Always Our Children
On Father’s Day we remember St. Paul’s words: “I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Ephesians 3:14-15, NABRE). For many of us, the title fits very well—our own fathers have, in their limited way, reflected God’s love, strength, and guidance. For others, it is difficult to think of God as father because their own fathers were abusive, hurtful, or absent. No father perfectly embodies what we mean when we call God “Our Father.” I am thankful for my dad and for all dads who reflect the wonder of God’s love in the heart of the family; and I am grateful for those who bring fatherly love to those who have been deprived. Happy Father’s Day!
In God’s family, every person matters. St. Paul told the Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Through baptism, we enter into a radical equality as we share in the life of Christ through the Spirit, “a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!” (Romans 8:15, NABRE).
This truth was beautifully proclaimed this week by a few bishops in response to the deadly attack at the Pulse night club in Orlando. In today’s first reading, we hear: “they shall look on him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son.” How appropriate considering the tragedy! Christ identifies with our suffering, for we are “all one in Christ Jesus.” Indeed, we make up in our flesh what was lacking in the sufferings of Christ (Colossians 1:24). Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich said, “Our prayers and hearts are with the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando, their families and our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.” He added, in a letter addressed specifically to LGBT Catholics, “I stand with you.” Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg wrote in his blog, “sadly it is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people. Attacks today on LGBT men and women often plant the seed of contempt, then hatred, which can ultimately lead to violence. Those women and men who were mowed down early yesterday morning were all made in the image and likeness of God. We teach that. We should believe that. We must stand for that.” Likewise, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego wrote, “This tragedy is a call for us as Catholics to combat ever more vigorously the anti-gay prejudice which exists in our Catholic community and in our country.”
These statements remind us of the strong words from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin two years ago—words which have resurfaced following the current tragedy: “God never created anybody that he doesn’t love… [and] anybody who doesn’t show love towards gay and lesbian people is insulting God. They are not just homophobic if they do that – they are actually Godophobic because God loves every one of those people.”
Pope Francis famously said, “If a gay person is in eager search of God, who am I to judge them? The Catholic Church teaches that gay people should not be discriminated against; they should be made to feel welcome.” These bishops have done just that. Their expressions of sympathy embody precisely what the Catechism requires when it says, “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (CCC #2358).
By remembering their own teaching that gays and lesbians are “always our children” in whom “God’s love is revealed,” the bishops have helped to address one of the major issues that is causing Catholics to fall away from the Church. LGBT Catholics, their families, and their friends have often felt the Church to be unwelcoming, even bigoted and hurtful, and they have walked away to find a spiritual home elsewhere, often with heavy hearts. These bishops who spoke up have been true fathers, reminding all of us that God’s love extends to all of His children and that the Church is always a place for everyone to call home. There must be no division, for “all are one in Christ Jesus.” As Bishop McElroy said, “our Catholic faith demands that we… embrace with ever greater strength the solidarity of all people who stand as the one family of the God who is Father of us all.” I cannot think of a better message for Father’s Day.