-mentioned people actually lying on the cross in agony. They also included AIDS/HIV patients whose emaciated bodies are wracked with misery and often die alone because of family body of toddler washed on beachrejection; the iconic news image of the body of the toddler from a Middle Eastern country which was washed ashore on a European beach after he drowned in the Mediterranean Sea as he and his family were escaping his war-torn country; images of loved ones for which many of us take care due to serious illnesses; women who are sexually abused and suffer other forms of mistreatment within a patriarchal society; and people who are members abused womanof sexual minorities (LGBTQ/gender non-conforming) who are often disowned by family members, lose their jobs, abused and killed, and thrown out of their church communities because they are trying to live their lives authentically.

If those of us who profess to be Christians believe that we are all members of the Body of Christ, then shouldn’t we recognize that when we venerate the broken Body of Jesus the Christ, we are also venerating all those in our midst who suffer? Then, what should be the consequences of this acknowledgement? How willing are we to “kiss their feet” and to embrace them as bona-fide members of the human community, treating them with dignity? Will these actions build a peaceful world?

Spiritual direction – walking the path to peace

Some of you may be aware that an important part of my ministry is providing spiritual direction. There are several ways to describe this important work. Spiritual Directors International provides this description:

Spiritual direction explores a deeper relationship with the spiritual aspect of being human. Simply put, spiritual direction is helping people tell their sacred stories every day.  Spiritual direction has emerged in many contexts using language specific to particular cultural and spiritual traditions. Describing spiritual direction requires putting words to a process of fostering a transcendent experience that lies beyond all names and yet the experience longs to be articulated and made concrete in everyday living. It is easier to describe what spiritual direction does than what spiritual direction is. Our role is not to define spiritual direction, but to describe the experience. Spiritual direction helps us learn how tSDI logo improvedo live in peace, with compassion, promoting justice, as humble servants of that which lies beyond all names.

I am particularly drawn to the last sentence of this particular description since I am indeed trying to live out my life as a humble servant who is a man of peace and compassion who promotes justice. Besides serving as a spiritual director, I am also on the receiving end of this practice, since I also visit with a marvelous spiritual director on a regular basis.

There is another description of this practice on the SDI website that I also really like:

[Spiritual direction is] the contemplative practice of helping another person or group to awaken to the mystery called God in all of life, and to respond to that discovery in a growing relationship of freedom and commitment.

James L. Empereur, SJ, supports this when he aptly states that “Spiritual direction is as much about becoming a more fully appropriated person as it is about being in union with God .” By this he means that this is a “humanization process which is salvational . . . To seize for oneself or as one’s right to be a full human being . . . . “ He also tells us that all people have a right to a spiritual life.

Thus, this sacred work of being human, finding our mysterious, beautiful innermost being as we have been created by a loving Creator is definitely holy work. Spiritual direction (some people prefer “companioning”) thus involves one person walking with another.

As we walk through life, we soon discover, at various points and at different levels, depending on one’s life experiences, how indeed beautiful and unique that we are at our deepest levels. However, because our fellow world denizens may not always understand other individual groups and individuals in their differentness, conflict often arises. This often can result in violence and even death. We all know that humans have been doing this through all of history, with disastrous consequences. As people of this earth, we should know by now that this is not the loving thing to do. It is only when we take the time and have the courage to encounter the other can we build bridges of peace, healing, and understanding.

One of the groups to which I am referring are those who belong to sexual minorities; more specifically, members of the LGBTQ+ community: the reference to all people in sexual minorities who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, and gender non-conforming people. It is extremely important that loving and appropriately informed ministers such as spiritual directors be available to journey with members of marginalized groups such as this one. I myself am involved in various forms of LGBTQ+ ministry, including the service of spiritual direction. Realizing that this is a rather specialized area of spiritual direction, I am happy to announce that I will be soon be sharing information with my colleagues on a world stage. Next month, I will be attending the Spiritual Directors International conference, “Seeking Connection”. I will be one of the workshop presenters, presenting both on Friday and Saturday of the conference weekend. The title of my workshop is, “Walk With Me: Spiritual Direction With the LGBTQ Community”. I look forward to sharing my knowledge and experiences with my contemporaries as well as learning from fellow experts.  I look forward to reporting on my experiences post-conference!