Before I start, I’d like to thank James Martin, SJ for providing the transcript for me. I hate having to find it on Youtube and hoping the transcription in there. Next, I’d like to say I love the beard your sporting these days. Good look on you, Fr. Martin. Now onto the not-quite-so-nice.
Homily for the LGBT Community | World Pride NYC 2019
Be tough. Be free. Be hopeful.
Homily: Pre-Pride Mass, Church of St. Francis of Assisi, June 29, 2019
Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (1 Kgs 19:16b, 19-21; Gal 5:1, 13-18; Lk 9:51-62)
What does it mean to be a disciple? What does it mean to be a Christian? What does it mean to be free? What might it mean to be all these things as a Catholic, as an LGBT Catholic, or as the family member or friend or ally of an LGBT Catholic?
While you don’t answer these questions in clear terms, Galatians totally does. It’s like you went from Kings to Luke and didn’t look at the true slavery defined in Galatians.
At first glance, you might not think that these readings would have much to say to us. After all, the First Book of Kings, was written in roughly 550 BC, when the Hebrew people were in exile in Babylon; St. Paul’s Letter the Galatians was written around AD 55; and the Gospel of Luke, the most “recent” of our readings, was written around AD 85. You might not think they would have much to say to contemporary Catholics, and maybe even less to LGBT people, but of course they do. The Bible is the Living Word of God and, if we are open to it, God’s voice will always be revealed when we read or hear these readings, no matter how ancient.
On the contrary! I think they say quite a bit to anyone struggling with sin and the temptations of this world. It’s kind of interesting that they fall in “pride” month, but that relatively lost on you.
Please read all three passages, but pay particular attention to Galatians, which James Martin, SJ, skipped almost completely. They all go together quite nicely and show how the “pride” movement leads people into slavery, not away from it.
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters;[c] only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence,[d] but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
The Works of the Flesh
16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.”
And for good measure and definition of what you so woefully try to keep from the faithful, let’s just throw in the next two verses which are rather inconvenient for you, Fr. Martin. What exactly are those works of the flesh that are opposed to the Spirit?
19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy,[e] drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
The highlighted ones epitomize the “pride” movement. Now, lest Fr. Martin point how I don’t equally apply these verses to heterosexual people, I do. I apply them to you and me and everyone in between, but he’s the one always suggesting “loopholes” apply to one class because the teachings offend them or they are somehow not equally applied in his mind.
Let’s start with the Gospel, where Jesus confronts, head on, the demands of his ministry.
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, where he will meet his destiny—his passion, death and resurrection. Even before he gets there, he’s facing opposition, and he knows it. He has just passed through Samaria, where the people have rejected him. “They would not welcome him,” says Luke. Why? For religious reasons: the Samaritans had very different idea of what good Israelite was, and didn’t even recognize the Jerusalem Temple as the seat of God’s presence. In response to their rejection, his disciples want to punish the people of Samaria, but Jesus says no. He’s not going to punish them, but he’s also not going to be dissuaded.
Meh, not exactly. In the first verses, Christ had already told them what to do if the people wouldn’t listen. He told them to “shake the dust”, which is a rather big slam in that region even today.
5 Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” 6 They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.
Fr. Martin goes on:
Then Jesus turns his attention to the demands of discipleship. And he is extremely blunt with the disciples. He fully understands the costs of discipleship and wants them to as well. “I’ll follow you,’ says one. “Really?” says Jesus. “You’re not going to have anywhere to sleep if you follow me.” Now, not all his disciples followed Jesus along the road—some stayed at home, like Martha and Mary—but many were indeed, like him, itinerant. That’s part of the deal, he’s saying. Two other disciples offer excuses based on family responsibilities: “I have to bury my father,” says one. “I have to say goodbye to my parents,” says another.
But Jesus sweeps these excuses aside. Now, does he really expect that dead people will bury dead people. No, he doesn’t. But he is not above using hyperbole to make a point. If you’re going to follow me, you’re going to have to be tough. And if you’re going to follow me, you can’t look back.
More like you’re going to have to set aside your temptations and proclivities and pick up your cross. It was a serious opportunity to teach, but a huge swing and a miss by Fr. Martin. Missed is generous. I can’t even say overlooked. It’s more like very purposely avoided because he can’t talk about denying oneself.
Jesus goes even further than the Old Testament prophets. In the First Book of Kings, we see Elijah anointing Elisha as a prophet, by throwing his cloak over him. But first Elisha says he needs to care for his father and mother. Once he does so, he follows Elijah.
Jesus goes beyond that. No, he says, no using your family as an excuse. Nothing comes before following me, not even duties to your family. Jesus makes that point elsewhere in the Gospel, when his family comes from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee to confront him. We don’t talk about that episode very much because it shocks many Christians. But the Gospel of Mark reports that his family thinks that Jesus, who has just started his public ministry, is “out of his mind.” So his extended family travels all the way from Nazareth to Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee, where he is living, to “restrain” or “arrest” him. But when Jesus is told that his mother and brother and sisters are waiting outside his house, he says, “Who are my mother and brothers and sisters? Those who do the will of God.” Ties to God are more important than ties to the family.
