18 May 2013

IDAHO - Prayer Vigil 2013 - Reflection

Mikea 6:6-8
"Biex se nersaq quddiem il-Mulej, u nitbaxxa quddiem Alla l-Għoli?
Se nersaq quddiemu b'sagrifiċċji tal-ħruq u b'għoġiela ta' sena?
Il-Mulej se jogħġbuh l-eluf ta' mtaten, u l-għaxriet ta' eluf ta' widien ta' żejt?
Se noffrilu 'l ibni l-kbir b'sagrifiċċju għad-dnub tiegħi?
Se nagħtih l-ewwel wild tiegħi, il-frott ta' ħdani għal ħtijieti?"
Bniedem, huwa wriek x'inhu tajjeb u x'jistenna minnek il-Mulej:
li tagħmel dak li hu ġust, li tħobb u tkun ħanin,
u li tkun umli fl-imġiba tiegħek ma' Alla tiegħek."

Micah 6:6-8

What God Requires

“With what shall I come before the Lord,

    and bow myself before God on high?

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my first-born for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has showed you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?


“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high?”

Lord, this is the way I come before You, as I am … a human being with all the gifts you have graced me with me, and also with all the frailties that make me this person that stands before You. I am Your son, and I come before You as the prodigal son that I know that I am. I too have my own dark shadows, as well as those spaces in my soul that are warm to the rays of your light. This is how I come before You.

A gift that I turned into a curse

Yet, for many and many years I mistook one of your special gifts to me, as something disgraceful. Indeed, I considered this special gift as a kind of stain… a horrible indelible mark like that You cast on Cain after he killed Abel. Even if many people did not know, it sometimes felt that I had all eyes on me. I felt that I was marked for the rest of my life. The worst thing though was, that because of my religious and social background, I convinced myself that being gay was a sin… Yes Lord, I considered your gift of homosexuality as a sin… a curse … something horrible I had to hide. Not infrequently, I found myself comparing my situation to that of Luigi Pirandello’s character Mattia Pascal in his beautiful book Il fu Mattia Pascal, where the character felt that he was haunted by the ghost of his own past. In my case, it was my own sexuality that was creating this curse. So many of us felt the need to bury our sexuality deep, deep within us, like the servant in one of Your parables, who rather than investing the ‘talent’ given by his master, preferred burying it into the ground. It was like putting all the evil that coming out from this ‘curse’ and closing it in the proverbial Pandora’s box and keeping it shut. That was, what it meant for me to be in the closet.

“Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

I could not understand how You, the God of Love, could possibly make such a mistake. Or did You do it willingly? Why? Out of spite? You know how baffled I used to be, when reading some  biblical texts such as this of Micah. Indeed, I used to believe that I had to present to you my homosexuality as a sin that You needed to forgive. I yearned for tenderness, for love and for humility and yet, I was so afraid of You and rather than feeling loved tenderly, I felt the tortuous silence of a soul in solitude. Indeed, I was battering myself rather than loving myself tenderly, I was unjust and unfair with myself and in my pride I was hurting myself and those around me. I was doing exactly the opposite to myself of what You through Micah were telling me: ‘To act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly’.

A ravenous and ‘dangerous wolf’

Looking outside of my little bubble, I felt that for many people I was a ravenous wolf in Gubbio’s story waiting and timing myself to attack the first passer-by. And the trouble is … I believed it. I believed I was a wolf, because the perception many had was that homosexuals and transsexuals are somewhat dangerous. Not only are they dangerous, they are people with whom you cannot trust your own children; people who only think about sex; they are immoral; they want to undermine the family; you cannot allow them adopt children, otherwise they risk becoming automatically gay. Indeed, LGBT people are a pack of ravenous wolves waiting to jump on their prey.  How horrible! It makes me shiver how much homophobia ther is around. The trouble is, that this kind of thinking is very ingrained; even well-meaning people believe it. Even I believed it. The trouble is, that like the people of Gubbio, many are afraid of what is different. They are afraid of the unknown. They are afraid of what they perceive as non- conforming to the stereotypes of what being male, female and straight ‘normal’. It makes them feel unsettled. Many, also, especially among the more conservative type, feel, that there is a ‘modern’ pervasive gay culture that is threatening to ‘invade’ the normal culture, turning all accepted values upside down, and challenging what they percieve to be natural, accepted and God-given. The gay lifestyle appears to them to be too transgressive and sometimes, they see it as offensive and intentionally provocative. Yet, do I blame them? They are, after all, like the people in Gubbio, afraid and fear makes you do and say bad things, very bad things.Lord forgive them, they do not know what they’re doing!’  

