It is so easy to worry, to be overwhelmed with the future and with what might happen. But, as Max Lucado has written, worry is a sign that we have forgotten who is in control.
So Jesus turns to those with courage enough to turn from their preoccupations with food, clothing, shelter, health, all valid concerns, and says, “Do not worry.” Instead, look around you. Look how God tends to the fragile passing things of this earth. Look at the birds and grasses and flowers. Look at how God has clothed and provided for them.
Now look at the cross. Look at the one hanging upon its rough timbers. Jesus did not die and rise again for the birds of the air or the flowers of the field. He did so for YOU, because you and I, who often have so little faith, are worth much more than they are. You cost Jesus every drop of his blood, and he considers that a price worth paying. “So do not worry about tomorrow” with all its valid and imagined cares and concerns, “tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” And whatever the trouble, whatever the need, Jesus will be there to meet it with us.
Matthew 7: 7-11
Are you a trusting kind of person? For gay and lesbian people, trust is often difficult to do since many people we would have liked to believe in have betrayed our trust: families that disown us, “friends” that abandon us, employers that fire us, even churches that slam their doors in our faces.
But the reality is that, without trust, God is straight-jacketed. Lack of trust keeps us from experiencing the depth of love God has for us. When we trust, we open our hearts to receive whatever graces God wishes to shower upon us, graces that are ours for the asking. Jesus tells us to “ask,” “search,” and “knock,” and to do so trusting that the God who created you is a God who desires to lavishly meet our needs.
God is no miser! Neither is God someone who plays games with our lives. God is a loving Father, a tender Mother, who only wants what is best for the children he created. When you and I can move beyond the gnawing sting of past hurts and thoughtlessness, and, however tentatively, reach out to knock at the door of God’s heart, trusting in him and the goodness of his will for us, we will then experience the amazement of the crowds who first heard Jesus’ good news. An amazement that comes from being touched not only by the truth, but by being caressed by Truth itself.
Matthew 8 and Matthew 9:10-13
Chapter 8 is filled with cures, Jesus reaching out to the sick and wounded, to those whose status or ailments have rendered them outsiders and undesirable. And by restoring them he announces loudly and clearly that the love and mercy of Almighty God is not for the privileged few, but for any and all in need.
A man with a skin disease pleads that, if Jesus wants to, he can cure him. No pressure. Perhaps the man had suffered for years and was so emotionally worn down that his hope for a cure was almost nonexistent. So, he would accept a healing, but only if Rabbi Jesus really wants to. And of course, Rabbi Jesus wants to. No one who ever came to Jesus for help left his presence untouched. The same for this man, “his skin disease was cleansed at once.”
The centurion was a despised Gentile who comes to Jesus asking for his servant to be restored to health. Some commentators believe the servant may have been the centurion’s lover, thus making him a double outcast. But outcast or not, his faith in Jesus is so strong and sure that Jesus was astonished and praises him for it…and grants his request.
Ailing mothers-in-law, demon possessed men, crowds hoping for healing and restoration, all come to Jesus and all are liberated. And so it can be with us. To the eyes of the cramped and hateful, we are the ultimate outsiders, the last group people can feel themselves justified in despising. After all, if it’s good enough for God…Of course that presupposes a great deal. From the evidence in Matthew (and the other gospels) the exact opposite is the truth. Jesus despises NO ONE; no one is outside the touch of his hand, the reassurance of his voice, the comfort of his presence.
This is why Jesus had no problem eating and drinking with “sinners,” with those dubbed “sick” by those who saw themselves as “healthy.” He himself reminded the myopic self-righteous ones “it is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice.” It is this table fellowship that will cause him much trouble. Yet it is exactly those at that table, the “fringe element” of society who will accept him, a fellow outcast. They will believe him, the “healthy” will kill him. So don’t let yourself be “sickened” by the pronouncements of others. Instead, pull up a seat close to Jesus…and ask him to pass the wine!
Reclaiming the gospels, finding the “good” in the “good news” is the constant work of the gay and lesbian Christian. It is a most important effort because far too many in our community have been scarred and mangled by those who claim to act in Jesus’ name but who, in reality, have failed to remember that, what they do to the least of their sisters and brothers, they do to him.
Chapter 10 of Mathew’s gospel lays out what the follower of Jesus must do and what they can expect. In verse 16 he reminds us, “Look, I am sending you like sheep among wolves, so be cunning as snakes and yet as innocent as doves.” To proclaim the good news, especially to gay folk, is to do something many will refuse, either because of the message and/or the messenger. So if Jesus is truly an integral part of your life, and if you take his call seriously, then go into it with eyes wide open. Do not act like a naive child, but present the gospel of peace and healing with wisdom and clear vision.
Not everyone will greet you with open arms and guileless hearts. “Be prepared for people to hand you over to Sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues…You will be universally hated on account of my name” (Mt 10: 17-22). Why such hatred, as if one needed to ask? Because how dare we perverts, homos, queers, dykes, fairies, child molesters and threats to the family, how dare we speak in Jesus’ name, proclaim his gospel and challenge our sisters and brothers to love as Jesus loves? We are, after all, and to too many, an abomination. Shut up, get back in the closet, and leave the missionary work to “normal” people!
Yet, “do not be afraid of them “(v 26). Do not let small minds reduce the greatness of your call. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body (or the spirit) but cannot kill the soul” (v 28). The pain of rejection and self-righteousness can sting and cripple. But we are not alone in our struggle. For the God who created us, the loving God who fashioned and gifted us with our sexuality, cares so deeply about us that “every hair on your head has been counted” (v 30). Therefore, “there is no need to be afraid” (v31). Jesus did not win over everyone. Neither will we. But those of us who have come to know and love Jesus, and have realized his love for us, also know that, whatever sufferings and struggles are involved in following him, are worth the trouble since he has more than proven himself worthy of our efforts.
Tom Yeshua is the pen name of Thomas E.L. Cloutier OFS, a transitional deacon who taught theology for 30 years at Nashua (N.H.) Catholic Regional Junior High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Don Bosco College in Newton, N.J., and a master’s in divinity and theology from St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass.