Like so many in the LGBTQ+ community, we are still mourning the loss of 49 lives in the massacre at Orlando. In my own moments of anger and grief, I found myself turning to music, and I was surprised by the amount of comfort I found in music specifically addressing the Orlando tragedy. The Psalms remind us that music can help us in sorting through life's mysteries. Psalm 49:4 states: "I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre."
Of the videos I posted on my own Facebook wall, one features gay musician Bobby Jo Valentine. From the beginning of trying to sing his song, "The Unhappiest Place On Earth," it is apparent that Bobby Jo has many false starts. He lights candles and sets them up, but we see in a frame or so later that their positions have changed. In seeing the lapse of time for his own rehearsals and attempts, it becomes plain, and we know that he also is struggling to sing at such a time when no melody or note or words can express the depth of grief and loss that he and we feel. At last beginning, he laments: "This is a hard song to sing. Songs are how I try to figure out the world. And there's not a lot of easy answers for this one."
Bobby Jo knows he will not solve this riddle with the music of his guitar.
For me, the words of Rainer Maria Rilke come to mind:
Be Patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
This week's readings offer the love and promise of that distant future. The Gospel passage (taken from Luke) urges the disciples to put their confidence in God in seeking to share the Good News. They are to take nothing with them, to bring peace to the houses they visit, and to eat whatever is set before them. They are also charged to cure the sick in the name of the Spirit, reminding them that "'The kingdom of God is at hand for you."
However, for the places and homes where they are not welcome, Christ tells them to "go out into the streets and say, 'The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.' Yet know this: the Kingdom of God is at hand."
While initially, this righteous "middle finger" to townspeople may seem satisfying, we know through the life and love of Jesus that it is not. Hospitality has always depended upon faith, faith that we are all strangers and that we are all of us, just passing through. No one, not even God God's-self escapes being stranger. Sodom mentioned in today's reading is one such example when it was believed that God came to the city seeking hospitality in the guise of an angel.
Indeed, the one from Nazareth was not even recognized by his own; only in his ignominious death were the eyes of some opened. This, I believe, was the point of the Cross: to show us that the victim was not guilty. That our own thirst and cycle of ostracizing and blaming others so that an "us" identity against a "them" could end. The Sadducees and colonial leaders of Jerusalem quelled the poor and critical movement that Jesus had begun because they feared its danger. And the Church in its own inhospitable and unwelcome ways towards the LGBTQ+ community in its own fear and homophobia has aided in fashioning innocent victims in its midst. One need merely look around our own city of Houston with its hundreds of homeless LGBTQ youth to know that. I know that. I was one of them.
The massacre in Orlando could have happened anywhere, and it could have happened to any of us. Although the victims may be unknown to us, through our faith, we know that God comes to us in the face of the stranger, the one who is outcast and marginalized. The stranger is beautiful. The stranger is loved. The stranger is welcome. And the stranger deserves a home.
Pope Francis' recent call for the Church and for Catholics to apologize to the LGBTQ+ community is cause for Hope. Perhaps there may be a chance that we may live into a (hopefully not too) distant future where all may realize that Christ's resurrection was not meant to negate the power of his death (because in its losing power, we lose the sense that it was unjustified). Instead, it was to show us that God overcomes the violence and meaninglessness of hatred and fear. In serving as his disciples, and in following Him, we must believe in the Hope his message offers: "the Kingdom of God is at hand." We must at the same time groan and feel through the cycles of violence, fear, and hatred, knowing that God's Time also enfolds within itself the chasm of silence and disbelief that must have descended upon the Roman soldier when he realized "this truly was the Son of God." It is this silence that God also provides. And it is within it that we find the courage to live into the answer.
May we as the Church's children continue to live into the answers that we find compose our lives, always remaining open to the spirit of Reconciliation and the knowledge of love that knows that stronger than death is love. And stronger than all the clamoring of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is a certain kind of Silence. A silence that will comfort us now in this time of pain. A silence that can make others nervous. A silence that knows. "The Kingdom of God is at hand."