Homily given by Don Domenico
Mother Teresa was Beatified in Rome this last Wednesday which is the step preceding the naming of Mother Teresa as a Saint. All of us are familiar with her selfless work in helping the poorest of the poor. What is of interest is the writings of confidants and biographers of Mother Teresa. Evidently, Mother Teresa had an intimacy with God for a short time early in her life (around 1946) - but once she started working in India, Mother Teresa felt abandoned by God. Richard Ostting writes:
“Mother Teresa was afflicted with feelings of abandonment by God from the very start of her work among the homeless children and dying persons in Calcutta’s slums. From all available evidence, this experience persisted until her death five decades later, except for a brief interlude in 1958.”
Though most of us Christians might assume the holiest people exist in continual divine ectasy, the phenomenon of darkness - feeling keenly aware of God’s silence or absence - has occurred among numerous saints and mystics through the ages. Specialists in spirituality emphasize that this should not be confused with loss of Faith in God. Paradoxically as it seems, confidants say Mother Teresa came to understand such suffering was a necessary aspect of her heroic vocation. Here are a couple of her quotations:
“People say they are drawn closer to God - seeing my strong faith. Is it not deceiving people? Every time I have wanted to tell the truth — that I have no faith the words just do not come — my mouth remains closed. And I still keep on smiling at God and all”
“I am told that God lives in me - and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.”
“I want God with all my power of my soul - and yet between us there is a terrible separation. I don’t pray any longer.”
“In my soul, I can tell you how dark it is, how painful, how terrible - I feel like refusing God.”
As I pondered these quotes I wondered if there were analogies between Mother Teresa’s feeling of abandonment by God and GLBT individuals in face of rejection by Church Hierarcy, sometimes being labeled as inherently disordered individuals by Catholic leaders. Is it no wonder that self respecting gays would not wish to stay within the confines of organized religion that refuses to accept for who we are and let us down? To want to stop praying?
I wondered as the AIDS epidemic has devastated the Gay community has God abandoned us? Only to be ridiculed by some Church leaders as having gotten the punishment from God we deserve for living our sinful alternative lifestyle we has chosen to live. Some have even claimed that God hates us GLBT individuals.
Despite the negativism beset upon us by organized religion, perhaps we should not just throw another stone back. Perhaps we should focus on our lives, careers, relationships, business practices, and consumer habits and strive to reincorporate elements based on spirituality into our lives and communities?
Despite the resistance of legislative bodies to give us equal rights in same sex marriages, should we not strive to remain examples of loving, caring, and contributors to our communities?
In the words of the Gay Christian writer Christian de La Heurta:
“We all have gifts to share. All humans do. But as gay people we have something special and unique to contribute. Our pain and our sense of alienation are often transmitted into contribution. It promotes compassion. We are different, in the sense that our perpective is different. We do stand outside of the mainstream. We do reflect things back to and serve as a mirror for society. [I moved out into the congregation to name specific career titles of our members.] We have fulfilled the function of healers, teachers, and caregivers of all types - from physicians [Dignity has three physician members], to massage therapists, from counselors to flight attendants and all forms of the service industry.”
“We do reflect things back to and serve as a mirror for society. We create, promote and support beauty - we bring beauty, color, texture, sound, music, and sensual delight to the world. We have a sense of joy, fun, and celebration to share with the world.”
“We have overcome the worst of adversities yet still manage to thrive and create amazing beauty in spite of it all. The art and beauty we have contributed throughout the ages, and which we continue to produce is staggering. That we have accomplished this under hostile conditions, often in hiding, or while persecuted - in unfavorable situations in which were not able to be fully and openly ourselves is mind boggling.”
God Bless you my friends for your courage.
Don Domenico, MD
Dignity Mass delivered at First Congregational Church
October 24th, 2003