As I’ve mentioned in previous posts on Sunday and Monday, Sister Jeannine Gramick and I were in Washington State last week making presentations about Catholic support for marriage equality there. The state legalized marriage equality in February of this year, the bill being signed into law by the Catholic governor, Christine Gregoire, but now it is being challenged in a referendum on election day in November.
During the Q and A at one of those gatherings, a questioner asked what is probably the most common question that I get asked: “How do you maintain hope for justice for LGBT people in the face of so many challenges?” I wish I had a simple and easy answer for that one. I have no magic pill or easy fix to these challenges. They must be faced and responded to, time and again.
Some things, however, have worked effectively over the years, and I shared some with the questioner and folks that night. I thought I’d share them here, too, with the hope that in the “Comments” section of this post, readers will contribute their own processes for maintaining hope.
Most important for me is looking toward the positive that has occurred and is occurring. In the gospels, Jesus declared the reign of God is already here, despite all appearances to the contrary. I think one of our challenges as followers of Christ is to look for the signs of God’s reign of justice in the world in which we live. It may be difficult to do so, especially at first, but, with practice, it becomes easier to do. Just like any form of prayer.
The purpose of this exercise is not to look at the world with rose-colored glasses, but to provide a reality check on the world around us. When bad news happens, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that ONLY bad news happens, when, of course, that is not the case. Stopping to look for God’s reign of justice in our world serves as a good reminder against our penchant to catastrophize.
More importantly, this exercise also serves as a reminder to me that God is actually the one in charge, not me. I’m reminded that God operates on a separate clock and calendar than I do, and that there is a time and a season for God’s actions in the world. I’m reminded that any good that happens comes from God, not from my actions, and that anything that is seemingly bad is an opportunity to look for a way to “birth” Christ into our world.
I feel that often times I have a privileged position in regard for this kind of thinking. People tend to think that since I work at New Ways Ministry, I am barraged daily by negative messages from the church hierarchy and from homophobes in the secular world.
The exact opposite is true. My work at New Ways Ministry brings me into contact with thousands of Catholics who are working to make God’s reign of justice and equality a reality in their parishes and communities. Instead of seeing negative things happening in the church, I am privileged to see Catholics who work tirelessly and courageously to make that LGBT people are welcomed, accepted, loved, and included.
This experience of seeing so many Catholics do so much good helps me to remember that the church truly is ALL the people of God, not just the hierarchy and the clergy.
Again, I stress that all of these exercises take time, practice, and patience, but I think they are all things that people can easily do to maintain hope in our precarious and challenging times.
How do you maintain hope? What inspires you to keep on working for justice despite so many challenges? Maybe you get hope from a Scripture passage, a book you read, a person you know, a community you belong to. Please add your thoughts to the “Comments” section of this post.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry