13 Ordinary C – June 27, 2010 — Muslims, Gay Pride and the Gospel
Complete biblical texts
Some current events cast a contemporary light on today’s biblical texts. An angry crowd in Murfreesboro, TN recently rejected plans for a new Islamic community center and mosque.  One Christian woman avowed that this country was founded on the one true God and Jesus Christ. She forgot how Islam, Judaism and Christianity all have the same ancestors in Abraham, Sarah and Hagar.
Similarly, in Staten Island, NY, a rowdy group stopped the construction of a mosque in a vacant Catholic convent.  Novelist Peter Quinn noted “it’s hard for people to remember just how virulent, deep-seeded and widespread anti-Catholicism was in America.” 
Why are some Americans filled with suspicion and hostility against Muslims or any other group of people who are different from them? What does it take for Christians to answer the call from God to advance the kingdom of God?
Tomorrow is the forty-first anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising in New York City (June 28, 1969), when homosexuals fought law enforcement officers during unconstitutional raids. Today is Gay Pride Sunday ending a month of events by gays and lesbians celebrating their identity and diversity in the face of intolerance and prejudice. (Another related film is 8: The Mormon Proposition)
Although defeating plans to build mosques and rejecting homosexuality are not the same, these events have something in common. When fear of people different from us turns to anger and hatred, we all have to be on the watch.
We only have to consider the bullying that goes on in our schools and on the internet, the mean spirited gossip at work and over the backyard fence, to know that such acts of cruel hostility are closer than we think. What are Christians to do when our innermost feelings about people clash with the gospel message? Do today’s biblical texts provide an answer?
In the second reading, Paul’s letter to the people of Galatia (near Ankara the present day capital of Turkey), we read that the only way to salvation is to abide freely by the main law — love of neighbor. Our love for God can only be expressed in real time by showing respect and love for others regardless of who they are.  The passage warns us, “if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.” (Gal. 5:15)
In this sense you and I are entrusted with keeping peace on earth by searching for common ground and not by dwelling on what divides us. Jesus sets an example in the gospel. He was on his way to Jerusalem and for some reason wanted to go through Samaria where he knew he would not be welcomed. The Jews and Samaritans hated each other. His disciples got annoyed and wanted to destroy the Samaritans with “fire from heaven.”
Although some think Jesus was a revolutionary liberationist (a bleeding heart liberal in today’s terms) he could not be identified or contained by any one political or religious party.  So too, our lives and attitudes are not shaped by conservative or liberal ideologies but by the gospel. Jesus remained focused on his mission and he stopped the disciples in their zealous tracks. 
The Catholic religion on paper teaches that all people who have faith in God are saved. In reality, how do we Catholics respect other religions? The Catholic religion on paper teaches respect for all human beings. In reality, how do we Catholics treat gays and lesbians? Although issues regarding Muslims and homosexuality will continue to divide us in the civic and religious arenas the gospels give a counter punch — we are called to work for reconciliation, peace and justice for all people.
How do these scriptures speak to us today? What if you are not a Christian? What if you are a Muslim or a Jew? What if you’re a woman? What if you’re a minority? What if you are a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person? I was curious and asked a former parishioner who is gay how do the scriptures speak to him. He responded. The gospels are universal. I am everywhere in these stories; identity does not give us swifter access to [God’s] grace nor [does it] bar us from temptation. The person went on to write, we ought to “focus on universal needs and not on individual identities.” 7
What should we do when our innermost feelings about other people clash with the teachings of Jesus Christ? Difficult as it may be for some of us, I think we know the answer.
1 Blackburn, B. “Plan for Mosque in Tennessee Town Draws Criticism from Residents” ABC News, June 18, 2010
2 Vitello, Paul. “Staten Island Church Reconsiders Deal to Sell Vacant Convent for Use as a Mosque” in the New York Times June 17, 2010.
3 Dwyer, Jim. “ A Marine, A Mosque, a Question,” in the New York Times, June 18, 2010
4 Fuller, Reginald. Preaching the Lectionary:The Word of God for the Church Today (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press. 1984 – Revised Edition) pp. 478-480.
5 Fuller, ibid.
6 Byrne, Brendan. The Hospitality of God: A Reading of Luke’s Gospel (Collegeville: Liturgical Press) 2000) 93-95
7 From an email on the topic of gays, lesbians and the Catholic church