Thursday, March 12, 2020

Erin Lothes Has Something To Say Sunday March 8th Int'l Womens Day

Last week I had the best news I’ve had in a long time as a Catholic, environmentalist, New Yorker and it wasn’t even the plastic bag ban. No, it had to do with cereal box liners.  Let me explain! Have you ever felt that your environmental actions were accomplishing nothing?  Have you ever given up? I have.  I used to save plastic bags and take them to the CVS plastic bag bin, then I just bought into the urban legend that nothing ever happens with these, they end up in landfills, and I have been throwing away the produce bags that I hate but come with my FreshDirect deliveries. I hate my plastic garbage that gets incinerated, becomes pollution, and gives children asthma. But encouraged by the bag ban, I decided to find out.  I went to CVS, asked for the manager, and got the contact information for the bag bin.  I called and it’s a real company that recycles plastic bags!  Even better, it recycles produce bags, dry cleaner bags, and cereal box liners!  Even that plastic film wrapping your toilet paper! (Search the Dept. of Sanitation website for plastic film for details.) National Geographic reports that 90% of table salt has plastic in it.  So, for that, and for the children with asthma, being able to recycle it is good news!

Today’s readings are full of good news; they overflow with blessings.  The first reading from Genesis tells us that God will bless Abram, and Abram will be a blessing, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through him.

God’s call to Abram is a new action initiating a new phase of salvation history.  Here begins the story of the chosen people Israel, the plan leading to the Exodus liberation, the gift of the law, and the powerful prophets calling Israel to justice in times of crisis.

Abram thus heard the call from the infinite.  In the Transfiguration, the apostles saw a glimpse of the infinite, a bright vision of Jesus as the fulfillment of the law and the prophets.  We know the presence of the infinite, within each of us as the gift of the Spirit which confirms our own calling. What is that vocation today, amidst the crises facing our earth?

Theologian Daniel Castillo points to our vocation as gardeners, grounded in the even older covenant with Adam and Eve as Eden’s caretakers. And today we are especially called to cultivate and care for the earth and all its living communities, our brother and sister creatures, its buzzing ecosystems and human families. As Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’ teaches, we have these three relationships to honor: with God, with our neighbor, and with the earth.

We inhabit these relationships as the children of God, called like Abram to be bearers of God’s blessings, called to be peacemakers with our neighbors and the earth. Yet our relationship with the earth has turned to war. Though intended to make life easier, and they have, fossil fuels have also mediated the rupture of these relationships, polluting many aspects of modern life.  Without our thinking, fossil fuels pervade our commutes, our purchases, our home power, and hundreds of choices that seem beyond our control.  It is true that vested powers resist common sense, and obstruct the desire of most people to transition to a clean energy economy. Even though scientists know that we have to leave most fossil fuels in the ground to prevent dangerous temperature rise, Exxon intends to expand extraction and triple its profits, according to the Economist.  This obstruction turns the pervasive presence of fossil fuels into an invasive presence, literally a war waged against the earth, and we must fight back fiercely.

Too often this war seems impossible to win. Many of us feel our ecological hearts are broken.  It is so painful to see the wildfires, the dying coral, the refugee children, the floods and drought.  Climate psychologists speak of “a finite pool of worry.”  After so much pain, we simply can’t worry about one more thing.  After all, we also have other, legitimate worries in our lives: problems at work, ailing parents, concerns about the children, health issues.  We all exist within the limited time we have.

Despite this sense of futility, the urgency of the ecological crisis calls us, nonetheless, to act.  This spring is the fifth anniversary of Laudato Si’ and the Global Catholic Climate Movement urges us all to “celebrate its vision and accelerate” society’s response.  The good news? Society is now waking up to the urgency of our situation. We still have choices and we must make them fiercely.

Can you fiercely decide that you will diminish the power of fossil fuels in your life to the greatest extent possible, though this extent may be different for each of us? Can we choose renewable energy in our utilities? (say with me, Yes, we can!) This is probably the single most powerful choice you can make to build clean energy.  Can we advocate for change and write our representatives?  Yes, we can.  Can we eat less meat and fly less often?  Can we think about the role and risks of fossil fuels in your own investments?  Can we walk those produce bags and toilet paper wrappings to CVS?  Can you find the best ways for you to reduce your carbon footprint and make it a promise to the future?

And because we remain finite, there is only one way to sanctify these promises. It is to sacrifice.  Sacrifice is not about suffering but is the holy and creative way to sanctify that which we love the most. None of us has infinite time and resources to do it all.

Sacrifice identifies one thing which is a lesser use of our time, resources, and energy, and sanctifies that energy instead to transforming our lives and our world. We can prioritize instead actions that are personally meaningful and that make a difference for creation and the global neighor.

