Mass began on Sunday with the hymn “All Are Welcome In This Place“. I love this song and I truly felt welcomed and joyful. But not for long…
Our transitional deacon (he plans to be ordained next year) was the homilist. Like many of the newer priests and deacons this guy is an ultra-conservative. He took it upon himself to “set the record straight” on the recent Synod on Family taking place in Rome. This synod is a big deal (or should be) for Catholics. Pope Francis convened the bishops of the world to discuss the Church’s teachings on matters such as divorce, same-sex marriage, family planning, in-vitro fertilization and euthanasia. Initial press reports indicated, in my opinion, some much needed reform. Our young deacon felt the need to explain that the media had distorted the message of the synod and launched into a diatribe about abortion and marriage. No mention was made of the Church’s stance on capital punishment or preference for the poor, instead he only focused on sexual sin. He affirmed that NO CHANGE IN CHURCH DOCTRINE WOULD EVER HAPPEN. Because we live in a upper middle-class community in a very conservative state, most in attendance seemed to be comforted by his words. I was not.
I couldn’t help but think of the countless couples in our church being denied communion because of divorce and remarriage. My heart broke for those members of our parish who are gay or lesbian – once again being made to feel that they are not worthy. And what of the parents and friends in our parish community who have loved ones no longer welcomed? Instead of reaching out to us, with the love of Christ, this deacon took an opportunity to remind us of THE RULES.
So while we were all singing, “Built of hopes and dreams and visions, rock of faith and vault of grace; Here the love of Christ shall end divisions”, this deacon was no doubt mulling over just how he was going to impress upon us that we are indeed divided, and that we should put aside any hopes and dreams and visions of a loving, all-inclusive Church. This made me very sad. And I am especially sad for this soon-to-be priest. How will he ever shepherd, if he is blind to so many in his flock?
At the conclusion of the Synod on the Family, Pope Francis warned some in the hierarchy, “(There is) a temptation toward hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises; within the law, we remain within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve.”
Maybe someday I’ll get a seat at the table where we’re all welcome. I love the God of surprises!