In the Catholic Church, the scripture readings for daily and weekend masses are divided into a 3 year lectionary format so that, during this time, about three-fourths of the Bible is proclaimed and commented on. The gospel for this year is the gospel of Matthew.
As with all of scripture, we gay and lesbian people must ask ourselves, “Where am I in all of this? Amid all the hurtful diatribes, the attempts to alienate and the outright lies, is my story and is the answer to my needs be found here?” Of course, the answer is a resounding “YES!” It is our task to reclaim the club that others have made of God’s word and rediscover what it truly is: a comforting, challenging, empowering expression of God’s undying, unchanging love for his outcast children.
During the following months, I invite you to join me at looking at a number of selections from Matthew (as we did earlier with the Song of Solomon). As we explore its pages we’ll come to a deeper, more profound realization that Jesus, the Son of the Living God, your Brother, is madly in love with you!
Matthew 1 and Matthew 2:1-12
I suppose that, gay or straight, most readers of Matthew’s gospel make a habit of skipping over the genealogy. Why bother with names so unfamiliar to your mouth they could make your tongue bleed? Yet, that understandable attitude misses something very powerful to be found in these opening chapters: God is no stranger to the outcast, and often will use the outsider and the “unusual” to manifest the glory of his will.
In Matthew’s genealogy, the evangelist does something unheard of…he includes women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, the wife of Urih, and Mary, Jesus’ mother. Why did Matthew, coming from a patriarchal society, bother to include women in Jesus’ genealogy? Each of these women (I will leave it up to your own initiative to search out their full story) comes into the messianic line in seemingly scandalous ways, preparing for the scandal of Jesus himself, his birth and, more so, his shocking criminal death. Their standing as women made them second class, yet reading their stories, one is struck by their courage, their willingness to take charge of their situation and disregard the restriction of the roles they were forced to play.
In 1:18-25 we are presented with Joseph, the carpenter from Nazareth who discovers that the love of his life is pregnant with someone else’s child. Even in the womb, Jesus is forcing people to make a decision for him. Joseph decides to trust in the angelic message and thus participate in the saving of the world.
Finally we have the magi, the Gentile wise men who were outcasts in the eyes of the Jews. Yet even these “disposable people” find a place of welcome near the infant Christ.
So, what’s in it for us? Plenty! We find here in the stories of the powerless and marginalized the scandalous reality that God could not only love gay folk, but actually desire us and use us to make his presence known in the world. Gay and lesbian people have a duty to take back the scriptures from destructive closed minds. In doing so we will find a message of welcome intended for all of God’s children. Like the wise men, our search for Jesus Christ will be blessed by his loving gaze and comforting touch. Like the women of the genealogy, our courage and trust will help fashion a bridge from our lives upon which other pilgrims may travel to reach the heart of God. And like Joseph, when we go beyond the cacophony of doubt and fear and worry and, instead, trust in the still small voice of God Almighty, we will become participants with God in the recreation and salvation, not only of the gay community, but of the whole world.
Matthew 3: 13-17
As Christians, we are taught that baptism washes sins away and brings us, wet and refreshed, into the family of God. So then, why did Jesus feel the need to be baptized? One could play amateur psychologist and question what Jesus actually did or did not realize about himself (Did he know he was divine?), but that would be missing the point. As fully God, Jesus could not sin hence he had no defilement to be cleansed from. But as fully human, Jesus also had a need for community, a need for friendship and love, a need to be with and for others. And so he is plunged into the waters of the Jordan River.
“And suddenly there was a voice from heaven, “This is my Son, the Beloved; my favor rests on him” (Mt 3:17). Jesus is God’s beloved. Webster’s dictionary defines “beloved” as “dearly loved” and “dear to the heart.” Dear to the heart of God is Jesus, the Son of God and human. In his humanity, Jesus is united with us, taking us up in his very self and, in the waters of our baptism, immerses us into himself so that our fragile humanity may experience the presence and life of his divinity. You are not an abomination to God. You are not second or third class. You are a blessing (and God has no such thing as a second or third class blessing). United with Jesus you and I become the beloved, the “dearly loved” ones of God, close to his heart for all eternity. Are gay folks more perfect than others? A quick look inside each of us gives the answer to that one. Yet, to each of us, gay, lesbian, bi, trans, or straight as can be, our beloved Jesus stands in the cleansing waters of his love and beckons us with arms wide open to come and — in a real sense — drown in the mystery and depth of his passionate love and longing for us…for you.
The Lord’s Prayer is so familiar, so much a part of the fabric of the lives of Christians that we can all too easily become deaf to its message and immune to its power. I wish to offer you a “re-telling,” a reinterpretation of Jesus’ design for prayer. May it reawaken your ears to recognize his voice and stoke once more the flames of devotion in our hearts.
Our Father, Mother, Lover, Friend,
in a heaven that permeates the very stones of this tired earth,
may your name, your very being and unending existence
be held as holy in the warm confines of our hearts
and the expanse and activity of our lives.
May your kingdom of shalom, of blessed wholeness, holiness and peace come as a reality among us
and may your will, a will and desire for only what is best for us,
fashioned and formed in your mysterious depths,
be always done with trust, confidence and joy here on this fragile, frightened planet
as it is in the all-embracing light of heaven.
Give us for this day alone, all that we, your children, need, since this day is all we have.
And forgive our sins, our short-sightedness and closed-heartedness that feeds violence and misunderstanding,
but forgive us only to the extent that our minds and hearts are at least willing to dispel
the shadows of hell
by our deeds of mercy and compassion.
Be with us when the days are long
and the times threaten to try us beyond the limits or our faltering strength.
And deliver us from the power of the Evil One,
from behind whatever mask he calls,
from whatever threadbare lies he presents. Amen.
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.