“…If You Agree With Them Politically.”

That was the post a former parishioner, well-loved and well-cared for, and missed greatly posted on our Facebook page recently. The exact quote went something like, “This is a wonderful place to worship, if you agree with them politically.”  Hurtful? Yes. Unexpected? Sadly, no.

You see, during their tenure with us we all knew their political views. But, as you also know, we don’t allow a bully-pulpit, or political rallies here, but we do address civil rights and incompatibility issues that run against the gospel we adore. It is incumbent upon us to address these as a People of God, an Assembly that worships and proclaims Jesus as Lord and Savior, and me as a priest in Christ’s holy Church. There is no doubt that I’ve stepped on toes this past two years as I have addressed health care as a right, immigration and refugees and unlawful and immoral bans, children in custody at despicable border camps, inhumane treatment of refugees, the rejection of a person solely because of their religion, and the deep-seated misogyny of women and the penchant for war. For that, I make no apologies. It’s my job.

That said, since the comment was publicly posted, I do feel an obligation to turn this into a teaching moment. Now, I could tell you about Jesus’ actions during the Passion in Matthew where he directed Peter to put away his sword. I could also tell you about our Franciscan values and the relationship that St Francis had with Muslim leader, Sultan Malek al-Kamil, a model of not only inter-religious dialogue, but a dialogue of earnestly desiring peace (We studied this last year in our Secular Franciscan Group). I could also tell regale you with the many times Jesus asked us to turn a cheek, or spread love, or welcomed the sinner, or ate with the despised, touched the bleeding woman, embraced the leper, the tax cheat, the rejected foreigner, or how He directed us countless times to spread His gospel and not hate, but love one another. But, for me, perhaps the greatest lesson I can give is a short story and a direct summation of why we are Catholics.

The story. I sat with a major benefactor and parishioner as she angerly told me to hire someone for my staff different than my choice because we welcomed ‘too many gays here’. She ended her comments with, “If you don’t listen, Father, you will not receive my $10,000 check this year.” She left with her check. I was sad (and yes, wanted that donation!) but not at the expense of my soul, or the life of the parish we committed to being.

The summation. What makes us validly catholic is that we believe in the inherent dignity of the human person and the unconditional focus on the concept of Christian Grace. Every single person, and yes, even those you disdain, or practice another religion, or worship a tree, or have darker skin, or sit in jail for murder, or make bombs that maim or kill in war, and so many others are made Imago Dei, in the image and likeness of God. Despite your protestations, God is the author of life – the Ruach Elohim – the breath in our lungs, not you. It is why it informs our consciousness against abortion, but allows us to welcome those who had the procedure and lost a life; it is why we hate the sin of war, but can find forgiveness to the war load; it is how we despise the death penalty, but can forgive those who slaughtered; it is why we may never have been homeless or rejected or ill or penniless or confused about our sexuality or marginalized because of our skin color or sexual identity, but still we welcome all of those – all of us – and all of the us’ out there – that need a home and a place to find comfort and love and care and welcoming face; ‘not a sword, but a fish.’

Politics and questions, and life issues are very complicated and highly controversial at times, but the Gospel is not a chess match, and our life here at Saint Miriam are crystal clear: We are not for sale.

We welcome and we love, and yes, we protect those who are not; even if you disagree with us politically.

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