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Breath of the Spirit: Lenten Encouragement to Let Go

In today’s fast-paced world, we may find ourselves delaying check-ins for noncrucial issues. This week’s readings invite us to revisit the parts of us that we can let go of during the Lent if we seek to move toward our more authentic selves.

March 17, 2024: Fifth Sunday in Lent, Cycle B

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Psalm 51:3-4, 12-15

Hebrews 5:7-9

John 12:20-33

Lenten Encouragement to Let Go

A reflection by Sam Barnes

How many of us have delayed car maintenance because everything was “running fine,” only to end up with a dead battery two months later? And how many of us have postponed a dentist’s appointment only to find out that new cavities formed in the meantime? In today’s fast-paced world, we may find ourselves delaying check-ins for noncrucial issues. This week’s readings invite us to revisit the parts of us that we can let go of during the Lenten Season.

In John 12:24, John quotes Jesus as saying, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” In this verse, Jesus is referring to his upcoming death and how it will lead to new life for all who believe. However, on a deeper level this analogy invites us to relinquish the parts of ourselves that are holding us back in order to achieve personal growth.

As queer individuals, we may feel that our lives are divided into multiple selves: the person we are before we come out, the person we are when we are exploring our identities, and the person we are when we fully embrace our identities. This progression is not linear; sometimes it takes claiming one identity (let’s say, heterosexual) and living within those social norms (getting married to a college sweetheart, having two kids, and buying a house in the suburbs) to spark self-realization about another identity (your kid comes out as gay, causing you to reevaluate your own journey with sexuality and realize you are not living authentically). At each point in the queer experience, we shed an old layer of our skin to reveal the person we are underneath.

To say this process is painful is an understatement. The pieces of our lives that we lose when coming out are not evenly divided; they are sharp and jagged and cut us more as we pull them out. The verses for this week’s readings offer us some comfort during these times of transition. Jeremiah 31:34 states, “For I will forgive their wickedness, and will remember their sins no more.” In Hebrews 5:7-9, Jesus fervently cries and pleads with God to be spared from death, and “he was heard because of his reverent submission… once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” Jeremiah 31:34 is a reminder that as we enter into a new phase of our queer journey and re-forge a covenant with God, They will forgive and forget all of the wrongdoings we committed previously. For instance, if we said some cruel things to our ex-husband as we broke up to go live authentically, we can reflect on what triggered us to say those things and receive Divine forgiveness and healing. All we need to do is ask.

Hebrews 5:7-9 offers a stark reminder that Jesus, while fully God, is also fully human. Despite knowing what will happen, he pleads with God to spare him from his timely death, expressing human emotions such as fear, desperation, and sadness. But we could not have achieved eternal salvation without Jesus’s death and resurrection. While painful, finding our queer identity or identities is rewarding in a way that mirrors God’s love and salvation through eternal life. The joy of coming out? Limitless. The confidence of looking in the mirror and seeing your true face after one year on hormone treatment? Boundless. And the queer relationships we form? Uplifting and faith-filled.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops notes that Lent is a time to explore a “true inner conversion of heart as we seek to follow Christ’s will more faithfully.” We are called to deep reflection, almsgiving, and fasting. If you have been participating in these practices during the Lenten season so far, I invite you to ask yourself: what have I been fasting from? Is it something that I could abstain from during other times of the year and cultivate a better version of myself? If you have not engaged much with your faith during the Lenten season so far, I invite you to now. What might you need to let go of to find your most authentic self? What steps are necessary for you to progress on your coming out journey? I encourage you to do all of this in communion with God since They promise forgiveness and salvation to those who seek it—regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other taxonomy we humans create.

Sending queer love and prayers from Washginton, DC!

Sam Barnes (she/her or they/them)
Sam found DignityUSA and joined the Dignity Young Adult Group in 2022. Sam recently traveled to the Catholic Church's World Youth Day in Portugal as part of a DignityUSA delegation. Their aim was to promote queer inclusivity and acceptance within the church at an international level. Sam continues to volunteer with Dignity to foster community between folks with shared queer and religious experiences. Sam is the co-leader of Dignity Young Adults, which provides a platform for young adults working to promote positive, LGBTQIA+ friendly change within religious spaces.