Week 3: Gathering the Outcasts

A few weeks ago I read Isaiah 56:1-8. Since then, my mind has kept coming back to this set of verses. I’ve been particularly touched by verses 7 and 8 recently.

7These I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.
8Thus says the Lord God,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel,
I will gather others to them,
besides those already gathered.

The “these” referenced in the beginning of this passage are foreigners and eunuchs, people who were excluded from the religious community and considered to be outside the realm of God’s blessing. These, God says, They will gather in, for God’s house will be a house of prayer for all peoples, not just a select few.  

What I love about this passage is the vision of inclusion, a widening of the circle. Those formerly excluded will not only be welcomed into God’s house, they will be joyful in it. When I think about my passion to minister to my queer brothers and sisters and siblings, I think of how we are received in holy spaces. Speaking from my own experience, if I am welcome in a church, a house of prayer, I often don’t feel don’t feel joyful inside of it. There is a certain amount of sorrow or fear, an invisible burden weighing me down. I can only assume that’s a sentiment shared among many LGBTQ Catholics.

But I dream of transforming a place of sorrow and hurt into a place of healing. I want to replace that feeling of encumbrance with lightness and joy. I desire that we will no longer see these buildings and communities as exclusionary, but a place where God is gathering in the outcasts and we are no longer exiles. Simply put, I want it so that a queer person can walk into a Catholic space and feel comfortable, not traumatized.

Last week, Ellie Hildago left a comment on my writing. She painted the picture of God speaking to us and saying, “I will delight in the life you create.” 

When I imagine a new church, I dream of it being a place where it is proclaimed through its people and its principles that God is delighting in what we as LGBTQ people are creating. I wish I was told when I was coming out to myself that God delights in the way that I love and the way that I express my gender and consequently in the life I was creating in regards to this newfound identity. Therefore, I want to speak that into others. When I imagine my place in this Isaiah 56 vision, I think of myself as someone helping to gather in the outcasts. I whisper to them that they do indeed belong in these holy spaces and that God delights in the life they are creating.

I dream of a church that features this inclusive vision.

I dream of a church that prioritizes people over doctrine.

I dream of a church that continually repents of homophobia and transphobia. (And racism and xenophobia and sexism and classism and ableism!)

I dream of a church that believes queerness is enmeshed in the image of God.

I dream of a church where my vocation would become obsolete in this form, because LGBTQ+ people would no longer be outcasts. Rather, we would already know and it is accepted that God delights in the life we create.

7 thoughts on “Week 3: Gathering the Outcasts

  1. “I dream of a church where my vocation would become obsolete in this form, because LGBTQ+ people would no longer be outcasts. Rather, we would already know and it is accepted that God delights in the life we create.”

    I love this so much. We DO know that God delights in the life we are all creating–it just seems that institutional spaces are slow to get on board and prioritize doctrine over people as you point out. How can we manifest this vision NOW rather than wait for parishes and diocese to “approve” LGBTQ ministries or have to seek out groups like New Ways and Dignity (who are wonderful, don’t get me wrong!)? How can we center our work where those previously outcast are now the center of the Gospel?

    Greg Boyle always talks about standing at the margins so that the margins are erased and cease to exist–I wonder what that looks like concretely and if we can do it even without the hierarchy’s help.

  2. Revalon, I am so glad that you are grounded in the scripture and listening to the Spirit’s call based on that wisdon. Also in Isaiah 43:19 “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Keep hoping and keep praying.

  3. I experience your vision as holy.
    The invisible burden you describe is so heavy, because it represents so much piling-on of false beliefs. I am asking Jesus to take on this “heavy burden” and, in your call, to let his light yolk be all that remains.
    In my own discovering of being bisexual (which was God’s invitation, God’s prerogative), I felt like I was restored to myself, and that “I” was more interesting and grounded than I’d realized (once the repression fell away). It felt like a new dimension was inside of me. I want the Church to have that experience. I wonder if, when the Church connects in and leans in to its LGBTQ members, the Church will experience itself as more grounded, having new dimensions within.
    Have you ever articulated and shared your own experience of “queerness enmeshed in the image of God”?

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