Christ our Lord says to us "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you" "Do not allow your hearts to be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27).
I was asked by a friend today what my thoughts were on the document put together by the Holy Synod for the Family. I must confess, I haven't really been paying all that close attention. Things like this happen frequently enough and with much latitude that for most of us, to follow them closely, is largely to read the sensationalism of the headlines. Remember all the pontification about Pope Francis' election and you'll understand my reservations. Really, what synods like this are intended to do, are create a direction for the church, and attend to pastoral issues. They are by large, not dogmatic. So while the bishops might tinker here or there with minor things, the Truth given to us by Jesus Christ will prevail. If you recall the Synod on the Middle East a few years ago, nothing crazy came from that either. The bishops agreed the plight of the Middle Eastern Christians was (and still is) grave, and being a diverse group of traditions, some way of working together would be best for the church. The biggest thing to come from this was the change from using the Gregorian Calendar to using the Julian Calendar to date Easter. Whoopdidoo.
The headline today? "Homosexuals had "gifts and qualities to offer" the Church. Well of course they do. Is this some revelatory insight? At first glance, your reaction might be anger and gnashing of teeth, but trust me, this isn't anything to lose your peace over. Dig past the shock rhetoric and liberal spin. Homosexuals just like gossipers, thieves, bigots, liars, adulterers, gluttons, procrastinators (remember the five foolish virgins?), usurers, and cursers, are sinners, just like you and I. Who isn't? The bishops aren't saying anything radical here. All humans posses their own special gifts and talents with which they honor God. What we must guard against, is the trivializing of sins by those who like the great heretic Pelagius, believe we do not need Christ to enter Paradise. "Just fast track me to heaven, because i'm a nice person." Nonsense. Christ came, because we could not become righteous by ourselves. Remember that reformed phrase, justification. Well, its not made up:"Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ." (Galatians 2:16). It is Christ who saves and restores us to communion with the Triune God.
Each and everyone of us, despite what we may think, or what society tells us, has value. We are more precious to God than all other creatures (Genesis 1:26)! We are valued so much He has appointed angels to care for us (however frustrated they may be with our foolish decisions). But we cannot say we are pro-life, if we do not believe every single person has an inalienable dignity. That is, we are made in the image and likeness of God. We must believe that the destitute heroin addict, or the overweight lesbian couple of 20 years is as worthy as the next person. Just because their sin, isn't our sin, that should not allow us to exclude them from salvation, and be seen as less than human--beasts. Though it may be challenging, frustrating, and seem hopeless, we cannot pass the judgement of Gehenna upon anyone. What do I mean by that? Well, we cannot stop praying, hoping and believing that even the most egregious of sinners, is not beyond reconciliation; and by extension a fellow human person to be respected and protected.
What does this mean for Homosexual persons? Well, nothing the Church hasn't already proclaimed. They like all of us, must walk the path of repentance. There's no getting around that. Jesus says that more than anything else in the bible. Repent! Change! Amend your life! Is this not the Gospel? That man should walk away from darkness toward the light (2 Corinthians 6:14)?
There is a story I've heard a few times now, about a Deacon who was in charge of a parish's faith formation. A man who had attended liturgy for some time now came up to him. He told the Deacon, he would like to become Catholic. The Deacon turned to him and said "That's wonderful, but we'll need to talk about Jesus, the Church and the Sacraments." The man then said, "Deacon, I need to tell you I'm gay." The Deacon then said "Well, then we'll need to talk about Jesus, the Church, and the Sacraments." The man then blurted out "Didn't you hear me, I said I'm gay?!" The Deacon, calmly told the man "I heard you. But we still need to talk about Jesus, the Church and the Sacraments." You see, for all of us, regardless of our sins and passions, need to be grounded in an understanding of Jesus the Christ. It is Christ who saves us from sin. We also need to know the Church, that mystical hospital, that transforms sinners into saints, and which no evil will prevail against. And lastly the Sacraments, which Christ gave to us, so that we might know how to act: to repent, to give thanks, to supplicate, and for life. If we don't properly understand our realized anthropology and Christ's saving work, than anyone, whether they are gay or sloths, cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
It's rather fitting the Feast of the Seventh Ecumenical Council was this last Sunday (if you're Byzantine). The Church met to end Iconoclasm in 787 AD, but it would take another 50 years before the Iconoclasts were finally defeated and Orthodox faith was proclaimed at a Church Synod in 843 AD. Perhaps in the face of such tribulation (which our Lord promised we would endure) we should be patient and trust that the Holy Spirit is still acting in the Church, no matter how slow it may seem (John 16:33). "Peace I leave with you" says the Master. Let us not forget that it is not earthly peace, but eternal peace which passes all understanding that Christ gives us (Philippians 4:7). So don't worry, pray, fast, and keep on striving for the Kingdom.