The Sunday Project
Being Courageous, Not Just Brave
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time |
Thus says the Lord GOD: I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar, from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot, and plant it on a high and lofty mountain; on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it. It shall put forth branches and bear fruit, and become a majestic cedar. Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it, every winged thing in the shade of its boughs. And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the LORD, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom. As I, the LORD, have spoken, so will I do.
Brothers and sisters: We are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord. Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.
Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”
He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.
Being queer and Catholic is a statement in today’s society. Your existence will undoubtably result in some raised eyebrows, confused questions and suspicious looks – and that’s if you’re lucky. And to be honest, that stuff is E X H A U S T I N G. There are days when I just want off this ride and to hide like a little church mouse at the back. But alas that’s not what we are here to do. In the first reading we hear of a branch being taken and made into a majestic tree:
bring low the high tree,
lift high the lowly tree.We are small.
We make mistakes and we will never be the perfect face of queer Catholicism. But you know what – that’s okay. God takes the small, the flawed, the unsure and makes us into something bigger than we could ever imagine.
The second reading tells us some more of what we have to do to allow God to build us up, from a small branch into a majestic tree. Beyond all else, we must be courageous. Even though courage and bravery are often used interchangeably, to be courageous is so much more than being brave or a daredevil. Bravery is doing something without fear, while courage is doing something despite it. Standing up as an openly queer Catholic in spaces that have in the past been less than welcoming is really scary. Not knowing whether you’ll be edged out of your church community or abandoned by your family is terrifying. Courage is being a witness despite all this. Quite frankly, if this is something we had to do on our own I would sooner choose to run away and live in the woods of some far away land. But courage is given to us through Christ. It is through knowing that he loves me and my queerness and everything else that makes me the person I am.
What is even more amazing is that our mere witness can be used to touch others in ways we cannot even begin to imagine. In both the second reading and the gospel we have the reoccurring theme of God working in ways unknown to us. The verses “We walk by faith not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7) and “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how” (Mark 4:27) both carry the idea that we may not understand how or why God does things and how little things we do can be used to bear big witness in our lives.
When I first came across Vine & Fig a couple of months ago, I fully burst out crying. I cannot put into words how much this community has helped me. Someone else’s decision to bear witness to the fact that you fully Catholic and fully queer was so immensely powerful to me and yanked me back into a faith I was not sure I belonged in anymore. The queer church has shown me a side of Christ that the straight church never has. Queer Christians tend to be the epitome of unconditional love because they have experienced rejection from the church like no other group but have still found their way back to the Lord.
That is the kind of witness we need more of. That is the mustard seed spoken of in the gospel. Bearing witness as openly gay and openly Catholic is scary, but it’s so desperately needed in a world that thinks a queer Catholic is an oxymoron.