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


Are You Ready to Rejoice?

December 1, 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 first Sunday of Advent are Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122: 1-9; Romans 13: 11-14; Matthew 24: 37-44.  You can read the texts by clicking here.

“I have issues with anyone who treats God as a burden instead of a blessing.  You people don’t celebrate your faith; you mourn it.”

A heavenly-muse-turned-stripper named Serendipity made these observations in Dogma, a 1990s satirical film about two renegade angels banished for eternity to Wisconsin.  Her point was that many Christians understand their relationship with God in terms of rules, judgment, and punishment, which produces a rather grim spiritual life and an outward emotional disposition to match.  Fewer Christians appear to understand their relationship with God as a source of love, acceptance, and freedom, which can cultivate an exterior joy that is difficult to miss. 

Pope Francis echoed the sentiments of this stripping celestial being earlier this year when he lamented sour-faced Christians whose hearts have “grow[n] old and wrinkled” and inhospitable to others.  If we are grim and pessimistic Christians, what does that say about the God we proclaim?  How will others come to experience and trust in God’s love if we are miserable?  Unfortunately, gloominess is a terminal illness for our spiritual life. 

Our cure is in the readings for the first Sunday of Advent, which remind us of God’s ever-increasing nearness.  The psalmist calls us to “go rejoicing to the house of the Lord” to celebrate God’s presence among us – indeed, we will soon celebrate the Incarnation of God-with-us during Christmas.  We must “stay awake” for God “is nearer now than when we first believed.”  How can we be gloomy Christians if we truly believe that God has become one of us and continues to be with us now?

As LGBT Catholics and allies, we have many reasons for gloominess.  Numerous LGBT church workers have been fired from Catholic institutions for their sexual orientation, gender identity, and beliefs about marriage equality.  Our bishops take every opportunity to oppose state and federal legislation that ensures employment non-discrimination and marriage equality for LGBT people.  If the story stopped here, then we would have good reason to be gloomy Christians.

However, our story continues with many reasons to rejoice.  Pope Francis has made several positive remarks about LGBT people.  More and more LGBT Catholics (including priests and nuns!) are leading lives of fullness and integrity by coming out to their families, friends, and faith communities.  More parishes than ever are welcoming LGBT people and their families as active members of the community.  As we build a more inclusive and loving Church, God is able to draw nearer and nearer to us.  Indeed, we are incarnating God for one another!  What an awesome reason for rejoicing! 

Perhaps Dorothy Day is helpful to us:  “The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution that has to start with each one of us?”  Our work to create a more welcoming Church is difficult, but as LGBT Catholics and allies, our task is to be joyful people.  Others may disagree with us about LGBT issues, but they will see our love and joy — and see God in us.  If we are joyful witnesses, not gloomy and sour, then others will recognize the beauty and love that LGBT people bring to our Church – and we will transform it!

Let us resolve this Advent season to be joyful Christians.  If we focus on reasons to rejoice and celebrate our faith, not mourn it, then we will transform ourselves and touch the hearts of others.  

–Matthew Myers, New Ways Ministry

 


Resolutions and Hopes for the New Year!

January 1, 2013

new yearA happy and blessed new year to all of New Ways Ministry’s friends and supporters!

January 1st is a time for resolutions and hopes for the future.    The following are some of  the resolutions and hopes for the Catholic LGBT world from New Ways Ministry’s personnel.  What are your resolutions and hopes?  Add them in the “Comments” section of this post.

Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder:

Resolution: A number of folks in our LGBT family have asked about a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. My resolution in 2013 is to plan this pilgrimage so that the pilgrims can both walk in the footsteps of Jesus and also see the reality of the present-day Palestinian/Israeli situation.

Hope: That marriage equality will become a reality in more states in the U.S. and other nations throughout the world.

Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director:

Resolution: To remember that God has a plan for everything, especially for equality and justice for LGBT people.

Hope:  That more Catholic parishes will open their doors to LGBT people and their families.

Bob Shine, Young Adult and Social Media Coordinator:

Resolution: Find new ways to spread the gospel of equality and justice through social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Bondings 2.0.

Hope:  That the hierarchy’s rhetoric around marriage will be less hyperbolic to allow for an open and good faith conversation on the issue of equality.

Matthew Myers, Chair, Board of Directors:

Resolution:  To name one thing every day for which I am thankful.

