June 25, 2023
Revised Common Lectionary
Genesis 21:8-21 or Jeremiah 20:7-13
Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17 or Psalm 69:7-10 (11-15), 16-18
Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Psalm 69:8-10, 14-,17, 33-35 (14c)
On June 28, 1969, New York City police officers raided a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn during a time when such actions were routinely carried out. Stonewall patrons resisted that raid, and a wave of confrontation lasting several days quickly spread through the city, in large part led by transgender women of color. The Stonewall Uprising became a turning point in the struggle for LGBTQIA+ rights and has inspired annual celebrations throughout the world, including the observance of each June as LGBTQIA+ Pride Month.
What poet Lord Alfred Douglas had called “the love that dare not speak its name” is nowadays expressed far more openly in North America as many have shed their closets and demanded equal treatment. The struggle is far from over, of course, as several U.S. states have enacted or proposed legislation that fosters discrimination. Pride Month reminds us of the need to continue speaking up and advocating for those still at risk and on the margins.
In the years following Stonewall, leaders of the movement advocated a strategy of “coming out.” Sharing one’s sexual orientation or gender identity with family, friends, employers, and others, they contended, would lead to greater acceptance—and so it has. The Trevor Project last year published findings from a poll that indicated that two-thirds of Americans now know someone who is gay, lesbian, or bisexual. However, fewer than one in three Americans know someone who is transgender, and fewer than one in five know a non-binary person. Acceptance of transgender and non-binary persons has perhaps lagged because fewer people have had personal encounters and heard their stories firsthand.
Coming out and speaking the truth often require overcoming fear—fear of rejection by friends and family, ridicule by colleagues or classmates, and loss of job or position. In today’s Gospel reading, as Jesus sends his disciples out on mission, he counsels them not to be afraid of others, for God’s care extends even to seemingly insignificant sparrows. “So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Mt 10:31).
He encourages them rather to speak boldly, “for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops” (Mt 10:26-27). As a gay Christian, one of the most important truths that I needed to learn is that I am a beloved child of God, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps 139:14) in God’s own image, loved just as I am. That’s good news to be shared, not a secret to be hidden.
For me, Pride is about sharing this good news with others, including those in the LGBTQIA+ community who have been fed negative messages by family, peers, or religious groups. Pride observances offer an opportunity for us to give witness to God’s love for all persons, because all have been made in the divine image. Just as Jesus sent the disciples to bring the good news of God’s reign to others, so he sends us to shout from the housetops that every person is a beloved child of God, whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity—and that they have an honored place at God’ banquet table.
A Hymn for Today: “The Love That Goes Unspoken”
Theologian, educator, and poet Mary Louise Bringle, FHS, has created a hymn text that evokes the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel and the experience of LGBTQIA+ persons in coming out to speak the truth. You may find this text set to music in The Hymn Society’s online collection, “Songs for the Holy Other: Hymns Affirming the LGBTQIA2S+ Community.”
The love that goes unspoken,
that fears would force to hide,
still blooms in closet spaces,
too strong to be denied.
The Spirit’s wind blows freely
to open bolted doors,
and beckon into daylight
a love that hate deplores.
As poets and musicians,
in Pietàs of grace,
the outcast of the churches
cast light on Myst’ry’s face.
They translate for our witness
the gifts the gospel brings,
and celebrate God’s grandeur
in rare and dappled things.
In varied forms of fam’ly,
in unions yet unblessed,
as sister and as brothers
and kin with earth’s oppressed,
all dwell within God’s household,
yet some bear insults hurled
to chide the so-called “barren”
whose children are the world’s.
Christ loves without distinction,
both joys and sorrows borne,
and welcomes openhearted
the ones whom others scorn.
We shall not, then, be shackled
by needless guilt or shame.
In Christ, the love unspoken
now dares to speak its name.
Text: Mary Louise Bringle, b. 1953, © 2006, GIA Publications, Inc. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857.
Image Credit: Gay and Proud, documentary film, Library of Congress
“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.
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