Breath of the Spirit: Am I Jesus Adjacent?
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah, which is introduced in today’s first reading, has been used for decades to make marginalize those in the LGBTQ+ community – as if our sexuality was dirty or damaged. Today’s reflection, though, encourages us to understand this narrative as concerning not who one loves but how and why. Far from shaming our love, the Sodom and Gomorrah story arc reminds us that safety and joy come for all of us only when we keep Love close.
July 24, 2022: Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 138:1-2, 2-3, 6-7, 7-8
Am I Jesus Adjacent?
A reflection by Thomas DeVoyd
To me, the first reading is one of the most misinterpreted passages in the Bible. It speaks of Sodom and Gomorrah. Many have said that this story arc specifically speaks to (or against) the LGBTQ+ community, as there are references to sexual relationships between men (cf. Gen 19:1-5). In today’s passage, God wants to destroy these cities because “the outcry against [them] is so great.” It seems to mirror what is happening today. There are people whose “outcry is great” to destroy people whose behavior or beliefs are not in line with their own. We have seen this on both sides of the abortion rights debate. I think we all have the right to free speech, but free speech does not extend to vandalism or violence. It gives me pause to think how different we are. In this passage, Abraham is trying to save Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham speaks courageously to defend others. He challenges/negotiates with God to spare those who live differently than he does. On the contrary, these days, it seems what passes as courageous speech often involves condemning those who are different than “us.”
What I say next might not be how everyone understands the Sodom and Gomorrah narrative, but here goes. I do not think this story is about non-heterosexual sex, or the LGBTQ+ community, or anyone else who is following their own path. I think this story is about lust, and that lust is about selfishness – only pleasuring oneself. Romantic love is about two people pleasuring, and caring for, each other. This is the heart of loving God and following the Divine teachings. This mutuality occurs within a relationship: however it is formed, and whoever is in it. This is how I understand sexual orientation and God’s plan. If it was not God’s intention, then there would be no LGBTQ+ community. But there is. And God calls us to love one another, just like everyone else. … Now, I will come down off my soapbox.
The second reading is from Colossians. This focuses on Jesus being the one who can help us become who God wants us to be. We were ‘raised from the dead’ by our trusting in God’s love. In this same way, Jesus gave his life for all to be saved from sin. Jesus accomplished this by dying on the cross. The last line that talks about how our sin was cancelled by being nailed to the cross. That gives me such a vision of what we received through Jesus’ crucifixion. It stays with me when I think that I can never live up to what God wants of me. Perhaps many of us go through that. With all the hatred we face in the world, it is not always easy to love or forgive.
In today’s gospel passage, the disciples ask Jesus how to pray. They wanted to pray like John taught his disciples. Jesus started with the prayer, “Our Heavenly Parent.” This is one I remember from childhood. It asks for our sins to be forgiven to the extent we forgive others. The passage goes on to say that we will be given what we ask for; we will find what we seek; the door will open when we knock.
Because God is a loving parent, we are assured that we will get what we seek. Many may be tempted to put this to the test and ask to win the lottery, or for a bigger house, a better job, or a million other things. I am asking to be Jesus adjacent, that is, to be close to Jesus in everything I do. I feel the Spirit letting me know that this is a very good goal. Some of you may think this is sacrilege, but I assure you it is not. The way I mean it is that Jesus was perfect in this life. I have never been perfect and so I am never sure I am doing enough. I am trying to remedy that (both by doing more and by knowing that I am already enough for God). I am in a loving, committed relationship and I know that this is what God wants for me. I am not judged by who I am in a relationship with, but by what that relationship is based on. Does my current life reveal the lust of Sodom and Gomorrah? No, but that is because I have changed. Have I always felt that God could help me become who I should be? Again no, but that has also changed. And did I always pray? Mostly when I was in a horrible jam (and there were many). Now I pray a lot more. I say the rosary, try to watch or go to mass daily. These are all practices that help me be Jesus adjacent. They help me keep Love close. I know the way I am Catholic may not be the way everyone is, but I think we have to figure what is best for us. Then we must trust God to show us how to get there. I figure I can’t get too far off the path if I am adjacent to the One who leads the way.
Tom DeVoyd is a nurse in long term care and works with resident with Dementia. He is an advocate for his residents and has a Masters’ Degree in Nursing in Adult Psych/ Mental Health. He is also an advocate for the LGBTQI+ community. Tom currently lives in a small town in NH with his partner of years Phil. He enjoys reflecting on the scriptures, and focusing on the world of when the scriptures were written.