Choosing to love our global neighbor and our common home takes a fierce fight and realistic prioritization.  As I read once, we’re not going to yoga our way through this.

But we are not alone.  Though God has granted us free will, even the mystifying freedom to damage the earth, God remains always the Creator.  As with the call to Abram, God can act anew in history to inspire and sustain us and we are God’s partners in co-creation. 

God’s infinite power can transform our limits and boundaries, and break open our finite pools of worry with the in-flooding rush of God’s consoling presence.

With your fierce love of our sister, Mother Earth, allow the infinite love of our creator to expand the power of your persistence in taking ever more faithful actions. Yes we can, because God is faithful to God’s promises and we are called, like Abram, to bring blessings to all the families of the earth, all our brother and sister creatures.

We have seen a foretaste of the fulfillment of God’s salvation history in the Transfiguration.

As Pope Francis writes, “Christ has taken unto himself this material world and now, risen, is intimately present to each being, surrounding it with his affection and penetrating it with his light” (LS 221).
Let us take to heart the closing words of Laudato Si’, May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope, and Let us sing as we go.
245. God, who calls us to generous commitment and to give him our all, offers us the light and the strength needed to continue on our way. . . and his love constantly impels us to find new ways forward. Praise be to him!

Erin Lothes is a theologian at the College of Saint Elizabeth, Morristown, NJ., and a graduate of Fordham University with a Ph.D. in systematic Theology. She holds a Master's in Theology from Boston College, and an A.B. in English from Princeton University. 
Dr. Lothes served as an Earth Institute Fellow at Columbia University, an interdisciplinary research post-doctorate in sustainability studies. She is the author of Inspired Sustainability: Planting Seeds for Action (Orbis 2016), The Paradox of Christian Sacrifice: The Loss of Self, the Gift of Self (Herder and Herder, 2007), and articles on theological energy ethics and faith-based environmentalism.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Boreta Singleton Has Something To Say

Readings Sunday Feb 2, 2020
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

We are fortunate to have the Feast of the Presentation fall on a Sunday this year. Otherwise known as “Candlemas Day,” it is a day when Roman Catholic parishes traditionally bless all of the candles they will use for the year.

We have varied relationships with candles. Christians encounter a candle at their Baptism. The minister says to the newly Baptized, “Receive the light of Christ….you are to walk always as a child of the light.”   Simeon and Anna in today’s Gospel understood what a blessing and challenge Jesus would be to us and indeed to the world.  I do believe that their faithfulness calls us to imitate them and find the light of Christ both in ourselves and in our world. 
I recently came across a story that I think illustrates this for me clearly. This is a story of a refugee camp in Idlib in Syria. Although I realize that we have many challenges here in our country regarding poverty and providing basic necessities, we are not living in a declared war zone.  This story is a reflection of the very real challenges that displaced persons face in our world each day. Yet, there is hope as these parents and their children search for the light.

On this Candlemas Day, receive the light of Christ once more. How do you walk as a child of the light with your family, friends, co-workers, or classmates?  How do you challenge the absence of light in our world? 
When I was teaching in Catholic elementary school, I once had a very troublesome student who I will call Bobby, who had been expelled from another Catholic school. He came to my classroom and was in serious trouble after a week. At lunch time he picked the lock to my classroom door, broke the lock to my desk and took back a toy that I had taken from him earlier in the day. When I was sure he would be expelled, the principal took me aside and explained that his home life was quite difficult. I was not happy, and his classmates were not happy with his misbehavior, but we muddled through the year, and when the next September rolled around, the principal asked me to move up with the same class. Bobby and I would be together for another year! I was quite unhappy. One day Bobby looked quite ill and I sent him to the nurse. He had a fever and begged the nurse not to call home. His cough was so severe that the nurse was concerned he would infect the remainder of the class.  Bobby was absent for three weeks and came back to school very disheveled and clearly injured and bruised.  It was then that we needed to involve Human Services and Bobby went into foster care for a short time.  He was much better behaved and polite in school. We survived the year and Bobby managed to graduate from our school and go on to the local Catholic high school. 

Bobby would visit his old school occasionally and thank me for my help.   When Bobby was a Junior, I received a phone call from one of his elementary school classmates that Bobby had died of a drug overdose. Every one of the 47 students in Bobby’s elementary class came to the Funeral Mass.  Bobby’s Mom tearfully thanked all of his teachers for helping him. For me, this incident demonstrates how Christ’s light, although sometimes dim, continues to shine on. Bobby’s classmates and I forgave him for his troubled behavior, and knew that his family needed support at the time of his death.  This story of brightness and shadows reminds me that just as Bobby lived in challenging times, he was able to keep the light of Christ burning for himself and shared that light as he was able with others.

