by Marianne Duddy-Burke
We are now well into our observance of the season of Lent. In recent weeks, I have given a great deal of thought to what this season means for us, at this point in our Church’s history, and as we anticipate the Supreme Court’s final ruling on nationwide marriage equality for same-sex couples.
It was my great honor to be asked to deliver some reflections for Dignity/Boston’s Ash Wednesday liturgy. The core of these reflections were that it takes tremendous faith to believe in resurrection, as it is the most immense and incomprehensible mystery we ever face. For those of us living 21 centuries after the events of our Gospels, Lent is about how we prepare for the deaths and resurrections in our own lives and communities. The Lenten practices of giving up some worldly temptation, fasting, alms-giving, and so forth are really ways of detaching from our current reality, priorities, and the illusion of control we so often carry, and creating the space and humility to be open to what is next. These 40 days are an opportunity to enter into the spiritual attitude that will allow us to truly prepare for the death and resurrection ahead. Because we do not know either what will come, or what it is we are called to become, we must trust in Divine love and mercy in the face of great risk. The work of Lent is to remind us that we are creatures, that we are not entirely directors of our own fate, and that every change in our lives is an opportunity to step closer to our ultimate purpose. We need God not because we are horrid sinners, but because we continually stand before the intertwined mysteries of life, death, and resurrection. It is by adopting humility, trust, and openness, the hallmarks of this spiritual season, that we make ourselves ready to embrace these great mysteries.
I offer these reflections in hope that they might help us navigate this period of hope and conflict. As a Church, we are about to mark the second anniversary of Francis’ papacy. Through these last 24 months, he has received a great amount of attention from individuals, institutions, and the media across the globe, and has sparked numerous conversations about what our Church is and is becoming. At times, he seems on the very brink of courageously leading the Church to a new and Promised Land, and at others, he echoes stale, old teachings in more current language. It is unsettling, confusing, and exhausting. What does this mean for us as the community of Dignity? How are we to continue in faith and in truth in the midst of shifting sands? Is there a clear path forward? I believe that the intense focus on Catholicism and LGBT people is providing an unprecedented opportunity for us to get our message to an ever broader and more diverse audience, to help people in many countries understand our stories, and to see new possibilities for what a more just and inclusive Catholic Church looks like.
Socially, it is quite likely that within a matter of months, the U.S. Supreme Court could make marriage equality the law of the land. That would mark a legal shift and a change in the social status of same-sex couples that was unimaginable just a dozen years ago. It would be the most significant victory of the LGBT justice movement ever. For those of us whose advocacy is rooted in our faith, this new moment will call for new efforts, a new vision, and renewed focus. Will our new priority be transgender equality, women’s equality, achieving sacramental recognition in the broader church? Will we retain the passion for full inclusion and equality? Will others be inspired to join our mission?
Radically transformative moments are ahead for us, individually and as a community. How will we respond? May we use the remainder of this sacred season of Lent to open ourselves for inspiration and guidance.