Monday, May 14, 2012

Homily on Homosexuality: Fr. Hollowell

Fr. John Hollowell posted this great homily on his blog, On This Rock. He does an excellent job of clarifying the issue of homosexuality in a way few have even attempted – and he does it in under 14 minutes!

 I’ve transcribed it below, with very minor editing.

We hear in our first reading that in every nation whoever fears God and acts uprightly is acceptable to him. We also hear in the Gospel, Jesus telling us that if we keep his commandments, we will remain in his love. This theme of nation and commandments runs throughout tonight’s Scriptures.

Our nation and God’s commandments unfortunately seem to be on a collision course. And I think woe to us if we continue to ignore it.

The issue of collision seems to be that of same-sex “marriage’ and same sex attraction [SSA]. There is not a more divisive issue that I’ve ever seen in my 32 years of life.  I’ve seen this issue rip families apart; I’ve seen this issue rip friendships apart. Some states are voting on it, some up and some down.

Everywhere it’s being voted on, uncharity and hatred seem to reign on all sides.  Catholic politicians are in some cases are endorsing it; others are standing with the bishops.

We read in our newspapers how some kids with SSA are bullied and harassed, and we see elsewhere   where Christians are harassed by people for their beliefs.

[Here he talks briefly about his own experience with the divisiness, negative comments from blogosphere.]

This is the most divisive issue that I have ever seen. And I think that what it truly sad about all of it is that hardly anyone actually understands or knows what the Church says on these issues – the issues of ssa and marriage. Hardly anyone.

My hope tonight is not to get everyone up to speed…my hope is to get us to the point where we feel encouraged and inspired to study and read up and pray about this issue and become informed. Because to use a sports analogy, it’s late in the fourth quarter and the church is down 30.

We have to become informed on this topic not just in order to stave off persecution, not at all in order to just simply win an argument, or to see a law passed, or to see a law not passed.
We have to become informed so we can help others, and that’s the whole point.

Jesus says tonight, “I give you my commandments and if you keep them you will remain in my love.  And these commandments lead to your joy, and your joy might be complete”. That is his desire for us.

Here is why we so desperately need intelligent Catholic voices trying to correct people’s misunderstanding s on this topic. Because right now in our nations discourse there are only two voices, neither of which offer real hope.

Voice 1 is every non-Catholic Christian from Tim Tebow to Joel Osteen to Kirk Cameron to Billy Graham to Pat Robertson and on through the line. They believe to a person and to a faith that having same sex attraction in and of itself, simply experiencing that attraction, is a sin.

Voice 2 says that you are born this way if you have SSA so you might as well act on it. It would be wrong to try to repress that.

At this point I would like to turn to a book called Faith at the Edge. It’s been endorsed by Fr. Benedict Groeschel and Dr. Scott Hahn. [It's a collection of essays written by young adult Catholics.]

Two of the essays are written by Catholics who struggle with SSA. I want to read a brief excerpt from each; they each make different points.

One is by David Morrison and is called “Gay and Catholic”. He says,

Some folks on the right tell me that since I live with a degree of SSA I’m condemned to hell. Some people on the left will tell me ‘poor thing, we consider you oppressed. You must expect to act on your inclinations. It’s too much to ask you to live chastely.’

Both sides, the extreme right and the extreme left, are expressing the same idea. On the one hand the radical right tells me I’m predestined to go to hell. On the other hand, the left tells me I’m predestined also – to act on my inclinations. Neither is true, and the Catholic Church recognizes that. 

The Catholic Church recognizes that. Far from the way that we are portrayed in the media and society, among people who sit down and read and reflect and pray over what our Church has to say on this topic, see not oppression, not condemnation. They see hope.

What the church teaches… is the idea that having the attraction is not a sin. We can in fact never be held accountable for something that comes to us from a place that we have not chosen. We don’t choose the attractions that we are experiencing. But the church says as it does to heterosexual people as well, and to those who are married, and to its priests: you cannot simply act on at attraction just because you have one. That’s what the Church says. And this author struggling himself as a young adult with SSA doesn’t see condemnation from the Church as we’re portrayed. He sees hope and he’s thankful for the Church’s message on the topic.

Another author is a young woman in the same situation, struggling with SSA, and also living as a Catholic. Her name Eve Tushnit [sp?] and her essay is called “Coming Out”.

Virtually no one in this society will acknowledge that it is even possible to live this way [as someone struggling with SSA and also as a Catholic]. Priests don’t preach this hope from the pulpit. I’ve never heard a homily on this topic before, and I’ve never even heard of this being preached before.

 Many people like this young woman are out there listening, waiting for someone to come and explain and offer them the hope of the Church’s message. But not many do.

She also notes that “gay spokesmen from the left speak as if the only alternatives are unchastity and despair.”

These two young Catholic authors help us uncover and start to see what the Church actually says on this topic. We say in our opening song that “all are welcome”. And they are. Many people hear a 10-second blurb of what the Church says from people who have never set foot in a Catholic church and think that we turn people away. There’s also been recent articles, not just these authors, but other writers as well … trying to say, “I struggle with that, and the only place I’m hearing hope is from the Catholic Church. The only place I’m hearing someone speak to my situation in life is in the Catholic Church.”

We are in a position, we are asked by Our Lord to understand his commandments. And  then, once we understand them, he’s asking us to help others understand them as well.

It’s important to know going in that we will be hated. We have to be okay with a certain amount of that. Some people not knowing where we’re coming from or not hearing the message will immediately respond with resistance and anger. We have to seek to understand that and be sympathetic to that.

In trying to talk to somebody a couple of days ago, I was cussed out and yelled at, basically, online in a very public way. But when things calm down and they’re able to express their anger towards us, and maybe at misconceptions or whatever, oftentimes there are a lot of people waiting to hear what we actually want to say and have to say.

Despite some anger from some, I got lots of messages behind the scenes from people saying “I want to thank you secretly for saying what you said, because I do hear hope from the Church, and I haven’t heard it explained from anyone else before in a way that really spoke to my condition.”

This issue will not go away. We can’t hope to bury our head in the sand and have it be something that God will take care of. He’s always taking care of us, but he’s also asking us to help our fellow human beings, our brothers and our sisters, those here in this church, those outside, those who’ve never been here before, to help understand and to speak to their experience and their situation in life in a way that maybe they’ve never heard before. We have nothing to be ashamed of when we actually understand what the Church says on this teaching.

Jesus says again, “If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love.”

But if we don’t understand what God commands, especially in something this crucial, how can we expect others to do so? Let’s pray for ourselves that we may caught up on this, that we may learn about it, that we may embrace it and seek to understand it, so that we can welcome others more fully and can help those who are struggling with these questions every day of their life.

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