Letter 6: Are you there, Church? It's me, the Holy Spirit.
A little over a month ago, Bishop Zubik gave the homily at Sunday Mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral. That day, the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, the first reading was Amos 7:12-15; the second reading was Ephesians 1:3-14; and the Gospel reading was Mark 6:7-13.
Zubik’s homily centered on prophets – not the capital-P “Prophets” but prophets as in those who we encounter on any given day who whose lives inspire positive change and spiritual growth in those around them. Zubik stressed how once we pause and consider the individuals who have influenced and impacted us in a way that brings us closer to God, closer to goodness and faithfulness, we realize how many prophets there are. And inversely, that we should be listening to the prophets around us in order to have a deeper, active, more robust relationship with God.
So why, then, is the Church so set on not listening to the prophets in the pews?
The Church as an institution is man-made, crafted over centuries of words passed down generationally, eventually transcribed after stories had been told and retold, compacted and embellished, interpreted and reinterpreted through different cultures and languages. The Church, therefore, is imperfect and diverse, a patchwork of storytelling and soul-searching, a multifaceted quest for who God is and what Truth is, made clumsy and treacherous by the human condition of wanting defined lines and the ease of clarity.
But there is nothing defined or clear about God, or the universe, or humankind. In fact, our whole catechism is summed up in “the mystery of faith.” So why has the Church become so rigid, so set on adhering to rules of yore that were drafted imperfectly by imperfect humans? Why has the Church adopted the inflexible pattern of casting aside the insights of women in favor of the musings of men; dismissing the hope and enlightenment of progress in favor of the stagnant comfort* of tradition?
*Comfort, I should condition, on being the comfort of the few, those in places of financial and societal privilege. But we'll leave the inherently political nature of religion for another day.
If, as the bishop impressed in his homily, we should be listening to the prophets among us, and if we are the Church – the Body of Christ – then the Church and its official leadership should be just as vigorously listening to the prophets in the pews as we are asked to do in our daily lives. There is an unofficial schism in the Western Church that leadership refuses to acknowledge. For every loud, vocal “Trad Catholic” prioritizing anti-abortion rhetoric over all other ideas and issues, there are just as many Progressive Catholics who are championing a holistic pro-life approach (read: the wellbeing of all living beings, from poor mothers to refugees, healthcare to housing) and who embrace the holiness and goodness of all genders, sexual orientations, and races within the faith community.
We just are not being heard. Our passionate cries are falling on willfully deaf ears.
A woman called to the priesthood is evidence of the Holy Spirit moving through her, calling her to a vocation.
A non-binary person called to serve as a lector or Eucharistic Minister is evidence of the Holy Spirit moving through them, calling them to serve Christ in the Mass.
A gay couple called to be parents is evidence of the Holy Spirit moving through them, calling them to raise a child who knows Love.
How dare a man deny the will of the Holy Spirit.
God has given us the capacity to grow and evolve, to discover more about our humanity and the capacity to love and support beyond what non-human creatures are capable. The Church needs to catch up and recognize that growth is good, that discovery is healthy, and that change is necessary to reach our highest potential as individuals and as those seeking a deeper relationship with God.
My ongoing prayer is for the Church to listen to those of us pushing at the walls and stomping at the kneelers; to realize that God’s will is not stagnant nor stationary, but rather a perpetual forward motion crashing at the door, a powerful wave rising within the Body and challenging antiquated constructs that serve the few, not the plenty.
It is my faith that gives me hope for change, for recognition, for compassion. It is my faith that has me press onward, making noise from the inside.
May finding a spiritual home become the norm and not a struggle.
May the Church hear the rustling of the Spirit as it turns over new leaves.