Hope:  That 2013, as the “Year of Faith” proclaimed by the Pope, will be an opportunity for sincere dialogue and genuine communion among members of our church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Christmas Party for New Ways Ministry Volunteers

December 24, 2012
New Ways Ministry Volunteer Christmas Party:  Standing: Vern Smith, Patrick McNelis, David Lamdin, David Vespa; Seated: Mark Clark, Thom Krupa, Bob Shine, Matthew Myers; Kneeling:  Sister Jeannine Gramick

At the New Ways Ministry Volunteer Christmas Party, staff and volunteers join “Santa” in sending a pro-marriage equality message. Standing: Vern Smith, Patrick McNelis, David Lamdin, David Vespa; Seated: Mark Clark, Thom Krupa, Bob Shine (dressed as Santa), Matthew Myers; Kneeling: Sister Jeannine Gramick

As Christmas draws near,  we’d like to share a little holiday cheer from New Ways Ministry by presenting this photograph of our annual dinner party for our dedicated volunteers.  We took a moment during the party to send a message of Catholic support for marriage equality to all.

Almost every Tuesday evening, a group of volunteers from the local Washington, DC metropolitan area stop by New Ways Ministry’s offices in Mount Rainier, Maryland, to help us prepare the bulk mailings that we send out to our constituents and supporters.  Without these volunteers,  our communications folks around the country and the globe would be much slower and more expensive.  These stalwart worker help spread the word about our programs of education, spiritual development, and advocacy on Catholic LGBT issues.

We are extremely grateful for their service.  If you live in the DC metro area and are interested in volunteering some time, please contact New Ways Ministry either by phone, 301-277-5674, or email, info@NewWaysMinistry.org, so that we can let you know what the upcoming schedule is.

The work is not difficult, and it’s a great way of spending an evening together with like-minded souls.  We always end each evening with pizza and soda as refreshments.

We’d love to see you some volunteer night in 2013!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


LGBT Injustices Central at Loretto Community 200th Jubilee Celebration in DC

September 19, 2012

Loretto Sisters, Co-members and Friends at the USCCB

LGBT issues were front and center when 40 people gathered in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the Loretto Community’s 200th Jubilee.

Planned on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, the DC gathering included visits to seven sights of injustice where the group prayed and sang a litany of saints and heroes. Sites visited were the US Supreme Court, the US Capitol, the DC Jail, the Vietnam War Memorial, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, the Vatican Embassy, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) headquarters.

Sr. Jeannine Gramick, a Sister of Loretto and co-founder of New Ways Ministry, and Matthew Myers, a co-member of Loretto who currently chairs New Ways Ministry’s Board of Directors, joined Sr. Maureen Fiedler of the Sisters of Loretto and Eileen Harrington, a co-member, in leading the afternoon’s celebrations.

Amongst the injustices called to mind were those committed against the LGBT community. These included the exclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons from equal protections under the law at the Supreme Court and the campaign against marriage equality launched by Catholic bishops that makes LGBT persons objects of discrimination.

Sr. Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministry and Sr. Maureen Fiedler

In the Loretto tradition of  ‘working for justice and acting for peace,’ the saints and heroes who struggle for equality and conscience were called to mind as well.

In the political and legal realm, those gathered sang the names of John Lawrence, plaintiff in the case that decriminalized same-gender consensual sex, as well as President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, who have refused to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act.

In the ecclesiastical realm, theologians Hans Kung, Charles Curran, and Margaret Farley were sung at the Vatican Embassy for their progressive views on human sexuality and the Vatican censures that followed. Bishop Thomas Gumbleton was intoned at the USCCB for his outspoken voice for LGBT rights within the Catholic Church.

Fittingly, Sr. Jeannine was included in the litany, along with several other women religious. The program described Sr. Jeannine in the following way:

“Loretto Sister who advocates for LGBT persons in the face of continual Vatican opposition.”

In 1992, after the Vatican had directed U.S. bishops to pull back from their support of civil rights’ legislation for lesbian and gay people, the Loretto General Assembly issued a statement in support of lesbian and gay civil rights which included the following:

“. . . as U.S. citizens, we believe that our constitutional tradition–properly understood and interpreted–ought to guarantee basic civil rights and equal protection of our laws to all citizens regardless of sexual orientation. It saddens us that the Vatican would enter the U.S. political arena by encouraging a departure from the finest ideals of our political tradition, ideals which promote equality and basic civil rights for everyone.
“Consequently, we call upon our political leaders to guarantee the civil rights of lesbian and gay persons in the law of our land. We call upon the U.S. Catholic Bishops to support such legislation as an authentic expression of the gospel call to respect the intrinsic human rights and dignity of all persons.”

New Ways Ministry applauds Loretto for 200 years of powerful witness to working for justice and acting for peace because of the Gospel’s urgent call.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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