The Sunday Project
Trust in the Lord
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time |
By Austin Vigue
For I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side! "Denounce him! Let us denounce him!" say all my familiar friends, watching for my fall. "Perhaps he will be deceived, then we can overcome him, and take our revenge on him." But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten. O LORD of hosts, who triest the righteous, who seest the heart and the mind, let me see thy vengeance upon them, for to thee have I committed my cause. Sing to the LORD; praise the LORD! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers.
Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned -- sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
"So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father's will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
Three years ago, I came out as gay.
Two years ago, on June 27th, nearly two years exactly as of the time of this being published, I was confirmed into the Catholic Church.
My conversion to the Catholic Church was prefaced by many days and nights of prayer, contemplation, and reflection, particularly the Rosary. Growing up in a family that was incredibly accepting and affirming of members of the LGBT+ community was a blessing, one that I will always be grateful for. But outside of our house, in a small town in the deep south, things were not always so loving and compassionate. Nastiness towards those who were different was (and probably still is) par for the course in the area, not least within the houses of worship that are meant to glorify God and feed His flock. So, it might be no surprise that I began searching for a denomination that would uphold how I was created and love me just for being a person made in the image of God. My focus in adulthood was the same as when I was just a child—the Catholic Church. And it’s really a show of divine providence that around the time I got serious about becoming Catholic, several people who are Catholic and now my close friends happened to cross my path and guide me into the Church. During this time, I began coming out to them as well, and they were all incredibly accepting and affirming. As I began to move towards entering the Church, I had a conversation with one of my friends that I can still remember crystal clear even today, years later. We sat down and she asked me if I knew the Church’s stance on LGBT issues, to which I replied that I did. She looked at me and said, “You know that this means you might not be able to be married in your lifetime? They’re making progress but it might not come to pass until long after we’re gone.” And I remember the answer I gave just as clearly: “I completely understand that, and if that’s the will of the Lord, I accept it without hesitation. I trust that when the time is right, the Spirit will move within the Church and make things right, but until then, I will wait.” She wanted to make sure I understood what I was doing and the impact it would have on my life. And I very much did.
Growing up in the deep south, I was no stranger to the abuse hurled against the LGBT+ community. Heaven knows I was on the receiving end of it my entire middle and high school career, despite not even realizing I was gay until my second year of college. Having always been religious, I never bought into the church sanctioned abuse of LGBT+ people, nor did my family. Having actually read the Bible for myself, I knew this was not the work of God. In the first reading for today, Jeremiah 20: 10-13, we hear the cries of a man of God being persecuted for who he is. People viciously “whisper” about him, his friends gleefully denounce him, those who hate him wait on all sides to destroy him. I think many of us in this community can relate all too well to this. But the man doesn’t fear. He turns to the Lord and knows the Lord, the defender of the weak, protector of the oppressed and persecuted, friend of the outcast and downtrodden, will not forsake him. He sings a song of praise to the Lord, for the Lord knew the desires of evil in the hearts of the man’s persecutors, and foiled their plans, and passed divine vengeance against them. What a powerful image! The Lord not only defended this man, persecuted and attacked by hateful people; the Lord went so far as to take vengeance against them for the oppressed man! Often times, those of us on the margins can feel so alone, so isolated, so hated, but in those moments, let us remember this verse and turn to the Lord, knowing He sees and hears all, and will not only defend us, but will avenge us, for the Lord is always on the side of the oppressed and the persecuted!
All this abuse was fresh in my mind as I began my formal entrance into the Church. I was no stranger to the opinions of some Catholics worldwide about LGBT+ people. From the attacks against the Holy Father, Pope Francis, over his comment “who am I to judge?” all the way to the tirades against Father James Martin for simply suggesting in his book, Building Bridges, that perhaps the Church and the LGBT+ community could meet halfway and begin a dialogue conducive to a mutually respectful relationship, I was more than familiar with both Church Doctrine and private opinions on LGBT+ people. It took a tremendous amount of both faith and trust, and I thank God for the graces bestowed on me to get me there, to push forward with glee into my new life within the Church. The Gospel Reading for today highlights this situation so excellently: Matthew 10: 26-33, in which Jesus assures his disciples that they should not fear persecution by the Pharisees, but fear the one who can destroy both body and soul, and then elaborates for them that even the hairs on their head are numbered and known to God, who will care for them more than He does sparrows. The passage is about knowing that God cares for His children, and that nothing happens without God knowing about it. But the part that sticks with me the most are the final two verses: “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my father who is in heaven.” At face value, this seems pretty simple. But a deeper message can be read here: to acknowledge Christ is to obey his words and commands, the highest of which are to love God above all else and then to love our neighbor as ourselves. Those who persecute minorities, whether because of skin color, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation/gender identity, or place of origin openly deny both of those commands, for when we refuse to love our neighbor, by extension we refuse to love God, who is just as present in our neighbor as He is in us. In doing so, those who refuse to obey those commandments effectively deny Christ before men, who will then in turn deny them before the Father. The message here is clear and can be pulled verbatim from the passage: “So have no fear of them… do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul…” In our walk with Christ as LGBT+ Catholics, let us acknowledge Christ before man by living honestly with ourselves and the Lord, fearing no persecution or whispers or those who would despise us, but instead trusting ourselves to the Lord as the man in the first reading did and as Christ calls us to do in the second reading. Have no fear, but trust in our God, who delivers us from evil.