My friends, our readings today call each of us to honesty in our lives. Who are we? What do we want others to think of us? Who are the people who know our names? Which circles do we travel in? Do we read all the right books? Do the parties that we throw include only the people who are “somebody?” What truly is the treasure that we seek in our lives?
Sirach, in our 1st reading today tells us in no uncertain terms that humility should be a guiding force in our lives. And that should be coupled with gentleness. We are told not to be someone greater than we are or strive beyond our means. Now, of course there is a fine line between being content with what and who we are, and sliding through life doing as little as possible.
Sirach is certainly not giving us permission for a laissez-faire sort of existence, but a coming to terms with our abilities—who we in fact are, acting accordingly, and always remembering from whom the ability to do all that we have accomplished, comes. The greater we are in the eyes of the world, Sirach instructs, the more we should behave humbly.
This reminds me of this past weekend. You all know that in my absence on last Saturday, I was officiating at the wedding of two gay men, friends, both by the name of John—some of you met them last spring when they visited here. We sealed their love at St. John’s (no less) Episcopal church in Minneapolis as it was there that they were welcomed and I as a woman priest was also welcomed to conduct a Catholic Mass, which the guys expressly requested.
The Mass, the vows and the reception later were filled with emotion as these men publically gave voice to what has been in their hearts for several years. Their families and friends gathered with great joy to celebrate their public commitment to each other.
And amid all the joy, there was the expression of family members coming to terms with having gay sons and brothers and finally being able to listen to who they said they are. In addition, there was the added layer of their Catholic faith, and a Church hierarchy that doesn’t wholeheartedly embrace them, certainly wouldn’t have witnessed their vows. And finally, throw into the mix, a woman priest, an element that some present struggled with.
But I believe by the time we finished the Mass wherein I officiated the public expression of their love for each other and their commitment to be true to each other for life, there was less struggle on the parts of all. When you can lay the law onto the human condition and give it a face, the objection doesn’t seem to be so important.
The parents of the two men were following the law and presented themselves for communion with their arms crossed meaning that they wouldn’t be receiving, but that they clearly wanted to participate. Two of the parents told me afterward that they wanted to participate and had asked their parish priest beforehand if they could receive, explaining the situation of me presiding and my brother priest said, “No,” because the bread, “wouldn’t be consecrated.” They told me they didn’t really believe that, but clearly were in a quandary, so presenting themselves as they did was the way they could participate, which I affirmed. Their other comment to me was that it was, “a beautiful ceremony.”
At the reception, there were many lovely examples from family and friends, sharing of how they knew each of the Johns and a theme that ran through each of the sharings was of how there was an obvious difference in each when they came into each other’s lives.
I want to share one comment that our daughter-in-law Lauren made that speaks so well to the struggles of gay people in this world. Lauren knew one of the Johns before she knew our son, Isaac and said, “I’ve known John so long that I knew him when he was straight!” That caused me to reflect on how our Church and society lifts up for individuals the norm—heterosexual living and pairing off so that gay and lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender folks have to come to terms with who God made them to be and ultimately to rise above the untruths, the ignorance and the arrogance of those in power who don’t allow, nor embrace who people truly are and as a result, make life so much harder to live.
I, as a woman priest struggling in a world and Church that is still so patriarchal, get that. Hillary, striving to become president of the United States, a position that has been dominated by men gets that as she realizes that she is held to a higher standard and scrutinized more severely than any man would be—this would be true no matter who the woman is that attempts to break the glass ceiling.
So, my friends, Sirach and Jesus call us to honesty—to the search to be who we truly are, who God made us to be and a piece of that honesty is then to humbly serve in the ways we can in a world where we are ultimately all one,
moving in the same direction toward a God who loves us beyond all imagining and wants us then to be open to the gifts in all our sisters and brothers, to the diversity in gender, race, and lifestyle expression and to see in all of that the face of God.
This reminds me of a book that I just finished reading by Richard Rohr, entitled, Things Hidden, Scripture as Spirituality. In a section on the great love of God for us, for everyone, no exceptions and not when we get it all right, but now, just as we are, Rohr says, “God does not love you because you are good, God loves you because God is good.” That is one to pray over!
Difference is not a cause for shunning and punishment but for joy and delight in being able to witness all the ways that we as humans can express what it truly is to be human—to be of God—to be divine. Amen? Amen!