29 Jun LGBTI. Outcasts of the Society? A Priest Responds Through His Homily

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GOSPEL

HOMILY OF FR. ARNEL AQUINO, S.J.
Our Lady of Pentecost Parish, QC
June 28, 2015

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Hundreds of years before and after Jesus, a Jewish woman’s highest worth as a human person was the capacity to bear children; that and not much else. If you use 21st century eyes and look back to those days, you’d say that women were treated like one of the pets. They weren’t allowed outdoors without the say-so of their masters, namely, fathers or husbands. They were banned from public venues. They could not testify in court even if they were eyewitnesses to a crime. They were forbidden from talking to strangers. And if ever they stepped out of the house to, like, fetch water or dry clothes—they had to be completely covered, head to foot. Worst of all, by law, their husbands could unceremoniously divorce them for whatever reason. Divorce was a death-blow to a woman’s social dignity, as if she had much going for her anyway, which she really didn’t. Ah, but blessed were you if you could bear children. To bear children meant to give life—a sign that Yahweh Creator of life favored you! But cursed were you among women if you were baog—for no new life could ever spring from you. You were a failure; must be Yahweh Creator’s punishment for some grave sin you or your parents had committed in your surely bedeviled past.
 
In today’s gospel, we see two such females whose situations are closely related: one, suffering from hemorrhages for 12 years; the other, a 12-year old. The first has never been able to bear a child—therefore, socially dead. The second will never be able to bear a child, because she is dead. And in Jewish society, that’s a double sayang—not only does the girl die so young. Twelve years old happens to be the age that a girl may already be betrothed for marriage. And what was marriage mainly for? Not for love. Kaya nga betrothal, because love didn’t have much to do with it. No, childbirth! Marriage was about bearing and birthing children. Anyhow, neither the old woman nor the child could give the world any new life because one was socially dead, the other was literally dead.
 
Uhmm, before we breathe a sigh of relief and say, “Salamat sa Dios, this barbaric mindset about women is no longer true today,” I would not exhale quite just yet. Because thanks to CNN and BBC and Al Jazeera, you and I realize how little we knew that these things still go on today, that there are still societies where this mindset and practice prevail; this male, chauvinistic, utilitarian, machism-ic, warped mindset. Most shockingly of all, the societies that still breathe this old and putrid air are mostly religious societies.
The other night, when three other Jesuits and I were on our way home, Fr Eric read off of his phone, “O, there’s just been three ISIS attacks, simultaneous! France, Kuwait, and Tunisia.” Then, a few minutes later, he said again, “O, gay marriage is now legal in all 50 states, supreme court ruling.” There I sat, deep in thought, and finally said to myself: “I bet, like in the past, people will ask us priests what we think and feel about gay marriage… more than about what we think and feel regarding the worldwide massacres going on in the name of God—never mind, of course, that all this massacre is being waged by religious, God-loving men.”
 
Don’t get me wrong. I still have many misgivings about gay marriage, as I have a lot of misgivings about straight people who get married for the wrong reasons—but not as much as I believe that Satan’s cause has been won by religious fundamentalists… not just of Islam, but also of Christianity and Judaism. My point is simple: do we see the lopsidedness of it all? Like the Jews in the Lord’s time, do we not see that we more readily protest against gender issues rather than against torture, slaughter, beheading, misogyny, and homophobia all in the name of God? For some strange reason, like old-time Jews, we still gravitate towards preserving the masculine and the feminine, or more exactly preserving the masculine from the feminine. We’re still more worried over what men can do that women shouldn’t—especially in religion and Church; all this rather than be horrified at the unbelievable spate of mass murder being committed in the name of God—even as we speak. I suddenly remember my theology professor in Boston College, a Franciscan sister. She said, “We’d like to think that we’ve come a long way as Christians of the 21st century. But much like the people in the bible thousands of years back, we Catholics can still be unbelievably fixated to gender differentiation. Okay,” she said, “so let’s for a moment buy into this gender fixation. Let me ask you: did it ever occur to you that all the religious bloodshed in the world since time immemorial have been perpetrated and perpetuated by straight men?” Nervous laughter.
 
In the gospel today, dear sisters and brothers, before the Lord could personally acknowledge the an ostracized women, people crowded him out. And before he could get to raise a dead girl back to life, people crowded him out. Today, you and I press forward with great strain through a thick crowd of religious prejudices, gender bigotry, simplistic understanding of sin and grace, false dichotomies between divine justice and divine mercy. Today, we are crowded out by our own brand of fundamentalism—how all this has slowed us down from reaching what God has meant us to be: a loving, healing, tolerant, and peaceful people of the light.
 
Kaya hirap na hirap si Hesus sa gospel natin ngayon. Halos hindi siya makagalaw dahil pinigil siya ng kapal ng tao. Pagdating pa niya sa bahay nung bata, halos itaboy siya ng isa pang crowd, ang grupo ng taga-iyak, hired mourners who thought he was useless because after all, the girl was already dead. What took you so long, Messiah? What took you so long, O Savior of the world?
Well, a crowd of us took him so long.
 

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