Whether here in New York City or half-way around the world in Syria, the light of Christ continues to shine. Its brightness depends on you and me.   Resolve today to keep walking as a child of the light-- go light your world!

Boreta Singleton has been  a parishioner at St. Francis Xavier Parish  since 2003 and  is a member of the  choir, serves as a Spiritual Director in  the ISEL program and as a  liturgical minister.  She is  currently at St. Peter's Prep High School in Jersey City and ministers as  the Director of Faculty Formation.  Boreta lives in the Bronx, and sings with  The Ignatian Schola  and the chorus of  Choral Chameleon.   

Friday, September 13, 2019

Catherine Mikula Has Something To Say Homily for Sunday July 14th 2019

Hanging in my grandparents’ house are a number of small embroidered signs. In neat, script handwriting, brief sayings about life, family, love, and faith are sprinkled between photos and pictures, and I’ve been reading them since I was a kid. One in particular has become a touchstone for me over the years: “If God feels far away, who moved?” I thought about this question when I moved from my small, Catholic, liberal-arts college and the vibrant, close-knit faith-community I was a part of there to New York, where for a while I felt spiritually at sea. I thought about it when I began considering changing careers two years ago. I’ve thought about it as our church navigates the consequences of misguided leadership and clerical abuse.

And it kept coming up as I prayed with the readings today. I want to invite you to consider what we can learn about God’s nature in the inverse of that question – that God desires to be so close to us that we have to “move” in order to feel far. The first part of that sentence is the important part: God desires to be so close to us. And we hear Moses tell the people of God in our first reading that God is in such close proximity to us that God is already in our hearts and already in our words, not across the ocean or into the night sky. What does it mean to be loved by God so closely? How do we respond?

It’s safe to say the closest people in my life right now, geographically or otherwise, are my parents and my younger brother. Back in February, I moved from my apartment in Jersey City to their home in the suburbs, in anticipation of a move I’ll make next month to Boston to begin a master’s program in divinity. I saw my family with some regularity when I lived in the city, but this has obviously intensified since moving home. An hour away has become down the hall; and while it’s a lot easier to share my wins, my successes, my joys at the end of the day, it’s also a lot harder to hide my failures; the times I don’t say the right thing or do the right thing; the times when I drop the ball. They have front row seating to when I’m feeling hurt, upset, or angry. They sometimes bear the brunt of it. Sometimes I don’t want their support or their opinion or their love. Most of the time, they offer it anyway.

This is, in one sense, what it means to be loved by God who is already in our hearts, already in our words. It means we are living in close quarters with God and God is privy to everything; it means sharing our wins, our successes, our joys – and our failures. It means bringing what makes us upset or angry to the table and trusting that there is nothing that God cannot know about us. Indeed, nothing that God does not know about us. Loved closely by God, we are not able to keep the parts of ourselves that we are less proud of neatly tucked away. The love God has for us invites us to bring our whole selves into proximity with God.

What happens when we do that? When we wholly accept the invitation to closeness with God, who has rooted God’s self so nearly to each of us that God holds the very depths of our hearts, we are changed. Our priorities shift, our sense of self expands. The only option we have upon knowing and embracing the close love of God is Love then poured out. Love in action. Love in mercy and compassion, Love that enables us to stop on our way and help someone on the side of the road, regardless of rules or cost or inconvenience or receiving something in return. Love in justice, Love in kindness, Love of planet and home and creation, and Love in a meal, which we’ll share together today. 

We are continually called into closeness with God, so that by our lives – by our Love lived out – we may more fully love the Lord our God with all our heart, our being, our strength, our and mind. And that we may be reminded that we belong to one another. 

Catherine Mikula is from the greater New York area, where she’s lived since graduating from the College of the Holy Cross in 2014. She worked at the Random House Publishing Group before joining the COPD Foundation. Catherine is a member of Contemplative Leaders in Action’s New York Cohort, the Ignatian Schola, and Xavier Bible Study. She will move to Boston in the fall to pursue a Master of Divinity at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. 

