By Deb Myers, DignityUSA Board member
Peace of heart, mind, and body to all of us! What wonderful readings [Isaiah 66: 10-14c; excerpt from A Lesbian Feminist Voice by Carter Heyward; Luke 10:1-11, 1620]! We have heard this gospel many times and know the lines well. I hope today is experienced with new ears and open hearts, perhaps because of where each of us is in our own spiritual journey, or because in the context of what we have experienced this weekend. I hope you will hold your hearing of the good news today in your heart.
I would like to share how this gospel challenges not only me, but challenges us as individuals, and as communities working together, and as a movement working for justice within our Church and society.
I come to you and share my thoughts out of my lived experience, as a white woman, a Catholic lesbian, an American, a partner, a gardener, and as one who struggles with the daily and the mundane. But I think most importantly, I share with you today as someone who is broken, seeking healing, and as a laborer for justice alongside other laborers!
Take a moment to contemplate all you are and bring here today! What richness, what a harvest! What a weekend we have shared together; what a rich harvest. We are truly grateful laborers who have prepared the soil, planted the seeds, and tended the fields to bring us here today; not just for this weekend of reunion and reconnection, but for 43 years of ministry!
As individuals, as families, as Dignity chapters, as communities, and as a movement, we have stepped outside of our comfort zone, outside of the box, outside of the place we called home and cultivated a spirituality and theology of justice and peace for our communities and for some of the communities that intersect with ours.
We have come to this harvest today because we have labored. This harvest has not come easily many times, whether we have labored as individuals in a community, or as part of this movement. We have endured trials to reap this harvest. We have battled the pests and the weeds and we know them well: how can you be LGBT or an ally and be Catholic? You know the Catholic Church will never change! How come more people don’t come to Dignity? Why do we have to change the language? And, “Oh, that’s just a phase.”
And we have weathered the storms: the countless Vatican letters and statements, the AIDS epidemic, expulsion from Catholic Church property, denial of the sacraments, alienation from our families and friends, just to name a very few.
Despite all we have been through, we have worked for and seen the harvest, we have spoken truth to power, we have remained rooted in our Catholic faith, we have challenged and changed the Church, especially those in the pew, and I dare say we have even changed the hierarchy (not that they will admit it). We have claimed our goodness, we have ministered to the sick and dying, we have saved lives, empowered women, and embraced the transgender and bisexual communities. We have found a theology and spirituality of our own, created our own liturgies, called our own presiders, become the “church” that nurtures and nourishes us, and, what’s more, we have brought along our families and friends!
We have and are living this gospel message! We have brought peace to many and we have, indeed, been given the power to tread on snakes and scorpions!
The harvest is abundant!
Nevertheless, we must not rejoice that we have made it. We must not get complacent, boast too much, or lose sight of the larger picture. No, we must create something with our abundant harvest. We cannot let it sit and rot and go to waste! It is not enough to bring in the harvest; we must feed those who need our harvest! We must pay attention as we move forward.
I think we sometimes entertain the idea that we have made it and reached the end of the harvest, thinking that we no longer need to labor in this field of justice and peace.
We cannot give into the notion that when we have civil rights and civil marriage that we have somehow solved our struggle! If we do, then we will lose ourselves and the richness of OUR harvest! All we need to do is look at our sisters and brothers in the women’s movement and the civil rights movement to know that sexism and racism are still very much alive.
We are called to transform our harvest not only to nurture ourselves but to feed those who need our harvest. And there are still so many who do: There are young men and women who are coming out and are rejected and lost; the transgender community, that is still seen as different and often left out, even in our own community; women who are seeking a place where their voice will be honored; people of color who are struggling to overcome the cultural barriers of coming out.
There is the work still to be done regarding legal and civil rights. There are still 35 states that do not have marriage equality, and the battle is clearly not over despite the remarkable decision of the Supreme Court last week. Our civil rights in most cities and states are not guaranteed. Our jobs, our families, our homes and our health are still at risk. We are changing the laws, a critical step towards justice, but changing hearts and minds is essential for true justice and true peace.
Then there is our Church. While according to polls, Catholics in the pews are supportive of our issues, the faithful are hungry and in need of ways that they can support our movement from the pews. There are some parishes and schools that are supportive in quiet ways, but lack the knowledge or support to help us realize our vision: full and equal participation in all aspects of the Church. How can we instill the principles of social justice in these allies to mobilize them despite Church teaching and hierarchical pressures?
There are communities beyond our US borders who look to us for guidance for their next steps toward justice.
And so much more.
Our journey for justice and peace is not over.
We are coming into a new season, a new time, a critical time, in our journey as a movement towards justice, not just as Dignity but as a larger LGBT movement. Let us not become the status quo, be incorporated into the majority, assimilate.
If we are who we say we are then we will heed the call of the gospel and commit ourselves to continue our work to bring justice and peace to our world.
Let us not rejoice that the spirits are subject to us. Instead, let us rejoice because our names are written in heaven. Let us rejoice because we do justice!
The harvest is not just about us.
We must ask ourselves, what are we laboring for? Is it just for our small corner of the field and the harvest? No, I believe it is for justice and peace for all people, and we are all people! We are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, straight, and the immigrant, the poor, the widow, the orphan, the veteran, the person of color, women ...and the earth.
Any farmer, that desires sustainability will tell you that biodiversity is essential to keep the land healthy, keep infestations of pests down, and to weather the storms, because when one crop in the field suffers, there are others in the field that will help the farmer keep the harvest coming in. For an abundant harvest, we need one another!
Peacemaking and justice-making are hard work! It is not single-issued; it is complex, messy work.
We must be willing to do this work to make it happen. In today’s fastpaced world of technology and instant results, we expect peace and justice right now. And I hate to tell you, it will not come in a microwavable cardboard box in the freezer section of the grocery store!
And so we ask ourselves: How will we manage to do all this work? We, the few laborers, must go out together, sharing our many gifts and talents with one another, striving for an inclusive justice. We will need to get our hands dirty, sweat a little, make mistakes, forgive one another, build relationships with new and different people and groups to share our vision, and plant lots of seeds and hope that they take. We will worry, we will wonder if our work will have a yield, and we will wonder if the labor is worth it. But remember, we have good, rich soil to work with; we have prepared the field.
We have the gospels, we have the social teachings and the social justice traditions of our Catholic faith (elevated for us this weekend), and we have our own documents of spirituality and theology. We stand on the shoulders of many who have gone before us and prepared the way for us to do our work. And, we have our own lived experiences as a people of faith.
We must go out to do this work without a walking stick, knapsack, or sandals (not much of a fashion statement). We must be willing to step out of our comfort zones; go places we have not been, learn new ways, with our hearts open and vulnerable, trusting our lived experience and trusting in God’s grace. Be countercultural! Remember we are bringing a peace this world cannot give!
Some of our seeds will take, and we must be diligent and patient, ever watchful and mindful of our work, so that when the insects, the weeds, the storms, and the droughts come (because they will, that’s just part of the harvest), we will be ready.
We must be rooted in peace.
Always discerning our path, working through our struggles, conflicts, and problems, so that we can keep moving forward and not get stuck in places that hold us down and hold us back, shaking the dust that clouds our sight and muddies our vision.
We must continue to be prophets, we must (as Nickie likes to say) continue to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. We must continue to “be church,” so that we become the church we wish to see, and we must continue in the daily, mundane, tedious work that nurtures and sustains our communities.
There is so much work to do!
So, as we are sent out from this place, let us remember our hunger for righteousness and that we are members of ONE BODY called to live in right relation with one another, so that justice will roll like a river!