Dark Devotional: My Bittersweet Birthright

Dark Devotional: My Bittersweet Birthright July 11, 2018
art by Brian Jocks

Reading Scripture is rarely a balm to me. Since I was a small child I experienced crushing scrupulosity, a result of perpetual spiritual abuse. So tonight I sat down to read this Sunday’s readings with a heavy heart. I’m not a good candidate to write a reflection on anything Godly today. Honestly, I skipped four out of the last five Sunday Masses. And if I didn’t love Matt Lafleur as I so deeply do, I’d probably have begged off attempting this Dark Devotional.

[Editor’s note: Loving me shouldn’t inspire guilt. I am not God.]

Matt Lafleur: he’s just a handsome cajun.

Instead it’s half past midnight. My devotional was due a half hour ago. Oops.

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

I will hear what God proclaims;

the LORD —for he proclaims peace.

Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,

glory dwelling in our land.

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

Kindness and truth shall meet;

justice and peace shall kiss.

Truth shall spring out of the earth,

and justice shall look down from heaven.

These are the words that greeted me, the responsorial for this Sunday’s Mass. I found no fire, no judgment today, but only the kindness I’ve been craving. Our country is a mess. We all know it. And it has sent me into a spiral of true hopelessness. I was trodding the days as though kindness, peace, and hope were all officially gone from our world, gone on a ship to the West.

But it isn’t. They aren’t. Our God is a God of kindness. He proclaims peace, and His word is made incarnate to us. The psalmist tells us that kindness and truth shall meet—and for the first time in weeks I feel hope. Justice and peace shall kiss—and my soul feels it can breathe again.

In him you also, who have heard the word of truth,

the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him,

were sealed with the promised holy Spirit,

which is the first installment of our inheritance

toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.

Yesterday I engaged in a vicious argument on social media regarding LBGTQ+ individuals. Normally I try not to join in, but two alums from my alma mater were verbally attacking some people I love very deeply, one of whom is transgender and another, lesbian. And despite knowing that my friends had faced such hate and discrimination countless times in their lives, I was deeply shaken by it. I’d never seen such hatefulness expressed so arrogantly to another person. So I reminded these fellows (rather forcefully) what the Catechism teaches, that “[homosexuals] must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity [and] every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (CCC 2358). Well, they didn’t like that. They turned on me and told me I was denying the Church in my acceptance of sin. One of them told me to leave the Catholic Church if I couldn’t hold to her teachings.

And I have considered it. Because of this. Because of men and women like that, those who spew hate and hypocrisy, who know and speak nothing of the kindness of our God. Because I was raised to be that same brand of hateful, and it’s taken years to deprogram from the infused hatred and  find peace. To find kindness and compassion once again. Yes, I have often desired to leave this broken, ugly Church.

But that word—inheritance. This Church, broken and ugly, is my birthright. And as I reminded those men, it is mine, and no one can take it from me. I’m here to stay, ugly and heretical and broken as I am. Because let’s be honest; I fit right in. And I’m staying for good.

Amaziah, priest of Bethel, said to Amos,

“Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah!

There earn your bread by prophesying,

but never again prophesy in Bethel;

for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.”

Amos answered Amaziah, “I was no prophet,

nor have I belonged to a company of prophets;

I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores.

The LORD took me from following the flock, and said to me,

Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

Our peace is not won easily, and the truths I speak are not welcomed by most. Like Amos, I was no prophet. I was—I am—only a sinner. But I will keep speaking His truth into this world. Truths that make us uncomfortable, truths about the suffering of immigrants, about abused wives, about the hatred homosexuals and queer individuals daily suffering at the hands of our Church, our Church which clearly teaches kindness, compassion, and acceptance for each of these marginalized, vulnerable, beloved souls. I will keep speaking these truths. I will keep speaking.

 

*****

Marie Kopp is a writer and editor living in Ohio. In September she flies to Spain to teach English for a year. Her faith feels shredded these days, but she keeps praying that God will repair the grace lifelines. You can join her in her journey beyond the pale at her blog, The Shoeless Banshee.

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