Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Signs and Wonders

Put it down to yesterday's post on the transforming bursting-forth of spring if you like, but tonight I'm inspired to share my hope and belief that God's transforming love breaks through into the world through the actions of humans – humans who are mindful and responsive to this love both in the depths of their being and in all aspects of creation around them. As Mother Teresa once said, "God loves the world through us – you and me."

Accordingly, I also believe that the signs and wonders of love and justice, healing and inclusion, wholeness and new life that our brother Jesus so beautifully and powerfully embodied continue to be experienced today through the actions of those open to God's spirit of transforming love.

As a follow of Jesus, I refer to this spirit as the Christos and attempt to daily embody it as best I can. I'm also on the look out for inspiring and hopeful examples of others embodying this love, and the signs and wonders that result. I'd like to highlight this evening three such examples of this embodying of God's transforming spirit of compassion and justice. May they encourage and inspire you as much they do me!

Let's start with the following news report concerning Jessica Urbina, a non-gender conforming student at San Francisco's Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory School, who was told that her picture would not appear in the school yearbook because it violated a policy on "required dress for female students."

Notes the Associated Press:

Sacred Heart has issued a formal apology to Jessica and her parents, Tony and Ana Urbina, and have said that Jessica's photo will indeed appear in the school yearbook. The letter, co-authored by John F. Scudder, Jr (the school's president) and Gary Cannon (the principal) was published on Sacred Heart's website and also addressed concerns from gay and lesbian alumni: "While we believe SHC to be a safe and supportive environment for all, this situation has reminded us that we still have much growth to achieve. While many gay and lesbian alumni and students have commented on the inclusive, supportive aspect of our school community, others have remarked on some prejudice that still exists. As a school, we must better learn how to support our students who are navigating issues of gender identity.

Another hopeful and encouraging aspect of this story is the overwhelming support that Jessica has received from her fellow Catholic students and the wider community

Jessica's brother, Michael Urbina, a budding activist, didn't take his sister's yearbook rejection lightly. He started a grassroots campaign, #JessicasTux, asking other high schoolers to wear bow ties to school last Friday, then post the pictures on Twitter and Instagram. The campaign took off, and soon Jessica had thousands of supporters from around the country.

"I've seen all these people with all the ties. Honestly, I've cried multiple times. I'm overwhelmed with all the support," Jessica told the local San Francisco NBC affiliate.

I find it incredibly hopeful that the leadership of this Catholic institution has the courage to admit that it (and by extension all of us) are still growing in understanding of complex issues such as gender identity – and, I'd add, sexual orientation. The logical next step is to admit that our church's teachings on these matters are not set in stone but rather also still in a process of development.

I also appreciate Bob Shine's recent comments on the incident at Sacred Heart:

While this story had a positive ending, we still need to address the question of why this incident, and the harm done to Jessica, occurred at all. The Archdiocese of San Francisco mandating that women wear dresses for senior photos is not based in Church teaching, nor does it emerge from wise pastoral practice. It is silly and outdated, and nothing more than a naked attempt by the hierarchy to suppress contemporary understandings of gender.

Let’s hope that Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep’s example, both in how damaging their mistake was and in their willingness to learn through the process of dialogue,will inform other Church institutions such that they will avoid future incidents.

For more on this story click here.

For the official statement released by the Urbina family, click here.


I have to say that I always get inspired when those in positions of authority within the Roman Catholic clerical caste free themselves from the strictures of this caste and actually embody the definitely un-caste focused message and example of Jesus. An example of this occurred recently when a bishop in Malta, Charles Scicluna, celebrated International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia with a gay Catholic group.

Here's an excerpt from a Malta Times article about this, well, wonderful development.

Drachma LGBTI and Drachma Parents Support Group organised a thanksgiving Eucharistic celebration to commemorate the annual International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, as well as the tenth anniversary from the foundation of the Drachma Community.

The celebration, held at the Carmelite Church in Mdina, was celebrated by Mgr. Charles Scicluna, Auxiliary Bishop of Malta, together with a number of priests who have over the years supported Drachma in its pastoral work among the LGBTI community.

. . . "The Drachma Community hopes that this celebration can serve as a clear message against all forms of homophobia and transphobia in our society. This celebration also demonstrates that it is possible for LGBTI persons to fully integrate their sexuality with their spirituality," the group said.

Drachma LGBTI was founded in 2004 by a group of young LGBTI persons, with the aim of exploring their faith in connection with their sexuality. Today it includes lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered and intersex persons, as well as friends of LGBTI individuals who wish to meet to pray together and explore the connections between sexuality, gender, gender identity, faith, spirituality and religion.

"Drachma is a group largely inspired by the Christian tradition, values and spirituality but is open to people coming from different religious traditions or none at all. Drachma also explores ecumenical and inter-faith spaces," the group said.


And here's a third example of an inspiring and hopeful "sign and wonder": Earlier today a federal judge in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania struck down that state's ban on same-sex marriage. It's the second such ruling this week by a federal court and the 14th consecutive ruling in favor of marriage equality.

Wrote U.S. District Judge John E. Jones:

Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional. Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. . . . Were that not so, ours would still be a racially segregated nation according to the now rightfully discarded doctrine of ‘separate but equal.' . . . In future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage.


And in related news, and as a way to close this posting on hopeful "signs and wonders" of God's transforming presence in the world, I share the words of U.S. District Judge Michael McShane, one of just nine openly gay judges on the federal bench. Raised in a conservative Catholic family and a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in his youth, McShane had the following to say yesterday when striking down as unconstitutional Oregon’s same-sex marriage ban:

With discernment we see not shadows lurking in closets or the stereotypes of what was once believed. Rather, we see families committed to the common purpose of love, devotion, and service to the community. . . . To those who truly harbor such fears I can only say this: Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other . . . and rise.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Sign of Hope and Creativity
Something We Dare Call Hope
The Triumph of Love
"A Courageous Document"
Clarity, Hope, and Courage
Journeying Into the Truth . . . Valiantly, of Course!
Robert McClory's "Prophetic Work"
In the Eye of the Storm, a Tree of Living Flame
Getting It Right
To Believe in Jesus
As the Last Walls Dissolve . . . Everything is Possible

Opening Image: "The Raising of Lazarus" by Edward Knippers.

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