The Sunday Project
Overpowering the Fear of Being Myself
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time |
By Brandon Miranda
As the LORD spoke to me, the spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard the one who was speaking say to me: Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day. Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you. But you shall say to them: Thus says the LORD GOD! And whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house— they shall know that a prophet has been among them.
Brothers and sisters: That I, Paul, might not become too elated, because of the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples. When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.
“a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”
I’m not going to lie: I was a little triggered by this Sunday’s second reading. From my early days of high school youth group to my bachelor degree in Catholic Studies to being a campus missionary to being a religious brother studying for the priesthood...all along the journey, I related with Paul. Who knows what plagued Paul but I sure as hell knew what my “thorn in the flesh” was all those years! I remember cowering to the back of the Perpetual Adoration chapel on my alma mater’s campus, pulling out my stunning leather-bound journal, finding a pen that worked, and scribbling for no one to see, “God, I think I’ve been pretty dang good...why hasn’t it stopped? Why am I still drawn to sneaking a glance at them? Why am I...same-sex attracted?!” Because let’s be honest, I was in no place in my life to say the forbidden G-word.
I came up with so many rationales as to why God would permit me to be afflicted in such a way and found great solace in Paul’s words. “That must be it!” I thought, “Satan is testing me because I’d be too happy otherwise with my super holy and pious (scrupulous) life!” So, I clung to the Church and Her guidance to get me through this life. At first, it was going well but in reality, I was just pushing an essential part of my life into the shadows. I tried to date women, read all the SSA literature, forced myself to ‘butch it up’ by wearing flannel and growing a beard...but no matter how hard I tried, something wasn’t right.
Today, Americans celebrate our country’s Independence Day! We are not going to get into the problematic history of the United States...but I think this second reading is fitting for a day we are celebrating independence! Paul continues to share that God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul is empowered in knowing that God’s grace, while not getting rid of the thorn, gives him the power to overcome! This was a great hope for me in those closeted days that I will overpower my attraction to men by God’s grace! The funny thing is, in my coming out, God’s grace did overpower part of me; but not the attraction. By the grace of God, I was able to overpower my fear of being myself...my gay self!
While my story is my own, I know I’m not alone in thinking at some point that my sexuality was a huge thorn in my side. Some of you may read this reflection still believing that your sexuality is a thorn in your side. Some may read it and are still figuring things out. Some of you may be out and proud and reconciled!
I was initially triggered when I saw this was the second reading for this Sunday, but I am also reminded of the journey I’ve travelled...and that I’m still traveling. This Independence Day, I am spending it by reflecting on all the freedoms I’ve experienced in my short life; and I’m happy to do it with the man I love by my side.
Wherever you are on your journey, I leave you with the words of an M. Div. candidate I met at a religious sister’s first profession: “God bless you in your holy queerness!” I pray that we all can come to accept more and more of ourselves; with all our lumps, bumps, and queerities.