“Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” He said to them in reply, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet….At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here.” Mt 12:38-39, 41
This was the Gospel reading for today. I know that because it was read at Novena this evening by a deacon who decided to take the opportunity of being at the ambo to make a point about our sinful government and gay marriage. He is all set to have Jesus come down from the heavens and rain fire and brimstone down upon SCOTUS for legalizing gay marriage. That will teach them, since they’re obviously not listening to the Church. He railed about it for at least 20 minutes. I was not too happy driving home from Novena, and my poor husband, as usual, dutifully listened while I ranted.
For one thing, to preach to the faithful who attend Novena week after week humbly asking Mary to intercede for their intentions gives him no points. Behold, we are the choir that you’re preaching to. We’ve already bought in and have been here sitting in these same pews every Monday for years and years. Most of the congregation is comprised of widows and religious. They were praying daily rosaries when you, good deacon, were still a nervous teenager. We promise not to marry someone of the same sex. Obviously, we’re not the people he wanted to harangue, but he settled for us. For another thing, he went on for 20 minutes instead of the usual 2-3 minutes that Father takes to make his point. Father gives us a nice little spiritual morsal to think about, then moves on. 20 minutes is more in line with the length of a mission sermon.
Good Pope Francis had a point, “Who am I to judge?”
My nephew, whom I love very much, is gay. His mother sensed it well before he did and she worried day and night about him. She agonized for him when he was beaten and bullied by large, all American boys who preyed on weaker, more sensitive boys they perceived as gay. He endured a living hell as a teenager, being ostracized and ridiculed by his classmates and being afraid of admitting who he was. He became a lost soul until the day he met someone who turned his life around – someone who encouraged him to be the best version of who he was and showed him his talent and worth. My sister adored this man because he was so good to both her son and her, and he fit right into the family. After she was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer he took his turn caring for her. He and his parents were placed with the family at her funeral Mass. She would not have had it any other way because she grew to love him like her own son.
What would deacon have done? Would he have tried to get my nephew to deny himself and change who he was? Would he have forbidden a relationship that probably saved his life? Would he have denied himself the opportunity to know someone so loving and caring?
Pondering this, I sat down to watch the rest of the evening unfold on my favorite chair on the patio. Since I live in the house I grew up in, I have many, many great memories of growing up and being on this patio every summer of my childhood. My sister and I spent countless summer evenings listening to the birds roosting in the woods across the street and catching a couple of the hundreds of fireflies that made our yard look magical, like the home of a Disney princess. We would put them into paper cups and my father would let them go after we went to bed. During the daylight we would run across the soft grass in bare feet while being oh, so careful, not to step on a bee since my sister was allergic and didn’t want to go to the hospital. The yard was filled with bees moving from clover to clover with their pollen sacs filled.
There are no bees in the grass to worry about now. Here there are neighborhoods followed by neighborhoods filled with perfect lawns without a single weed in them. The houses are all perfectly landscaped with perfect flower borders that aren’t very attractive to the bees that used to live here. There are no wild flowers at all; no dandilions, no buttercups, no clover, no Queen Anne’s Lace, no daisies, no honey bees. Children around here do not bring bouquets of dandilions to show their love and their mothers do not have shot glasses sitting on the kitchen counter filled with tokens of delicate little violets. Children around here have no idea why you would hold a dandilion up to your skin to see if you like butter. They’ve never blown on dandilion seeds and made a wish. They have never worn a flower crown or a daisy chain or picked the petals one by one chanting, “he loves me, he loves me not.” Children around here no longer catch fireflies – at least not the three in my yard that were hiding in the boxwoods this evening, desperately blinking their codes in the darkness, hoping to find another firefly to answer before they died trying unfulfilled.
I wonder if deacon read ‘Laudato si.’ I wonder if he worries as much about the absence of the bees and fireflies and monarch butterflies as much as he worries whether my nephew will be able to get medical and death benefits from his years of living monogamously with his partner. I wonder if he is as concerned about whether his children will have fresh fruit and vegetables or drinkable water as he seems to be about a baker who should have just baked that stupid cake instead of making it the hill he wanted to die on.
You want a sign? Here’s your sign. It’s the sign of Jonah saying, “Repent for the world will soon be destroyed.” But perhaps it’s not by fire and brimstone. Perhaps it’s being destroyed one dandilion at a time.