Your tender love

I must thank You Lord for gently and tenderly removing away these masks and lies about myself. It is now that I can properly understand what it means to be a beautiful son of God, because in these past months, I have felt your tender love and your justice. All along, You have acted justly, loved me tenderly and walked softly by my side, never pushing me too much, just walking by my side at my own pace. 

What shall I offer you in gratitude?   

So, now, ‘with what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before God on high?’

I now come as a man, as your son, as a beloved son, and rather than offering you my homosexuality as if it were a sin, I now offer you one of your very special gifts that make me extraordinary … that make so many other people like me so special. I remember a very beautiful prayer that dear St Ignatius of Loyola wrote so long ago, when he reflected how You gave him the gift of freedom and he gave it back to You, so that You would make him wholesome. Yet, was he not truly a free man, free in his own spirit? And still, he offered you back the same gift you had given him, because in You everything becomes more beautiful. So I offer you this gift that many here share, my homosexuality, our homosexuality/transexuality, so that You may make us whole, so that you will let your light shine through us; so that, we may also be gifts to the world, Your gifts to this world; that we may enrich this world with our presence.

Loving the inner space within

Now, the theme we have chosen for this occasion: ‘To act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly’ assumes an even richer dimension. Oh that we may learn to do that first and foremost with ourselves; that is to act justly with ourselves, to love ourselves tenderly and to learn to walk humbly with ourselves. This should not be a narcissistic act, where we end up lost in ourselves and lost in our own shallow existence. If that were the case, our life would really be poor and boring; so too our prayer would be boring, as our dear Pope Francis has observed only a few days ago. Yet, it is only from this sacred space within, from the holy of holies in our soul that You fill to the brim, to everlasting fullness; it is only from there, that we can really and truly learn to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with others as well with ourselves. Like Peter, we must exclaim ‘To whom shall we go Lord? You hold indeed the words of life!

We love out of the rich abundance of our souls

In that sacred space within, I can learn how to love properly, how to act justly and to walk humbly amongst others. Otherwise, my interaction with others can become twisted as a result of egoism and tarnished by sin. Being gay has been indeed a special context, in which I can ‘learn’ to be sensitive, to be loving, to be open to others, first with those who are indeed abandoned by all, but also with minorities, be them because of race, gender, sexual orientation or religion.

Homophobia, self piety, righteousness and fear 

There are many in our world who are sometimes persecuted, unloved, hated and especially feared because of their differentness. You alone know how many gays and transsexuals suffer in solitude in many countries around the world, where homophobia is actually legal or sanctioned by religious preachers who conclude that homosexuality is an abomination, a threat to society and a differentness that is highly pernicious. You alone know, how many, even in your name, with a false sense of upright righteousness, condemn same sex couples, even if highly committed to their mutual love. They do so, because they consider the way we love as unnatural, wrong and hated by You. It could not farther from the truth!

Yet, there were many people when You lived among us, who were unwilling to listen to the truth. There were those who delivered You to Pontius Pilate and shouted your condemnation out of piety and self-righteousness. They could not and would not listen to the truth! The same seems to happen even nowadays and has happened over the centuries that people like us were persecuted by men in the Church who believed that they were doing you a favour. So too did your murderers think they were doing Your Father a favour! 

How many bad things are committed in Your name. And most of it is the result of fear, just like the fear that the villagers felt for the wolf of Gubbio. Most probably, he too was afraid of them. It was a common fear, a fear that estranged the two sides from each other and from love. There are many wolves in this world, as there are many people like those of Gubbio. For the gay community, society and the church and Malta’s own small size and insularity created many homophobes who like the people of Gubbio, were afraid of the unknown. Many gays too were also afraid of the rejection and the wrong perceptions about them and they too reacted like the wolf did. What could they do? Any animal who is cornered or left hungry is bound to become more aggressive! Who can blame them? Would you not react if someone burnt your hand? On the other hand, who can blame the people, who did not know better?


So what did the wolf need? And what did the people need? Maybe, simply a St Francis: someone who could understand them; someone who would show them care and tenderness. However, the people of Gubbio and the wolf needed a St Francis; a person who was ready to understand their concerns, who really and truly paid attention to their hurts. Indeed, St Francis acted justly, loved tenderly and walked humbly with both the people of Gubbio and with the wolf. Precisely because he did not condemn but loved without fear; only then did the wolf become Gubbio’s friend.
Can we be the St Francis for both the gay community and the people out there? Can we show to both through our just action, our tender love and our humble paths, that the wolf and the people of Gubbio are not against each other; nor are they so different from each other? We are all, before being straight , gay, bi, lesbian or transgender, we are all children of God!

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