(In my greatest TV narrator voice) Also starring in the role of “extended family”, Father James Martin, SJ. And yet he seems to have missed that.
Finally, to drive his point home, Jesus uses an image that people in this agrarian society would have known well: once you put your hand to the plow don’t look back. Because what happens if you take your eyes from the team of oxen? They will plow in the wrong direction. Stay focused.
Riiiigggghhhhhttt! You, however, Fr. Martin, are the one who is distracting. One of my readers very well described Fr. Martin’s tactics as “whataboutisms.” “Look over there! And over there! And over there!” Look anywhere but to your own sins and shortcomings which is where we should all be focusing.
Now, each of these readings, though ancient, has a great deal to say to all of us today, especially LGBT Catholics. Let me suggest three things.
I would like to point out, once again, that he’s just about completely ignored Galatians.
1) Be tough. The last few years have seen many positive steps for LGBT Catholics. And there are two big trends. The first can be summarized by two words: “Pope Francis.” His five most famous words are still, “Who am I to judge?,” which was first a response to the question of gay priests and then expanded to LGBT people. Francis is the first pope ever to use the word “gay.” He has LGBT friends. And he’s appointed many LGBT-supportive cardinals, archbishops and bishops. Another trend is that as more and more Catholics are coming out and being open about their gender identity, they and their families are bringing their hopes and desires into their parishes, and slowly the culture of the church is being changed.
I would consider that quote as infamous, not famous. Regardless, it seems interviews and quotes are only highlighted if they promote the “pride” agenda. The pope compares gender ideology to a nuclear weapon and we get crickets. Martin? Martin? Bueller? Anyone?
Yet it’s also a hard time to be an LGBT Catholic. Catholic schools are still firing LGBT employees who are civilly married when many other straight church employees, who are also not following various church teachings, have no problem keeping their jobs. Church leaders publish documents, issue statements and offer quotes to the media that betray not the slightest evidence that they have listened to the experience of LGBT people or their families. And of course on the local level, we still find in some places homophobic pastors, pastoral workers and parishioners.
Insert the eye-roll of a professional teenager. Hey, I’m all for cracking down on anyone who publicly flaunts their sins against the Church teachings on morality. GO. FOR. IT. Not that I really think that’s what Fr. Martin is going for, but hey, I’d agree to that. Fr. Martin would have you believe that every sinner posts it on social media. I’d have to think most don’t. Privacy means something to most people. Yes, there are the twits who want to tell you exactly what’s going on in their bedrooms, but I have many secular friends and they don’t all run up to me to tell me what birth control they are using. (Thank goodness.) If they did, I’d probably suggest they not be allowed to teach in a Catholic school either.
All the more reason to be like Jesus: that is, tough. And to, first of all, claim your rightful place in your church. Look, if you are a baptized Catholic and you are LGBT or are an LGBT parent or family member, you are as much a part of the church as the Pope, your local bishop, your pastor, or me. Root yourself in your baptism and claim your place in your church.
Enter god-complex. The difference between us and Christ is that he was God. (I know Fr. Martin sometimes has issues with this but, I promise, it’s true.) We are sinners. He is God. “Our place” in the Church is kind of irrelevant. Anyone else think of James and John who were worried about where they should sit?! Every time I hear Fr. Martin say, “claim your place,” I think of this. Ironically, Christ’s response was the same as it is in the Sunday readings at the heart of the homily. Be a slave to everyone else and don’t let your sins enslave you by rejecting the cross.
But make no mistake, Jesus is telling us: sometimes it’s going to be hard. Sometimes your family may misunderstand you, as Jesus’s family did. Sometimes you’ll feel unwelcome in places, as Jesus did in Samaria. Sometimes it won’t feel like you have a home, like Jesus felt when he had to sleep by the side of the road. Sometimes you’ll find that your friends disagree with you, as Jesus did when he told the disciples that revenge was not his way. But it’s all part of the journey. It’s part of being with him.
Question: If we’re all struggling to do as Christ demanded – denying ourselves, refusing to be enslaved by sin, and taking up our cross – why would anyone feel these things? Answer: It’s our sin that is enslaving us. Our freedom is in our rejection of sin. You, sadly, are not encouraging that. You’re just whining about those who get away with sin as if it somehow excuses those who are not. It’s, well, sick.
Throughout all this, Jesus invites you to be tough. Claim your place in your church. Be rooted in your baptism. Know that you are fully Catholic. You know, lately I’ve been hearing that it’s not enough for the Catholic church to be “welcoming” and “affirming” and “inclusive.” And I agree. Because those are the minimum. Instead, LGBT people should fully expect to participate in all the ministries in the church. Not just being welcomed and affirmed and included, but leading. But to do that you have to keep your hand to the plow and you have to be tough.
