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 first 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