The world is boiling, and we are experiencing mass migration and destruction. We must respond to this now unless we face extinction as God’s people and the destruction of his entire creation.
The passage from Ezekiel nearly 3 thousand years ago also addresses the terrible and troubling time faced by the people of Israel in his day. They fell into despair blaming God and their forebearers. The young priest Ezekiel is called by God to correct their false teaching and restore their hope.
Today’s psalm is helpful and is the cry of a person who was burdened with suffering who then decides to throw them self on God’s compassion and guidance.
And in a lovely passage from his Letter to the Philippians, Paul enjoins his sisters and brothers to complete his joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, humbly looking out for the interests of others. They should emulate Christ Jesus, who emptied and humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death on a cross. Because of this God greatly exalted him.
In today’s Gospel Jesus tells the parable of the two sons - one son does what his father asks him to do and the other doesn't. Jesus explains that the religious leaders, like the refusing son, did not believe John the Baptist’s call to change. It was the outcasts of those days, the publicans and prostitutes, who listened, and they were the ones whose lives were saved.
We hear through these readings of God’s word, a move from them to me. From others doing wrong, to me doing wrong. This raises many questions:
· What does this mean for us today?
· Who are the ‘they’ today?
· Who are the outcasts of today?
· Who are today's publicans and prostitutes?
I suggest that they maybe those who are cast out to the edges of our society. Pope Francis speaks of those who are at the periphery of the church and, in the ongoing World Synod the Spirit shows us who these might be. As far as I see it, these might amongst, many others, might include LGBTQ+ people who are those at the edges of the church. They who are the many who come under the LGBTQ + umbrella, each of which are precious in God’s loving care who deserve our respect and dignity.
I am drawn to Matthew 2:13:
An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said: ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.
Pope Francis explains to us in his message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2023, that the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt was not the result of a free decision, nor were many of the migrations that marked the history of the people of Israel.
The decision to migrate should always be free, yet in many cases, even in our day, it is not. Conflicts, human made environmental disasters, or more simply the impossibility of living a dignified and prosperous life in one’s native land is forcing millions of persons to leave.
I respond to this call by helping over a dozen refugees and asylum seekers - especially those who are LGBT and some of whom are Catholics and Muslim from many countries including Libya, Nigeria, Uganda, Gambia and Pakistan. Three are also heterosexual and fleeing domestic violence after arriving in this country. It has also surprised me that four are trans men from Saudi Arabia.
God does not seem to differentiate. They are all God’s children despite faith or nationality.
I believe that God asks each of us individually to examine our lives and turn away from things that we have done bad and use our talents to help others.
We are asked to follow Jesus and his teaching. You might discern that God calls you:
· to care for the poor,
· to care for the marginalised,
· to care for the bereaved,
· to help build peace,
· to care for those treated unjustly,
· or to care for any others including migrants who need your help.
Moreover, we have no choice as people of God, we must act collectively and individually to protect our common home, our planet. We must not ignore the messages in today’s readings if we are to save ourselves and God is to delight in his creation.
Dr. Claire Jenkins is a trans woman and convert to the Catholic Church. She was married with four children until in 1999 she transitioned from male to female at 50-years-old. Prior to this Claire was part of the leadership team in a secondary school. One of here many achievements at that school was to set up a vibrant PHSE department, a first for the school. She was seconded from this role for 12 months to research sex education in Nottinghamshire schools to find out what resources and teacher training was required to deliver good quality sex education. In 2013 she was awarded a PhD from the University of Sheffield for her research into the effect of transitioning on the family members of trans people. Subsequently she has advised several research projects and has spoken at many Catholic and secular university conferences. From 2017-23 she was actively involved in the pastoral care of LGBT Catholics where she coordinated a team (lay and ordained) who carried out this important work within her diocese. She also gives ongoing support to LGBT Muslim asylum seekers and refugees some of whom have become her close friends. Importantly she also belonged to a small working party who advised the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales about trans issues. In May 2020 Claire was awarded a Senior Fellowship at Margaret Beaufort Institute, Cambridge where she is researching Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming (TGNC) young people’s experiences in schools. This work has now been developed into a research project which will take place until 2025. Currently she is working on publication of the research findings and organising an international conference to address gender ideology/theory within the Catholic Church. She is uniquely placed as a senior trans woman and academic to enable trans people’s voices to be heard in both academia and education.