What EXACTLY do you mean by welcomed, affirmed and included, Father? I think you’ve been ambiguous enough. SPELL. IT. OUT. Do you think we should affirm, welcome and include peoples’ sins? No, thank you, and the first one that does that for me and my sins should be proverbially shot.
2) Be free. A second lesson from today’s Gospel is Jesus’s supreme freedom. Look again at what the Gospels say about Samaria: “They would not welcome him.” But Jesus doesn’t care if Samaria rejects him. Certainly, he would like the Samaritan people to hear his word. We know this because, in the Gospel of John, he speaks at length to a woman from Samaria, the famous “woman at the well,” and she later shares their encounter with the people of Samaria. But if the Samaritans don’t want to welcome him, fine. He’s free. He moves on.
Uh, Jesus’s supreme freedom? That’s what He gives, not what He gets. He’s God. That’s found in carrying our cross and being a slave to others. It’s not fine for us to reject Him and have Him move on. It’s our complete and utter destruction.
Jesus is free from the need to be loved, liked or approved of. He is free from the need to be loved by the Samaritans. He is free of the need to be liked by the disciples, as when he rebukes James and John. And he is free of the need to be approved of by his family, who early on think he’s crazy. He is supremely free. And what is he free to do? To follow the Father’s will.
Many people in the LGBT community feel unwelcome, like Jesus felt, as well as excluded, rejected and sometimes, as Jesus was, persecuted. It can be painful and enraging. And it’s okay to feel those things. It’s human and it’s natural, and sometimes those feelings should stir you to action on behalf of people and groups who are being persecuted! But, ultimately, Jesus asks us to be free of the need to be loved, liked or approved of. And to be confident in who you are.
I’m not really sure how many times I can say this. He is God. We are not. Rejection of our sinful acts is not persecution. It’s love. Once again you are trying to confuse the rejection of sin and the rejection of the sinner. It’s still not the same no matter how many times you say it.
Notice that Jesus is also free of the need to punish. James and John wanted to “call down fire from heaven” to destroy the Samaritans who rejected Jesus. But Jesus “rebukes” his disciples for this. That’s not his way. He is free of the need for revenge. So be like Jesus. Be free.
Are you really suggesting that no punishment is coming for those who reject the teachings of Christ? Again, that’s not revenge. The question is, do we want to suffer here on earth or do we want to suffer for eternity.
3) Finally, be hopeful. The life of Christian discipleship is not simply a hard row to plow, it’s not simply tough, it’s not simply a chore. As St. Paul says in today’s reading, “For freedom Christ set us free.” Isn’t that beautiful? The Christian life is not some terribly burden or “yoke” as St. Paul says, echoing the plow imagery of Jesus. No, it’s an invitation to live in freedom. Just as Elijah covered Elisha with his cloak, so all of us, LGBT or straight, who accept Jesus’s invitation are wrapped under what the theologian Barbara Reid calls the “protective cloak of his spirit.” We live in freedom. And in joy!
Your definition of “freedom” doesn’t resemble what St. Paul said. You might have noticed it if you actually bothered to quote it.
And in hope too! It’s tempting for LGBT Catholics and their families to look at the present reality of the church and say, “This will never change.” Or “I feel unwelcome.” Or “I have no place here.” But that is not the only place Jesus wants us to dwell. The future will be so much fuller than the present, and Jesus knows this. We keep our hands to the plow not only so that we don’t lose our way, but so that we don’t take our eyes off the horizon.
To my SSA friends, please note that you are welcome in the Church, and I would love to struggle along with you in overcoming our sins. Please see Fr. Martin’s babbling as what he intends it to be – discouraging and divisive. Our true happiness will come from overcoming temptation. Let’s do it together and don’t let anyone tell you that it is impossible or that the Church wants less for you than everlasting life.
“Sometimes LGBT Catholics say that they’re done with the church, with the faith and with God. Yet when looking for Christ in the church often they’re only seeing the present. But suffering and death are not the only things that Jesus experiences in Jerusalem. They’re not even the most important things. The most important thing is the Resurrection. And the Good News of the Resurrection is that hope is stronger than despair, suffering is never the last word, and love always triumphs over hate. Love always wins. So be hopeful!”
Fr. Martin, I know you like to downplay this, but none of us can get to the Resurrection without first taking up our crosses. I mean, for heaven’s sake, look up the verse that you halfheartedly referred to.
You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?
That’s the problem. You don’t ever explain what “drinking the cup” means. You’re leading people to believe that it’s freely indulging in sin. That is so wrong.
These readings, so ancient, so different, so seemingly far away, are actually tailor made for us today, for all of us who are called to encounter God. In these readings we hear God say to us: Be tough, be free, be hopeful. Be proud to be Catholic. And for my LGBT brothers and sister and siblings, be the LGBT Catholic whom you are called to be by Jesus Christ himself.
You’re giving them stones when they ask for bread. Hopefully they will come to feast, despite your best efforts. #pridebeforethefall