Saint Luke, the Evangelist, 18th October – an Example for Queer Christians

October 18th celebrates the feast of Saint Luke the Evangelsit, with many notable lessons for modern queer Christians in the readings for the day, both those from the daily Mass, and from the Divine Office. (As I read these texts and their significance for the LGBT Christian community, I do so in the context also of some recent observations of Pope Francis).

Luke

Before we consider the readings for the Mass, here are some verses from the Liturgy of the Hours, described at Universalis as

The Liturgy of the Hours is the richest single prayer resource of the Christian Church, with prayers, psalms and readings for each of the Hours, changing each day and through the seasons.

“The purpose of the Divine Office is to sanctify the day and all human activity.”

– Apostolic Constitution, Canticum Laudis.

For today’s mid – morning reading  (Terce), we have  Romans 1:16-17

I am not ashamed of the Good News: it is the power of God saving all who have faith – Jews first, but Greeks as well – since this is what reveals the justice of God to us: it shows how faith leads to faith, or as scripture says: The upright man finds life through faith.

We have been subjected to centuries of textual abuse, by which a handful of carefully selected biblical texts have been used as a cover for prejudice and discrimination against LGBT people. But like Luke, we too have no need to be ashamed of the Good News. As he reminds us, it is there for all “who have faith, Greeks as well as Jews”. In Jewish society, “Greeks” were outsiders – just as too often, LGBT people are in today’s Christian community. For all queer Christians, we should, in Robert Goss‘s phrase, “Take Back the Word”. Move beyond the obsession with the texts of terror, the clobber texts, and become familiar with the the affirmative scriptures.

For Catholics, who should take heart from Pope Francis’ many supportive recent statements, in particular that gay Catholics “should not be marginalised”, and his reminder, in his general audience of Wednesday 9th October, that the meaning of the word “Catholic” does not imply uniformity, but includes diversity.  That diversity will cover the obvious ethnic and linguistic diversity, but also liturgical diversity, some degree of diversity in religious interpretation and practice – as well as sexual and gender diversity.

For noon (Sext), we have 1 Thessalonians 2:2-4

It was our God who gave us the courage to proclaim his Good News to you in the face of great opposition. We have not taken to preaching because we are deluded, or immoral, or trying to deceive anyone; it was God who decided that we were fit to be entrusted with the Good News, and when we are speaking, we are not trying to please men but God.

As queer Christians, we will certainly be familiar, as Paul was, with meeting great opposition. I have certainly encountered much anger and hostility from some sources, who are convinced that by identifying openly as gay, I am by definition living in a state of mortal sin. By actively associating with other self-identified gay and lesbian Catholics, and encouraging my readers to live lives of honesty and integrity as LGBT Christians, I am accused of heresy, of being under Satanic influence, and worse. (This irrational hostility is of course, more than offset by the extensive encouragement I get from respected theologians,academics, clergy, and ordinary readers, for which I am deeply grateful). The more important point, is that as Pope Francis reminded us in his audience of Wednesday 16th October, that a fourth meaning of “Catholic” is “apostolic”. If is incumbent on all of us, not only on designated clergy and professionals, to preach the Good News. “All of us” includes the sexual and gender minorities, in all our diversity. Meeting strong opposition, as we certainly will, from Christian conservatives as well as from those in the queer community who have turned their backs on what they see as the churches that have rejected them, we must depend on God’s grace for continued courage and strength – as we read also in the afternoon reading (None), from 2 Timothy 1:8-9

Rightly is it said that he sent them ahead of him into every city and place where he himself was to go. For the Lord follows after the preachers, because preaching goes ahead to prepare the way, and then when the words of exhortation have gone ahead and established truth in our minds, the Lord comes to live within us.

For today’s Mass readings, the Gospel (from Luke 10:1-9) includes the familiar lines,

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!”

As LGBT Christians, often attacked from both sides (both for being openly gay, or for being openly Christian), we know all too well that the harvest is great – and the labourers few. We know also, what it feels like to be as lambs among wolves, but like Luke, like Paul, and like the seventy two – we too are sent out to preach the Good News.

From the second reading for the Office of the day, a homily by Pope Gregory the Great expands on the theme, pointing out that just as the Lord sent his disciples out before Him – he follows.

Rightly is it said that he sent them ahead of him into every city and place where he himself was to go. For the Lord follows after the preachers, because preaching goes ahead to prepare the way, and then when the words of exhortation have gone ahead and established truth in our minds, the Lord comes to live within us.

As we attempt to promote the message of full LGBT inclusion in Church in our faith communities, and attempt to live and practice our faith openly in the LGBT community, let us draw strength and courage, from this.

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