Dominica Septima Post Pentecostes [Seventh Sunday after Pentecost]/PRIDE Sunday: July 3, 2016
Delivered by Most Reverend Roger LaRade, O.F.A.
Beloved Disciple Catholic Church, Toronto
© 2016 Roger LaRade
Romans 6: 19-23, Matthew 7: 15-21
Happy LGBT Pride Sunday!
For those of us in Canada and the United States who remember the early period of Pride parades, the last few years seemed like Pride celebrations had less of an urgency, that they had become less of a meaningful experience, more of a corporate-sponsored party than an event with a social justice and political end. The Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting has changed that. It has reminded us that Pride parades are still needed. This, of course, is not news for LGBT people living in smaller localities in North America, and certainly not news for LGBT people in countries where homosexuality is still criminalized or countries where homophobia is flaunted. It is sad that it took the mass murder of 49 individuals, most of them LGBT, to remind us of this. Today, we pray for the 49 killed in Orlando, we pray for the uncounted dead due to homophobic hate crimes, we pray for the millions who suffer from homophobia on a regular basis.
With this Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, the Liturgy begins a sequence of Sundays “that features a series of contrasts; the kingdom of God is shown in opposition to the kingdom of the world, the good Christian versus the bad Christian”.
As the words of Jesus indicate, the distinction may not be always so apparent: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” And then this teaching: “Not everyone that says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he shall enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus tells us how to discern a false from a true prophet: “every good tree brings forth good fruit, and the evil tree brings forth evil fruit”. And so, “by their fruits you shall know them”.
Who are the false prophets? Jesus teaches us that surely, it is not those who search their hearts in all honesty, seeking to do the will of God. And this will show in their actions, in living a life of loving justice grounded and rooted in the love of God for us. These it is who will bear good fruit.
When we hear the words of Scripture about false prophets, I think we hear them as characterizing the whole person and everything that person stands for. I think it is more nuanced than that. I think a person can be a true prophet in some areas, and a false prophet in others.
Many Christians, for example, are true believers in Jesus, and in many areas of life devoutly apply their faith to do the will of God, seeking justice in God’s love. But, in other areas of life, they are woefully wanting, and they may even cause harm. One of these areas in that of sexual orientation, and the position of many Christians on homosexuality.
A case in point is Pope Francis. His emphasis on God’s merciful love is admirable, and is indeed an example to all Christians and people of good will. But in his comments on LGBT people, although he professes a welcoming, merciful position, he falls short. And those who rely on him for inspiration also fall short. We saw this in the aftermath of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shootings, for example. We see it also in the Pope’s recent comments on the need for an apology on behalf of the Church towards LGBT people. Any apology which proffers a welcoming and merciful stance without full acceptance of the equality of sexual orientations falls short of God’s merciful love. Instead of being helpful, it is harmful. Such an apology quantifies the merciful love of God instead of offering it in its wholeness. Such an apology, based on false teaching, makes the one who offers it a false prophet.
“By their fruits you shall know them”. The key aspect of this which stands out for me is that it takes time for fruit to appear. If we think of the period of growth required for fruit to grow on a tree, we can get some understanding that this saying of Jesus is one which requires patience in discernment. It is one which requires a certain benefit of the doubt, an ongoing process of observation and judgment which nonetheless does not pre-judge. In nature, spring brings forth buds on the barren tree, followed by the growth of leaves, then blossoms, and then over the course of the summer the appearance and growth and ripening of fruit. The quality of the fruit is not apparent at the appearance of the leaves, nor at the appearance of the blossoms. Similarly in terms of the life of the Christian.
So, we are encouraged by the pronouncements of Pope Francis about LGBT people, but we fear that they are based on false teaching, and that they cause harm. As a true prophet is so many areas, we call him to not be a false prophet to LGBT people.
As we celebrate our God-given sexual orientation today, and hear the words of Jesus in the Gospel, let us pray for the grace of discernment; for the grace to know ourselves in the light of God’s gift of love for us; for the grace to live a life of loving justice grounded and rooted in the love of God for us.
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