It is all too easy for us, accustomed to the experience of textual abuse of the bible used as a weapon to justify bigotry, discrimination and violence to lose sight of John’s first message in today’s Mass reading, from his first epistle: that the heart of Jesus’ Gospel lesson is that God is light, in which there is no darkness:
This is what we have heard from Jesus Christ,
and the message that we are announcing to you:
God is light; there is no darkness in him at all.
If we say that we are in union with God
while we are living in darkness,
we are lying because we are not living the truth.
But if we live our lives in the light,
as he is in the light,
we are in union with one another,
and the blood of Jesus, his Son,
purifies us from all sin.
If we say we have no sin in us,
we are deceiving ourselves
and refusing to admit the truth;
but if we acknowledge our sins,
then God who is faithful and just
will forgive our sins and purify us
from everything that is wrong.
To say that we have never sinned
is to call God a liar
and to show that his word is not in us.
I am writing this, my children,
to stop you sinning;
but if anyone should sin,
we have our advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ, who is just;
he is the sacrifice that takes our sins away,
and not only ours,
but the whole world’s.
However, we must not overlook the second message. It simply is not true, as some people insist, that we are necessarily sinners because of our sexuality, but that does not mean that we are free of sin.
Like everyone else, we too are subject to sin, and like everyone else, we need to confront the sin in our lives, and do what we can to root it out. Like everyone else, that sin may sometimes be in the way in which we use our sexual faculties selfishly or irresponsibly – or it may be in other matters entirely.
In the eyes of God, we really are just as everyone else: each of us unique, each of us deeply loved, each of us equally able to share in the joy, and the light, of God’s word.
The theme of today’s Mass is proclaimed from the first word of the entrance antiphon, and repeated insistently throughout, “Rejoice” – or in Latin, “Gaudete”, from which today, the Third Sunday of Advent takes its name, “Gaudete” Sunday.
The entrance antiphon opens,
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.
(Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete).
From “The Bible In Drag“:
Nehemiah continued, “Go now and enjoy rich food and sweet wine, and be certain that you send a share to those who cannot provide for themselves, for this day is holy to Our God. Let no one be sad, for Our God’s joy is your strength.”
Nehemiah and the returned exiles to Jerusalem are celebrating. They are celebrating a resettlement of the land their grandparents and parents had been forcefully evicted from. They are celebrating that the presence of God, which had been with them in exile, is also with them in the resettlement. They are celebrating with joy not because of what they have, but because of whom they worship.
We, who are queer and allies, need to take note of this scene. “God’s joy is your strength,” proclaims Nehemiah to those huddled in the ruins of what was once a great city. Often when life is either less than expected or overwhelmed by the ruins of hopes and expectations unmet joy tends to slip away from us. We allow our surroundings to shape our inner being as oppose to allowing our inner resources to shape our environment.
Nehemiah calls us to heed the very core of our being – the great Heart of the Universe beating within our own hearts. Openly and wonderfully the Sacred trips over the divine-Self just to say, “I love you.” Here within this intimate relationship with the Holy lies the only sustained source of joy. Since it ignites from within we can easily miss it by looking without. The right partner, family acceptance, full legal rights, safe work place, these and others are certainly points of joy in our lives. Yet, as wonderful as they are we can never be assured of their presence in our lives.
via The Bible In Drag – Queering Scripture November 27, 2013
from “The Bible In Drag:”
Then (Jesus) said to the disciples, “That’s why I tell you, don’t worry about your life and what you are to eat. Don’t worry about your body and what you are to wear. For life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Take a lesson from the ravens. They don’t sow or reap. They have neither a food cellar nor a barn, yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable are you than birds? Can any one of you, for all your worrying add a single hour to your life? If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why worry about the rest?
“Notice the flowers grow. They neither labor nor weave, yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was robed like one of these! If that is how God clothes the grass in the field – which is here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow – how much more will God look after you! You have so little faith!
“As for you, don’t set your hearts on what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink. Stop worrying! All the nations of the world seek these things, yet your Abba God well knows what you need. Set your sights on the kin-dom of God, and all these other things will be given to you as well.”
