The week after Memorial Day is such a wonderful time. The start of summer is exciting even though, as an adult, I don’t get a summer vacation. My body and heart remember the joy of being free and the lakes getting warm enough to swim in and the grass feeling so perfect on my bare feet.
My daughter’s birthday is June 10, so this time of year always gets me nostalgic for the anticipation and then the joy and then the exhaustion of my darling new baby. I love the early morning light – sun’s up at 5 am – and my body remembers getting up at 4 to feed her and still being awake when the sun came up – and feeling less alone in those wee hours. I love the light of early June.
Early June also means honoring and and being aware of Pride month. My first thought is that I want to show up for my LGBTQ+ friends, family, neighbors and colleagues. Going deeper than that, though I want to integrate the LGBTQ+ struggle into my own understanding of justice and God’s love.
Sometimes I think I’m doing something noble to “show up” for the LGBTQ+ community. In those times, my heart and mind serve up a memory from college. I was a senior at the College of St. Benedict, with nearly four years of an eye-opening and world-expanding education behind me. I was meeting openly gay people for the first time in my life, and indeed watching them come to terms with their sexuality and then come out to their friends and family. I was in a community that didn’t automatically shame gayness for the first time in my life, and I was getting a chance to unwire my own biases and misunderstandings.
That year I lived in a four-person apartment, and one of my roommates shared that she was a lesbian. She was finding her way and her voice as an out and outspoken lesbian. There was a petition on campus to urge the college to support LGBTQ+ rights. I signed it, and I came home and told her, “I signed your petition!” I was so proud of myself!
She looked sad, and shook her head, and said, “I wish you could see it’s your petition too.”
I’m getting there. I’m understanding that human rights for the LGBTQ+ community or working to dismantle systemic racism are not side issues that I dabble in or show up for once in a while. Father Clay says “Jesus was inclusive.” And he says we’re called to mirror that inclusiveness and communicate it in the way we live. Which means that it was my petition, too. It’s my job to live the value of human rights even when – especially when – it isn’t my humanity that’s under attack.
Jesus Was Inclusive
Jesus came to tell us about this great Love. Jesus had a relationship with God. He called God “abba” which meant something like “daddy” or “mommy” in the Aramaic language that he spoke. The love that God had for Him was similar to – though much, much greater than – the unconditional, protective love that a good mommy or daddy has for their child.
In Jesus, this God is present. God is also present in humanity. Just think how important we humans are. The Love that is God is so complete that God wanted to share living as a human being – which, if I were God, I would never do. God shows us how important we are through the mystery of Jesus, who is fully human and fully divine. Jesus is the example God gives us for the way God, Abba, wants us to live. Jesus talked about the sending of the spirit (the Holy Spirit), and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. What does this mean? It means that not only is God present in Jesus in this very special way, but that by Jesus sending the spirit, this love is present in us – not in the deep way it is in Jesus, but in a very real way. God is interested, loving, and inside each one of us.
After Jesus’ resurrection, he gave a mission to his followers to spread the good news to all nations, to everybody. This good news of the love that is God, the Love that is merciful and forgiving, is for everyone. And Jesus is saying, Go out and help people to realize this. We do it by living, by having inside of us the same kind of spirit and values that Jesus had.
Remember, Jesus was inclusive. He drew in people who were on the margins, the people who were on the outside, the people whom society and religion rejected as not good. Jesus drew them in. That is how Jesus spread the good news. He demonstrated that God isn’t the God of the elite, God isn’t the God of this kind of people or that kind of people. He showed us that Love is the God of all of us.
So if we are going to spread the good news that Jesus gave to these early disciples who eventually became the church, we need to embrace and demonstrate the same attitude and values that Jesus had. This is the mission of us as church – to spread the good news – and we do it mostly by the way we live.
Jesus was inclusive. If we are going to be inclusive, we have to let go of discriminating. We don’t like to do that. We think, My people are the real people, We are really closer to God than you are. That’s discrimination, and it comes from our ego. We discriminate in many ways – race, religion, sexual orientation, and so on – but we have to let go of the ego urge to be in control. For some of us, the ego says, I am better than other folks. We must let go of that. For others, the egos says, I am not as good as everybody else. That is not good either. We need to let go of that, too.
From the homily “Eucharist” in Awesome Love by Father John Clay, ©2013