The Sunday Project
Comfort for the Uncomfortable
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time |
"Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Sama'ria, the notable men of the first of the nations, to whom the house of Israel come! "Woe to those who lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat lambs from the flock, and calves from the midst of the stall; who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp, and like David invent for themselves instruments of music; who drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph! Therefore they shall now be the first of those to go into exile, and the revelry of those who stretch themselves shall pass away."
But as for you, man of God, shun all this; aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the presence of God who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; and this will be made manifest at the proper time by the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
"There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Laz'arus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Laz'arus in his bosom. And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Laz'arus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.' But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Laz'arus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.' And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.'"
A few years ago, I was going through a particularly tough stretch in my life. I had just come out to my family and ended a relationship as a result. I was feeling particularly lost, and I felt a little broken, too. I was really having trouble navigating the fresh waters of being a gay Catholic.
One Sunday morning, I trudged down the streets of my Chicago neighborhood to mass, more out of obligation than any zeal for hearing the Word of God. Unexpectedly, I heard some words from the priest that were exactly what I needed:
Mass exists to provide comfort to the uncomfortable, and to make the comfortable uncomfortable.
Like many other queer Catholics, I was feeling particularly uncomfortable at that point in my life because I felt like there wasn’t a place for me in the Church. I felt unwanted and disregarded. But those words helped provoke a mental shift for me — this hour each week was dedicated toward making folks like myself feel better.
In the Gospel this week, we hear about Lazarus and a rich man. Lazarus has sores and is forced to live on the streets, and he does so outside the door of a rich man. When they both die, Lazarus is taken to heaven much to the surprise of the rich man. Now the tables are turned — the rich man seeks Lazarus’ help in providing relief from the discomfort of the fires of Hell.
Initially, it might seem like strange company to keep, but we should find solidarity with Lazarus. As queer Catholics, there are a lot of ways in which we’re pushed to the side and not allowed to enter the house. Meanwhile, others sit comfortably with power ignoring our existence. However, as seen in the Gospel, it’s Lazarus – the man who is on the margins of society – that is taken to heaven. While the Church hierarchy or even some of our fellow Catholics treat us as "intrinsically disordered", they will be held accountable for their views and actions. On the contrary, Jesus will scoop us up, just like he did for Lazarus, as his chosen ones.
Simply being a queer Catholic is not a “get out of jail free” card, though. We should also examine the areas in our lives where we identify more with the rich and comfortable. In the Gospel, the rich man did not harm Lazarus, he simply ignored him and his plight. Where are the areas where we are granted privilege and what are we doing with that privilege? Have we become complacent in fighting for justice?
There’s a lot going on in our world right now, but we owe it to each other as humans and as Catholics to care for everyone — to fight for trans folks, immigrants, religious minorities, or those experiencing the brunt of the effects of climate change.
It’s easy to disconnect or disassociate, to act like there are too many problems and to lose focus. The 2nd reading looks to provide us with spiritual juice to continue: “to keep the commandment without stain or reproach” and to “compete well for the faith” by “pursue(ing) righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.” It’s through the pursuit of these things that we can create a more equitable kingdom here on Earth.
If you've felt pushed out by the Church, I pray God moves to provide you some comfort. Likewise, I hope you fight for others so they can be extended comfort, too. Pick a cause and donate some money, volunteer some of your time, or pursue equality in some other way. Where can you make a difference this week?