Homily Delivered At The Mass To Celebrate The 25th Anniversary Of The Los Angeles Archdiocesan Ministry To Gay And Lesbian People.
OCTOBER 22 ND, 2011 AT BLESSED SACRAMENT CHURCH IN HOLLYWOOD
Fr. Brian Doran, Homilist
This past Thursday I was privileged to be involved at an anti-bullying rally at Bell High School in the City of Bell. Gender bullying was not the only focus of the evening. Picking on immigrants and mocking female students who wear Muslim garb to school was also decried. But by and large the focus was on bullying gay, lesbian and transgender students. My role was to speak briefly on the healing process. We held candles. We sang and processed around the neighborhood. Some gay and lesbian students spoke and they were treated with great respect. It takes courage to stand in front of your peers at that age and hold nothing back. Those LGBT students were heroes to me.
Ten or fifteen years ago that event would never have taken place. The high school now has an active gay/straight alliance group. Parents and grandparents showed up to support their gay children.
This evening we are doing something similar. We too have candles and processions and songs as we celebrate our presence in our church. Could this gathering have happened ten or fifteen years ago? Oh yes! These types of gatherings, this ministry, go back a full 25 years! Cardinal Roger Mahoney himself established the ministry in this very church. We sometimes see our church falling behind a little on some issues. But on this one, the pastoral care of the LGBT community, the church in Los Angeles was a leader. To me Cardinal Mahoney is a hero. He deserves a great deal of gratitude from us.
We are all people of the book here this evening. I see members of other Christian groups here. So often you welcomed us and nourished our souls when we could not find warmth or hospitality in our own parishes. I see representatives of groups that serve the needs of all LGBT people of any faith or of none. We Catholics thank you too and welcome you.
I said we are people of the book and are familiar with this evening’s scripture readings. We love Jesus’ directive in Matthew’s gospel to love the Lord our God with our whole heart and soul and mind. And to love our neighbor as ourselves. But let’s look for a moment at the first reading, from the book of exodus. This of course is the Bible that Jesus read and that he preached from. And it is there we are explicitly told that our God is a God of compassion. “ You shall not molest or oppress an alien…you shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry…if you take your neighbors cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body. What else has he to sleep in? If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.” [Ex. 22:20-26]
So when we pick on an alien, even if the alien does not complain, God sees and God cries. When a homeless person is sleeping under a bridge and is cold at night we may not notice. But God sees and God cries. When we gay people are bullied and shunned, we don’t have to cry. Because God sees and he does the crying for us. And when our own church refuses to welcome us or even acknowledge our presence, we don’t have to cry. God sees and he cries for us. We can be consoled and strengthened by that powerful image of God weeping.
We gay people are not weak. We are not soft. The process of “coming out”, although unique to each person, demands courage and strength. That process never stops of course but we have moved through, or are moving through, some of the stages. You know them.
Denial that we are gay. Leading to anger that we are gay. Leading to bargaining, usually with God (“if you make me not gay I"ll say the rosary every day”). Leading to depression . Leading to accepting the reality. But then comes the best part: joy when we meet other gay and lesbian people. Joy when we find out there is a whole community to embrace us. That we can be gay and Catholic. We are experiencing that joy this evening.
For us Catholics there are signs of acceptance, but you may have to look closely to see them. I would like to propose that perhaps our church is going through a “coming out” process with regard to the Catholic LGBT community.
Some Church leaders are experiencing denial that we even exist . (There are no gay kids in our high school. There are no gay priests.)
This leads to anger when it becomes obvious that we are everywhere, in every parish. Once in a while a parishioner will be rude to you or snub you. That’s the anger!
Trying to come to terms with this by bargaining (you’re welcome in this parish but don’t identify yourself as gay. You can come to church but you can’t be a lector). I believe this is where many of our Church leaders find themselves.
Acceptance will come slowly.
And the joy on the part of the church? Well, we senior members of the community may not live to see that joy. But it will happen. In this archdiocese there are 287 parishes in 120 cities. . Most of them had baptisms today. That’s makes for a lot of infant Catholics. How many of those little ones are gay or will grow up to be gay? A lot! Have we been gay longer than we have been baptized? Could be!
There is a whole new generation right behind us. 25 years from now some of them will be here enjoying their lives as full and active members of our church. And undoubtedly they will be thanking God for this evening, for your efforts.
So what do we do in the meantime? We do what gay and lesbian Catholics have always done. The same as every other Catholic we live our lives. Love and support each other, raise our families. Nourish our souls. And continue to love the lord our God and to love our neighbor as ourselves.