I went to confession yesterday. Apparently, I was not the only one who felt a need for a little soul scrubbing. In fact, the room was packed and there was a line down the hall. It was so full that the solo priest hearing confessions may have asked us to say our Act of Contrition before entering. I won't go into how I feel about that.
My desire to lay all my garbage at the foot of the cross to be lifted up in mercy initially had nothing to do with the events that had transpired at the end of the week. However, as I prayed about what I was truly seeking freedom from through the sacrament, I realized something. While it may not have been the cause for me to feel ill at ease with the health of my soul, it was certainly contributing to my unease. The "it" my friends was not the actual decision by the Supreme Court to recognize same-sex marriage. At this stage of our culture, I already assumed that to be a foregone conclusion. The "it" that had me so bothered internally had to do with our own reactions to this development.
So many of those whom I look to for direction and inspiration in faith and morals seemed to have lost their center. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. There was fear. There was resignation. There was excessive melodrama. There was a whole lot of spiraling forward into a bleak future.
Don't get me wrong. I understand. I do. Our understanding of the world was shaken...or was it? Don't we as Christians still believe the same thing? Isn't our witness needed as much today as it was yesterday? Is all our wailing and toddler-sized tantrum throwing giving witness to our firm faith and confidence that Jesus has already overcome the world? I'd answer that with a GIANT no.
How do we move forward in faith? This question was nagging on my heart as I sat waiting to make my confession. What is it Christ is calling ME to do...or not do? I want to write and speak volumes because I don't want to remain silent. Yet, is that what God is calling me to do? Would all my speaking and writing bring one heart closer to Him? What about all those friends and family I love who are rejoicing with the change of the law in the land? How would my words help them know my love and God's love amid my conviction that as humans we cannot simply legislate natural law away?
You know what I discovered? I have NO idea. That's what. I don't know what the right thing to say is that both affirms the dignity of my LGBT friends and family and acknowledges the pain and suffering they have endured while also sharing what I believe to be God's design for love, life, and humanity. I don't. I just don't. I just got on my knees and threw up my hands and prayed.
Make me an instrument of your peace, of your love, of your truth.
May those who see me know You...know Your love, know Your mercy, know Your goodness.
Why? I am an ambassador of Christ. I am NOT Christ. My job is to bring people to Him, and I will not do that through lectures and tantrums. I will not do that by turning away from those I disagree with or getting into a battle of Facebook statuses and profile pictures. The only way I can be an ambassador of Christ is to be a stranger in a strange land willing to open my heart and walk alongside the people He sends my way, friend and stranger alike.
I got home to read a few more Facebook updates, and this time, I was encouraged - so very encouraged. The first was from the Archdiocese of Denver and their response.
We here at the Denver Catholic figure that we have two options for how to respond going foward:
Go on the defensive. We've clearly lost the culture war, but we can try to convince the public that our view is the correct one.
Realize that we don't live in a Christian culture, and therefore must engage it as missionaries.
Option one is equivalent to declaring ourselves victims. Option two is to accept the challenge of living as authentic followers of Jesus Christ in a world that has largely forgotten Him.
Jesus Christ is real. We Christians have experienced the sweetness of a personal relationship with Him. Our mission is not to punish or coerce those who have not experienced this—instead, we must invite them into relationship. What better way to do this than to show the joy of living the Catholic faith?
The other was from Fr. Newman of St. Mary's parish in Greenville, South Carolina:
Christians must let go of nostalgia for our faded Christian civilization in order to build it again. If we can see the collapse of cultural Christianity as a great evangelical opportunity, then with joy and love we can proclaim Jesus Christ crucified and risen to the millions of people who now have only debonair nihilism to help them understand the purpose and meaning of their lives.
This was my answer to prayer. This made me feel less guilty about not being infuriated. (Yeah, I felt guilty about not losing it because maybe it meant that I wasn't devoted enough to the law of God.) This gave me...HOPE. And here the Spirit soars. Hope. Joy. Love - authentic love. As we move forward from this monumental day (and it is monumental in our cultural understanding of the nature of man, woman, and humanity), this is the answer.
Share the joy and hope of Christ.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
Love and serve your neighbor in humility.
You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. Mark 10:42-45
Remember that we are not victims, and fear of the future is not from God.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
We are missionaries and ambassadors of the Most High. Claim it in love, and remember that love comes with a cross.
For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them...So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 20
Always remember that our actions speak far louder than our words.
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:12-17
A friend shared this quote today, and it summed up the future for me perfectly.
"Before you speak to me about your religion, first show it to me in how you treat other people; before you tell me how much you love your God, show me in how much you love all His children; before you preach to me of your passion for your faith, teach me about it through your compassion for your neighbors. In the end, I'm not as interested in what you have to tell or sell as in how you choose to live and give." - Cory Booker
The fact is that everything has changed, and nothing has changed all at once. No matter the hurricane around us, we stand firm in He who even the seas obey. No matter the prevailing sentiments of the day, we stand firm in our understanding of who we are designed to be by He who made us. No matter what is thrown at us, we must remain constant in our love for our neighbor. Jesus thirsts for them as He thirsts for us. Let us love first so that we can lead others to Christ. It is Jesus that changes hearts, not us, after all. Let's be sure we are letting Him direct ours and conform it to His.
Want to know a secret? This is my prayer at every confession and before receiving the Eucharist. Take my heart, Lord, and conform it to Yours. It belongs to You. Lead me and transform me, all I have is Yours. Help me to see everyone as You do. Help me to thirst for them as You do, and to meet all with Love, as You do.
Another secret? I fail miserably, but He dusts me off so I can try again. I've got a feeling there will be a lot of scraped knees as we move forward in this new reality. We will stumble. We will fall. We will give into our temptations to preach and lecture and debate and fear. I know I will. The beautiful thing is that we are not alone in this, so we can remind one another to get up and walk in love and peace and joy instead.
Go. Preach the Gospel. Serve your neighbor. Let our love be sincere and let us overcome hatred with goodness. Love 'em like Jesus - to the cross and back again...
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