Turn and Burn
‘John was a lamp that burned and gave light.’ (JN 6:35)
I could hardly believe my ears. Surrounded by a host of earnest men, most cradle Catholics, the priest raged like a street fighter as he implored us to turn from what sickened, divided and ultimately would kill us. ‘Repent unto the love of Jesus! The love that woos you will only make you new if you turn from your sin!’
Pow. Right between the eyes. The priest mediated the spirit of John the Baptist unlike any other, fittingly so for the second week of Advent. The Sunday’s Gospel (LK 3: 1-6) declares John preaching ‘a baptism of repentance’, and implores us to ‘make a way’ for Jesus in our lives through turning from everything that hinders love. We know that holy love liberates our repentance. But the Baptist refuses to let us off the hook. We must level our mountains—the craggy defenses and soaring self-justifications—in order to break ground for His entry into our lives.
Incited by the sentimentality that surrounds ‘homosexuals’ in the Church today (victims in need of coddling, not the call to repent unto chastity like everyone else), I began to burn within as I recalled God’s dignifying call for my repentance. I realized I had a choice: turn from my ‘gay’ self and behaviors and live, or die in my sin. It was simple, stunning, and cost me everything. It set me free to follow Jesus.
Like Jeremiah (20:9), my stomach smoking, I declared to my brothers around that table the truth of my ‘gay ‘ past and gratitude for the Baptist’s call to repentance. ‘God in His mercy gave me a choice: He respected me enough to give me the freedom to surrender to Him the whole complicated mess of my sexuality. And He gives you the same gift to turn from whatever seeks mastery over you. You just have to act on it. No-one can do it for you.’
Admittedly, repentance isn’t the only factor in our restoration as persons. But no restoration can occur without it. Through His beloved forerunner John, Jesus reminds us this Advent to turn and so burn with the fire of divine love.
This Tuesday the 8th, Pope Francis initiates his Jubilee Year of Mercy. Would you pray with me throughout this important year for him? Following the Synod on the Family, the Pope is now weighing its report and sometime in 2016 will give his pastoral suggestions on a host of issues, including the pastoral care of persons with SSA. He has been ambiguous in the call for ‘homosexuals’ to repent, and he faces resistance for making such a politically incorrect call.
Perhaps Pope Francis can draw courage from John the Baptist who commanded repentance so clearly that Herod killed him for it (John challenged his sexually immoral relationship with Herodias and was beheaded; Matt. 14:1-12.) Pray for Pope Francis’ clarity, that he not bypass the clear command of repentance unto Jesus and the goal of chastity for all persons, including persons with SSA. To do so is a failure of mercy. We cannot have Jesus without His Baptist. We must turn in order to burn with holy love.