Friday, August 16, 2019

Ritamary Bradley Has Something To Say Feast of the Assumption Aug 15th 2019


My soul is a glass: gaze and see
How great is Mother God.
And my spirit sings out in joy,
For Mercy has come to save.
For the One who is Mighty has taken flesh in me.
Holy is Wisdom.
Holy is that Wisdom that shall be born
and called Emmanuel.
Yes, my soul is a glass:
Gaze and see how great is our Mother God.
My spirit sings out in joy
for the Mercy who comes to save.
Because I mirror the motherhood
of the one who gives me birth.
Yes. From this day forward
all who are born of woman may call me full of joy.
For the Mighty One has done great things to me.
And holy is that Wisdom
which is before all things,
That Mercy reaching from age to age
to all who reverence her.
Power is in the arm that shelters and embraces me.
Routed shall be the proud of heart.
Down from their thrones shall princes fall,
while the lowly learn that the least are greatest.
Mother God will give her breast to those who hunger,
and the rich shall go away with parched tongues.
Darkness will blot out the pageantry of power.
Light will fall on the path of those
who escape from the snare.

-Ritamary Bradley

Ritamary Bradley (1916–2000)
She joined the Congregation of the Humility of Mary of Ottumwa, Iowa, in 1933, and in 1972, the Sisters for Christian Community. She graduated from Marygrove College in Detroit, Mich., in 1938 and received her doctorate in English from St. Louis University in 1953. After teaching at Marycrest College from 1940 to 1956, she joined the English department at St. Ambrose in 1965, and was professor emerita at the time of her death. A prolific writer, she co-founded Fourteenth-Century English Mystics Newsletter, now Mystics Quarterly, and was its editor from 1975-1991. In addition to dozens of journal articles, she published two books, in 1992 and 1995, on the 14th century mystic Julian of Norwich. 

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Lizzie Berne Has Something To Say Feast of St. Mary Magdala July 22nd 2019

JULY 22, 2019
In honor of the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, I am speaking to you outside. Because so many of the moments we contemplate most deeply as Christians, as Catholics, happened outside.
Mary Magdalene was outside with Jesus as he was being crucified
And she was outside, in a garden, when she experienced resurrection.
As a biblical scholar I’ve been spending time with Mary Magdalene in Scripture and something new has caught my attention. Her name.
Her name in Hebrew and Aramaic is Miryam Migdala. We have assumed that migdala refers to a town -- Migdal. But migdal is also a Hebrew word. Could this have been her nickname? We know that Jesus gave nicknames to his favorite students. Peter’s name was actually Simon but Jesus called him “stone” and so the gospel writer calls that disciple Simon Peter. Similarly: Miryam Migdala.
So, you may be wondering, what does migdala mean?
Migdala means Tower. Did Jesus experience Mary Magdalene as a tower? I have been praying with the image of her as a woman with a very large and impressive presence. I wonder: did she tower over Jesus?
Migdala means Fortress. The strongest worship spaces in the ancient world were built as fortresses, and were called migdal temples.Did Jesus find that the essence of his ministry was exceptionally well protected and defended by Mary Magdalene? I wonder if he himself felt really safe with her.
Migdala means raised platform or Pulpit. Did Jesus believe that after he was gone his message would find a larger platform through her? Did Jesus see her as embodying the pulpit of their movement going forward?
Well, we don’t have to speculate about that one, because that’s just what John’s gospel shows us. Jesus resurrects to Mary and commissions her to spread the good news to everyone else. There was something about Mary and her capacity for spiritual experience.  And not just to experience resurrection, but then to convey it. Sharing her experience opens up these windows of possibility in the other disciples’ minds, and as a result they begin experiencing resurrection too.
Miryam Migdala claiming  her story as her own, and sharing it as hers is a crucial part of the Christian story we’ve all been telling for two thousand years.
Yet for some reasonit is so easy for us to overlook her subjectivity. Even though John’s gospel tells us that when she goes to the other students of Jesus to proclaim she says explicitly, “I have seen the Lord” and she tells them explicitly that “he had spoken these matters to her.” For some reason, we tend to skip over the power of her subjective experience.
For instance, we read in the gospel that Mary recognizes Jesus in the garden when he calls her by name. And “she called to him in Aramaic, ‘rabbouni’ which means Teacher.” Well, no, 'rabbi’ means teacher in Aramaic. Rabbouni means my teacher. Why does the Bible make that mistake?
As a doctor of psychology and religion I know that we tend to fear the spiritual power that comes through women’s authentic personal experience. The very human reaction to that fear is to denigrate the person whose creative power and authenticity frightens us.
Are we afraid of this saint?
Is that why Mary Magdalene, whom Jesus experienced as a Tower, has been portrayed in so much art as on her knees, prostrate on the ground, groveling at Jesus’ feet?
Is that why the impenetrable Fortress trusted by Jesus,  started being referred to six centuries later as a penitent prostitute -- someone whose job it is to be penetrated?
Is that why Mary Magdalene, the Pulpit for the resurrection, is strangely silent in many of our traditions? And is this fear of spiritual-power-through-subjective-experience why all women are banned from the pulpit in the Roman Catholic Mass?
Over two millennia we’ve gotten so good at denigrating or mis-labeling or just completely passing over Miryam Magdala and her experience.
But our world today is waking up to the powerfully good news of women’s subjective experience.
I have a thirteen-year-old daughter. And every day she shows me -- with her words and her actions and her choices -- that the time of patriarchal structures  as the fitting container for our faith and our lives -- that time is over.
Now is a time to celebrate. On this Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene we can celebrate the power of her experience as good news. She is reminding us that we all have to claim our own experience as the good news. Jesus as rabbouni. “My” teacher. Your teacher. And we have to go out and live it and preach it and teach it with authority.
Because Jesus didn’t authorize any institution. Ever.
Because the institutions of our Church are sick and dying.
Because you have a story that only you can tell, and when you tell it, resurrection flows.
My message of good news today is that you are it. We are it. We’ve got a lot of choices to make. We’ve got a lot of building to do. The Feast of Mary Magdalene is a great day to start.  

