As a man living with SSA in a big metropolitan center, I often encounter other men who embrace their SSA freely. It appears that for them there is no tension between their reason and their sexual desire. They gladly embrace their love of men’s bodies, and don’t appear to have any qualms about celebrating homosexual love and “marriage”. I was recently having a drink with one such person at a work function, and it struck me that I still struggle to find common ground with such men. If I am to find common ground in our life experiences, it is often in the realm of my prior sins, in what my life used to be like before I came back to the Church. And to be quite honest, I’d rather not go there.
Our last post spoke to those of us who have friends and family in the lifestyle. As an active participant in the homosexual lifestyle in the past, I still have friends and acquaintances who continue to engage in homosexual activity. EnCourage members can surely relate with having loved ones who have left the Church to pursue their own version of happiness, no matter how fruitless we know that search may be. We often wish we could fix this part of their lives, to bring them to the love of Jesus Christ in the way that we have experienced it. And yet we can’t. Or at least, we can’t do it on our terms.
This weekend at my work function, I was again reminded that I cannot change anyone’s way of thinking or behavior. All I can do is model a good Christian life as best as I can. I know that only God can fix the disorder in my own life, through the sacraments, through his grace, and through my surrender to his will. And only God can fix the disorder in the lives of those I love and encounter in my daily life.
I am reminded by last week’s post that I cannot undo my past errors. I can only repent and turn away from them, constantly turning toward God in my ongoing conversion to his will and his light. I continue to struggle, as we all do, with the tension between my reason and my desire. My sins are not limited to SSA. Indeed, I often want to eat and drink more than I should or say something witty that I know shouldn’t. Since the Fall, we are all condemned to this struggle between our reason and our desire. But through Christ’s self-sacrifice on Calvary and his gift of the Holy Spirit upon the Church, we can find a way to order both our reason and our desire to the same end, that of serving and loving our God.
I am grateful that I can recognize same-sex behavior as something that is not ordered to God’s will. But not everyone has that gift of recognition. Some of those who don’t recognize same-sex behavior as intrinsically disordered will often condemn and hate us. As St. Catherine of Siena heard Jesus say, we must love those who don’t deserve our love if we are to perfect charity. In other words, we are called to love those who don’t agree with our way of life, to love our friends and family who see us as bigoted, reactionary, and oppressive. In a similar way, I am called to love my co-workers who are living a homosexual lifestyle.
However, I must be clear that I am not called to sin along with them. I know the truth now about homosexuality, and I cannot back away from it. I do not want to condone sinful behavior in an effort to put others at ease. Instead, I can offer my life as an example of chastity, illustrating the joy chastity brings, of its simplicity and peacefulness. Trying to convince someone else to follow my way of life will only exasperate me and the other person. Rather, when appropriate, I can offer my experience as something that has brought me much satisfaction and peace.
Lastly, as the previous post points out, I am the one who is responsible for my actions. Although some of my moral culpability may be tempered by habit, trauma, or another’s prompting to sin, I am still responsible for my actions, including how I respond to the behavior of others. If I can find a way to love them despite their sins, then I can better follow Jesus as his disciple. As Jesus loved me despite my sins, I can do the same, in my limited, imperfect, and human way. As God’s permissive will allowed me to suffer in my sins to bring me back to him, I can enter the suffering of others with compassionate truth, in the hope that one day they will come back to the embrace of his Church. And ultimately, that is all in God’s hands, not mine.