I start with a confession – I have always wrestled with these words: don’t be anxious, don’t seek to control, trust. This advice is hard enough in general, yet from a queer perspective they seem to have even more weight. There are a thousand things to fret about. For those just discerning their orientation the whole issue of managing the closet, of who knows, who doesn’t know, when do we want someone to know, and each and every individual with which a potentially difficult conversation needs to take place with the risk of rejection. For those yearning and fighting for marriage equality and the constant and seemingly unending battle for respect and legal justice. For those who’ve mourned quietly over a break up, or even the death of a lover – not understood, or simply ignored by others.
via The Bible In Drag – Queering Scripture.November 11, 2013
The story from Luke’s Gospel, telling of Zacceus in the sycamore tree, has a direct parallel with the situation of gay men and lesbians in the Christian churches. Zaccheus is a tax collector, and so seen as an outcast, an obvious sinner, in Jewish society. Yet even so, Jesus not only accepts him, he invites himself to Zaccheus’ home.
Jesus entered Jericho and was going through the town when a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance: he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. He was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see him for the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him: ‘Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.’ And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully. They all complained when they saw what was happening. ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house’ they said. But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, ‘Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.’
From “The Bible in Drag”:
He asked her, “Why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?”
(Mary of Magdala) supposed it was the gardner, so she said, “Please, if you’re the one who carried Jesus away, tell me where you’ve laid the body and I will take it away.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned to him and said, “Rabboni!”
Her heart was already broken. Her life already disrupted. What little peace remained to her was in taking care of the dead body. Yet even that little comfort had been stolen. All that was left was turmoil, tears, and bitterness.
The dynamics surrounding Mary Magdalene richly mirror dynamics felt by so many in the queer community. The frustration, the disappointment, the turmoil, the tears all express the experience of queer folk in the face of patronizing heteronormative attitudes. We seek a little peace, but even in the early dawn we are hounded by the cries lifted up against us.
– continue reading at The Bible In Drag – Queering Scripture.October 30, 2013
Jesus replied, “unless you people see signs and wonders, you won’t believe.”
(for a great article on “Hunky Jesus” please see Kittredge Cherry)
What miracle do I need to experience before I believe? What will convince me that God exists? What tangible manifestation can give expression of intangible reality? On the reverse, why does God seem to be more hidden than revealed? Is faith always a struggle for clarity?
-continue reading at The Bible In Drag – Queering Scripture. August 22, 2013
The Samaritan woman replied, “You’re a Jew. How can you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?” – since Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans. Jesus answered, “If only you recognized God’s gift, and who it is that is asking you for a drink, you would have asked him for a drink instead, and he would have given you living water.”
Samaritans/Jews, Romans/Barbarians, Europeans/Turks, Colonizers/Native Peoples – history is full of divisions. Of course we have our own experience of the Gay/Straight divide. I call this division the “big assumption.” We just assume that it is proper and is to be honored.
In the encounter of John 4 is a Samaritan female rebuffing the advances of a Jewish male; maintaining the divide over something as simple as a request for water. This divide is deep, for a long and tortuous history between the two ethnicities is at work here.
– continue reading at The Bible In Drag – Queering Scripture. August 14, 2013
The story of Ruth and Naomi and their deep love has often been used to illustrate love between women in the Bible. There is more to the book than that alone, for a queer reading. Although the book begins as the story of Ruth and Naomi, it ends as that of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz, as Mona West makes clear in her chapter on Ruth for The Queer Bible Commentary, concluding with a reflection on its lesson for queer families – in all their variety.
With the strong public interest in the struggle for marriage equality and gay adoption, we often overlook the simple but important fact that not all queer families are imitations of conventional families, differing only in the minor detail of being headed by a couple of the same biological sex. We come in a multitude of forms – like the family I meet recently, comprising three men who have just celebrated 25 years of living as a mutually supportive and committed triple. This obviously does not fit with the modern conception of “traditional” marriage and family – but nor do the families of Jesus and his disciples in the New Testament, and nor does the family of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz, as we know it by the end of the book.