Good Friday: Oppressed, Condemned, Taken Away

April 18, 2014

Though he was harshly treated, he submitted
and opened not his mouth;
like a lamb led to the slaughter
or a sheep before the shearers,
he was silent and opened not his mouth.
Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away,
and who would have thought any more of his destiny?
When he was cut off from the land of the living,
and smitten for the sin of his people,
a grave was assigned him among the wicked
and a burial place with evildoers,
though he had done no wrong
nor spoken any falsehood. . . .

Because of his affliction
he shall see the light in fullness of days;
through his suffering, my servant shall justify many,
and their guilt he shall bear.
Therefore I will give him his portion among the great,
and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty,
because he surrendered himself to death
and was counted among the wicked;
and he shall take away the sins of many,
and win pardon for their offenses.

–Isaiah 53:7-9, 10-12

 

 

 

 


Choosing Between Mercy and Judgment

December 8, 2013

For the four Sundays of Advent, Bondings 2.0 will feature reflections on the day’s Scripture readings by two New Ways Ministry staff members:  Matthew Myers, Associate Director, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder.  The liturgical readings for the second Sunday of Advent are Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72: 1-2. 7-8, 12-13, 17; Romans 15: 4-9; Matthew 3: 1-12.  You can read the texts by clicking here.

“Slay the wicked.”  “Crush the oppressor.”  “Coming wrath.”  “Unquenchable fire.”  In today’s readings, Isaiah and John the Baptist use some strong language about God’s impending judgment and wrath.  And I like it. 

I would not mind seeing some hardcore divine judgment fall upon people who perpetrate evil in our world.  I am tired of reading in the news about hungry children, homeless families, corrupt politicians, war-torn countries, and corporate greed.  I am angry that the strong and influential exploit the weak and unknown.  How long, O Lord, until the oppressors are crushed and the wicked are slain?

However, contrary to Isaiah, John the Baptist, and my own deeply flawed heart, judgment and wrath are not the way of Jesus or the God he proclaimed.

Through Jesus, we see that “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).  God overwhelms all of us with love that exceeds our ability to sin – that is mercy!  It is not asked for or deserved, but freely and lavishly given.  Judgment and wrath bring only sadness and death into our world, not life – and our God is one of abundant life.  Mercy brings true justice and wholeness into our world.   

What does this mean to us?  As Catholic LGBT people and allies, we can create a more inclusive Church by welcoming God’s abundant mercy into our own hearts, and then by sharing that love with others–particularly with those fellow Catholics who may say disparaging things or create discriminatory policies against LGBT people.  It is our own experience of undeserved mercy that compels us to generously extend mercy to others. 

For example, if a bishop or pastor condemns marriage equality, I think denouncing him as a bigot who hates lesbian and gay people is not consistent with what Jesus taught.  Our culture encourages us to attack those who disagree with us, but angry words and vitriol will only magnify and perpetuate the mistrust and rancor in our Church.  Instead, perhaps we should focus on building relationships – invite the bishop or pastor to have coffee or lunch to share our stories.  Send him a Christmas card with a family photo.  If he keeps us at arm’s length, we should keep the doors open by periodically reaching out to him.  Our task is to build bridges rather than throw stones. 

Our loving witness and patient invitation to dialogue will give others the opportunity to experience God’s mercy – and possibly change their hearts about LGBT people.  We pursue justice for LGBT people by changing hearts through showing mercy in personal interactions, not through judgment and wrath.

There is power in mercy.  As we continue our Advent preparations, perhaps we can reflect on how God’s “mercy triumphs over justice” in our own lives – and how we can show mercy to others.

–Matthew Myers, New Ways Ministry


‘He was not the light’

December 13, 2011

On the third Sunday of Advent, the gospel focused on John the Baptist.  The people around John are confused as to his identity, and ask if he is the Messiah.  John responds:

“I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

While we often think of Advent as a time of waiting, another less emphasized theme that runs throughout this season’s liturgies is the theme of recognition.  Yes, we are waiting for the Messiah, preparing the way, but will we recognize the Messiah’s arrival when it happens?

What makes John the Baptist a great model is that he can recognize the Messiah because he knows  that he is NOT the Messiah, even when others try to make him such.  He knows that he is a voice crying in the wilderness, preparing the way for the Messiah.  John knows what his role is, and he knows that he does not have to do everything.   His job is to prepare the way, and also to recognize the Messiah. Remember in the Visitation gospel that John moved in Elizabeth’s womb when the pregnant Mary arrives. He was the first to recognize the Messiah.

In the reading from Isaiah 61, we learn how to recognize the Messiah by hearing how the Messiah’s arrival is proclaimed:

“[God] has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.”

As we work for justice for LGBT people in the church and society,  our job is to recognize and celebrate when God’s saving power and justice are made real in the world.  While we may sometimes grow wearisome of  being voices crying in the wilderness, we should remember that we are not called to save the world, but to prepare the way for the One who does the saving.   Our job, like John’s, is simply to testify:

“He [John] came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.

–Francis DeBernardo


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