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A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

The Joyful, Fiery Gospel

‘God infuses the soul and sets it on fire with the Spirit of Love.’ St. John of the Cross

My heart burns with hope. After a week enkindled with story after story of God’s healing love in the lives of persons wounded by homosexuality, I am a believer: the fiery love of Jesus overturns the claims  of those who insist that ‘homosexuals cannot change.’ The Gospel truth is vastly superior. Jesus sets persons captivated by same-gender longing free: free from the shaming events and beliefs that inspired the inclinations, free from the sensational habits that enslave one to lust, free from the Pharisee and free from the secular bully who wants to impose chronic homosexuality as one’s destiny.

Our third Restored Hope Network in Portland OR started on the Feast of the Sacred Heart: the devotion to Jesus’ fiery, merciful heart that inspired St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy (a much-loved devotion at Desert Stream Ministries.) Among persons emerging out of same-sex attraction who testified of steady, inspired progress in chastity and gender complementarity, I witnessed over and over the power of Jesus’ sacred heart: the fiery love that surpasses all other loves, an intimacy so profound and deeply personal that one is provoked by Love Himself to surrender all and begin again with Christ Himself as one’s guide. Is this not the fruit of the joyful Gospel that Pope Francis, quoting Benedict, extolled when he described that Gospel ‘not as an ethic or lofty idea but…a Person’, who offers our wounded lives ‘an open horizon and decisive direction?’

As I listened to dozens of persons gathered from around our country and beyond, I witnessed this flame of Love that in truth had opened their horizons and granted them a clear direction. That is nothing less than a series of diverse encounters with the One who makes all things new! This reflection on the Sacred Heart offers us a glimpse of what happens in the hearts of men and women, singed by homosexuality, who discover the greater passion of God’s all-consuming love for them.

‘What strike me most in contemplating the Sacred Heart of Jesus are the flames which consume and surround it. These mysterious flames cannot be contained even in that burning Heart; they escape through the wound, pass around the Cross and among the thorns, penetrating it completely. In a word, it is a burning heart, an inflamed heart. And what is this sacred fire that consumes the Heart of Jesus? IT IS THE FIERY LOVE HE HAS FOR US. “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled.” (LK 12:49)’ Father Martin Berlioux

I witnessed the kindling of that fire during our week together. A huge log was thrown into the fire by the premier (at our conference) of a new feature film expertly directed by my friend David Kyle Foster. Entitled ‘Such Were Some of You,’ the film features a dozen stories of men and women whose gay destiny was consumed by the fire of divine love. I recall Christie, a brilliant gender-confused women whose rowing coach at Stanford invited her into Christ and a whole new life, Jim who at 10 began imitating porn films with his elementary school buddies and whose life was changed by a friend imploring him to enter into her community of faith where Jesus was transforming lives, Maite whose Catholic upbringing was undermined by sex-play with an older girl that led to everything but Jesus. Desperate, she attended a Spirit-filled Catholic meeting that was the beginning of a whole new life.

I write this for my fellow Catholics in particular: if we want the Sacred Heart of Jesus to blaze and light up the darkened lives of those we love most, then we must mobilize our communities to provide living, breathing, winsome onramps for those stumbling around in our confusing, demonizing landscape. ‘Such Were Some of You’ features more evangelicals than Catholics because frankly, evangelicals have done a better job than Catholics in providing life-transforming communities for young people turning from homosexual sin. Let’s catch up! We have a profound inheritance in our moral understanding and most importantly, in our reliance upon the One who makes all things new through His Body, broken and offered to us.

Let us renew our efforts to create space in our parishes for healing community: places of actual encounter between His sacred heart and the broken hearts of persons becoming conformed to an image other than Christ. Your children and theirs will thank you for such an effort. Take heart. His sacred heart is ablaze and effectual in love to transform persons with SSA.

‘How I long to find the right words to stir up enthusiasm for a new chapter of evangelization full of fervor, joy, generosity, courage, boundless love and attraction! Yet I realize that no words of encouragement will be enough unless the fire of the Holy Spirit burns in our hearts.’ Pope Francis (EG 261)

Click here to purchase ‘Such Were Some of You’ from Pure Passion.

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At Home, to Heal

‘Christians who are afraid to build bridges and prefer to build walls are Christians who are not sure of Jesus Christ. When the Church loses this apostolic courage, she becomes a stalled Church, a tidy Church, a Church without fertility, because she has lost the courage to go to the many people who are victims of idolatry, of worldliness, of weak thought…Those who do not walk in order not to err make the more serious mistake.’ Pope Francis

Jesus suffered to heal us, to restore what was lost in our merciless lives.

I live to help make His Church a juncture for mercy–that encounter between our real suffering and the fruit of His. Imagine my delight when, last month, we started our first Living Waters group ever in an American Catholic parish.

About 25 men and women, Protestants and Catholics, gather in admitted brokenness under the one Cross. We have names for our distress: sexual addiction, same-sex attraction, abuse, and the havoc these things had wrecked on our single and married lives. Most importantly, we dare to believe that mercy has a name, Jesus Christ, and that His Church is the best place to expose the broken ground of our lives to His.

We shall covenant together for twenty weeks to exchange fear and shame and exaggerated desires for His desire to call us His own, His treasured ones who please Him as we seek to treasure others, to not reduce them to objects of fear or lust but rather to see Christ in and though them.

It is messy. We see Him and others through blood-shot eyes. But His Spirit has gathered us, and the Son has gone before us, and has granted us access to the Father whose love, mediated through each other, surpasses our old weak definitions.

I believe in living an integrated life: to be known where I worship. That means securing a place where I can voice my need constructively to the Christ present in my brother and sister. How else will we overcome shameful sins, hidden in darkness? How else will relational wounds heal?

Last year, as I waited in line at Mass, I noticed something beautiful. I saw Karen who has been equally wounded and converted by a gay-identified loved one, then Kenn who struggles daily to be free from Internet porn. A ways back was Tim, abused by a priest and yet still hungry for Jesus, and Sue, so intent on Christ that she would rather confess her same-gender attraction as a need for God rather than as a socio-political declaration.

I had met each of them in a series of small groups I had run prior to Living Waters. Now together, as one broken body, we waited before Christ Crucified to partake of the fruit of His suffering. Under the Cross, His Body broken for us, I could see it: we are becoming the Body, broken for each other. Healing and joy rises from the feast Jesus has prepared for us.

‘You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before You as people rejoice at the harvest.’ (IS 9: 3)

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Savoring Truth in Superficial Times

Last week, the New York Times featured an article on the uproar provoked by the firing of a Catholic High School VP in Seattle because he married a man. The decision blew apart the school board and fanned student protests. Yet their youthful dissent had more emotion than reason behind it. Said one protester: ‘I have gay friends whom I care for.’ Read more »

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Advent 2: Beauty, Burning

Advent 2: Beauty, Burning

‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath! Produce fruit in keeping with repentance…I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come One who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.’ (Matt. 3: 7, 8, 11)

John the Baptist’s cry against the corruption of human hearts cost him his head; the very leaders he decried killed him and so fulfilled the firebrand’s own prophesy that ‘he must decrease in order for Christ to increase’ (JN 3:30). But what an increase! John’s fiery call to repentance razed mountains of bad morality and religion, and raised high beautiful Jesus. The Baptist blazed the way for us to ‘Behold the Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world.’ (JN 1:29) Read more »

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Mercy 19: Merciful Morality

“In that day, declares the Lord, you will call me my husband; you will no longer call me my master…I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord.” (Hosea 2: 16, 19, 20) Read more »

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