By Jonathan David
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
A friend who is a priest was on sabbatical, where the city priests spoke of the sorry state of the understaffed churches in the poorer rural areas of the country. So he organized a mission to help staff liturgies during Holy Week in one of the more marginalised regions. While his talents were put to good use, the churches were not at all as he had expected to find them. The lay-organized liturgies were well and beautifully coordinated, and the Body of Christ, by my friend’s account, was “already flourishing.”
The seed must die in order to bring forth new life (John 12:24), and any effective ministry must begin with a reliable appraisal of the vitality that is already there. To share Jesus is to die to self, and to recognize how Jesus may already be at work in others. We bring our gifts, “fruit of the earth and work of human hands,” together; we bless and are shared, become what we eat together.
In late December, I attempted to ice skate for the third time. Filled with the enthusiasm of the season and eager to put a friend’s gift of skates to use, I pushed out hard, left foot, right foot, going faster and faster until presto, I was doing it! I made a full lap around the rink, when suddenly I felt my right foot snag and I fell hard, ending my newfound career with a brutal crash. It turns out skating at night, on overcrowded, choppy ice is not such a good idea, especially if you are just learning how.
My ankle injury left me feeling weak and vulnerable all winter. Around that time I watched a DVD of Winter Kept Us Warm, which was made at the University of Toronto in the early 1960s. The film explores the feelings a young man develops for his male classmate. To add insult to injury, the film depicts a less serious ankle sprain, tempting me to say that this winter had surely been much worse than anything explored in the film.
Many lesbians, gays and related groups may feel they have survived an awful winter. And yet signs of new life are all about. Have they heard that the church opposes unjust discrimination, and requires that we treat one another with “respect, compassion and sensitivity”? Have they heard of Pope Francis and the “Catholic spring”? Have they heard that Jesus came so that all of us might flourish?
Our people suffer like everyone else. Some of us are homeless, destitute or disabled. We come from every class, country, race and status. We are a cross-section of the entire human family, afflicted with all the suffering, pain and limits that afflict others. We are not less, however, but more favored because of our multi-faceted poverty. God has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly (Luke 1:52).
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit.” (John 15:5)