Tag Archives: theology

Ash Wednesday: A Reminder that We Have Faith Even if it’s the Size of a Mustard Seed

It must seem odd to those who are not Christian. On one Wednesday every year, we can observe people walking around with ashes on their foreheads. They are supposed to be in the shape of a cross, but many times they end up looking more like a big black blob. And people have this mark on their forehead throughout all of their normal daily activities- at school, at work, at the gym. If you go to the supermarket or the doctor’s office, there’s sure to be plenty of people with blobs on their heads! When you think about, it’s pretty strange.

Of course, on Ash Wednesday, just like Palm Sunday (hence the name A&P Catholics- those who only go to church to get their ashes and palms), a lot of people feel the need to go to church, even if they do not go on a regular basis. Hence, many ask why some people care so much about getting ashes when they do not bother to pray, or go to church on Sundays, and even, in the case of some, when they are not sure they even believe in God or want to be Catholic. Yet, to me, there is something beautiful about this “need” to get ashes. Something compels us to do it, Something beyond us that we cannot quite explain. We may not always “act” like believers, but some small part of us “believes.”

Ash Wednesday also reminds us that through our mutual observance of the beginning of Lent, we are united with Christians all over the world. I love thinking about all the different places I’ve received ashes in my life based on where I was or what I was doing. In elementary school, I can still remember the mass exodus of Catholic kids heading to the local church across the street after the bell rang. During college at Fordham, I have fond memories of being a cantor at the evening Ash Wednesday mass. During my masters degree at Harvard, which was my first time in a non-Catholic environment, I remember being so excited that I was receiving ashes from the Lutherans one year, and the Presbyterians another. Every year, I also seem to exchange stories with my family, “Where did you get your ashes this year? Who said the mass or lead the service? Did you see anyone we know? …. ”

This year at Boston College, I went to the 12:15pm liturgy at the School of Theology and Ministry. It was refreshing to go to my office across campus afterwards, and to see the ashes on the foreheads of many of my colleagues. In spite of all the suffering and anxiety in the world, in spite of the fact that our faith in God is constantly challenged, faith still exists. Even if it is the size of a “mustard seed,” it is there. And even faith the size of a “mustard seed” is big enough to keep growing and to accomplish great things.

“Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”

 

Responding to Orlando as a Catholic: The Need to Feel Challenged and Uncomfortable

In the wake of the shooting in Orlando last week, I have been wondering what a heterosexual Catholic woman in academia is supposed to say. It is obvious from the timing of this post, I put off publishing a blog, and the one I am sharing now has been through numerous drafts.

Just a short while ago, I came across an article written by Paul Reid-Bowen, a male scholar of religion who asks the question of whether one can be a man, and still write about feminism from a position of advocacy and commitment. He acknowledges that as a man in a patriarchal culture, his sexual difference is problematic for feminism. If this were not the case, feminism would not need to exist in the first place. Reid-Bowen insists, therefore, that, “if any man is comfortable with feminism, something is amiss.”

As a Catholic woman, it hurts to think about how my church’s position of “Hate the sin, love the sinner” bears responsibility for feelings of homophobia and widespread discrimination against LGBTQ persons. While the church condemns violence against LGBTQ persons, a theology that defines the sacrament of marriage as solely “the union between a man and a woman” and considers homosexual inclinations to be “intrinsically disordered” does nothing to challenge the undeserved dominant position that heterosexual persons enjoy in our church or in society. With this theology, a same-sex couple can never have their union affirmed as sacramental, and being in a same-sex relationship is rendered “sinful,” for no other reason than that it defies the traditional male-female gender binary. It is no wonder that a Catholic child who does not fit neatly into traditional gender stereotypes might grow up feeling frightened and ashamed, and at risk for depression and even suicide. A lot of Catholics are afraid to publicly commit to a theology that embraces LGBTQ persons as the “image of God,” rather than persons with a disorder that needs correction, or to publicly support the availability of the sacrament of marriage to same-sex couples who love each other. We fear not only condemnation from fellow Catholics and from clergy in positions of power, but we also fear having to come face to face with our own responsibility for events like Orlando. We fear being “radical.”

I do not feel I have the right to say exactly what the Catholic Church needs to do to support the LGBTQ community right now. But I must say that I think that a shift in theology and Church teaching would be a step in the direction, precisely because the full affirmation of LGBTQ persons and relationships would be “radical.” In other words, when entering a position of advocacy for and commitment to the LGBTQ community, heterosexual Catholics and those in positions of power in the church are supposed to feel challenged and uncomfortable, or else “something is amiss.”

Finally, I speak of the need for a new theology not to be “politically correct,” but because this is what I believe is required for Catholic Christians to be disciples of Jesus in today’s world. I can no longer believe in God who is displeased with God’s own creatures solely for being who they are. In the words of Edward Schillebeeckx, “it is better not to believe in God than to believe in a God who enslaves human beings.”