Elizabeth Berne DeGear is a chaplain, writer, Bible scholar and Catholic feminist.
Through Bible studies at the Church of St. Francis Xavier, Lizzie has been sharing her passion for the Bible since 2002. As a Catholic feminist, Lizzie has been happy to be involved in The Women Who Stayed ministry over the years and was delighted to be part of Feminism & Faith in Union here in 2017. Co-creating liturgical celebrations and healing circles in honor of Mary Magdalene’s Feast Day has been a highlight of this work. Lizzie believes that the beauty at the heart of the Church – Christ’s living message of love and transformation – needs no longer be bound by misogyny. Called to Catholic priesthood, she longs to be fully welcomed to the Eucharistic table by her worship community.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Mary E. Hurson Had Something To Say June 29th, 2019 Homily at Xavier Pride Mass

Readings: 1 KGS. 19:16B, 19‐21, GAL5:1, 13‐18, LK 9:51‐62    
“Follow me.”   

Elijah to Elisha.  
Jesus to his disciples.  
Jesus to you and me.  
We are called as a mother calls her child “follow me”

Hear the tenderness in these words that invite us.     

What should we do?  
Should we turn around and look behind? 
Should we hesitate because we are unsure... of where we are going...or because  it’s not the right time... I’ll do it later... we are afraid, not able to trust, maybe not  able to give up something...?   

But what/who we are leaving behind?    

This Jesus who asks us to follow him knows us through and through, he sees us as  we are‐ our bumps and falls, our defects, our struggles, our burdens, our joys too.   (Remember Jesus knew Mary Magdalene, Zacchaeus, the woman at the well just  as he knows you and me.)    

He sees us as we are and he wants us. He calls us to say forget about that stuff  which holds you back!   I know who you are and I want you! I want you to be with me... to join me...     

Jesus says to you and me “Look at who I have invited to follow me...Uganda’s  Jonita Warry, Pakistan’s Malala Yousazai , Brazil’s Berta Casares, and I have asked  you because I love you.. I want to bring you with me to Jerusalem so you may die  with me to enter new life... the life I have promised you.  … this new life, new water, new spirit who will come into you, create a new life  within you. I will not disappoint you!!”  

What does Jesus’ call have to do with this?  It is Pride weekend, and there are those of us who celebrate the freedoms we  have been granted as well as remember the struggles of those who went before  us and those who continue to struggle.    

I ask us to reflect on what does Pride mean for each of us?  ..dignity and freedom and respect and love for all of the OTHERS, one which is  about accepting the grace filled invitation to walk with Jesus as he walks with  us…to yield to the Spirit and not our self‐centeredness…    

In the second reading, Paul pleaded with the Galatians to be one in Christ‐give up  their demands of one another to be the same‐for they were all loved in the one  spirit…  and we are all loved in One Spirit!      

Paul says‐ “For freedom, Christ set us free. You were called for freedom sisters  and brothers ...use this freedom to serve one another through love!   “For the whole law is fulfilled ... You shall love your neighbor as yourself...use it in  Love for one another!!!!.”  

There is no regret, no looking back, no holding on, it’s about going to Jerusalem,  it’s about listening to Gods voice say I want you to love your neighbor as  yourself... not more or less than yourself but as yourself‐who I love totally and  completely as you are.  

How does this play out in our lives?    

We may have followed someone into this Church of St. Francis Xavier, or we may  have discovered or stumbled into this place in some spirit filled moment, no  matter how….    
…here we have come to know Jesus in our prayers, our community, our service,  
our Eucharist... 
....we heard the invitation and we did not look back, not one of us.   

In fact, we continually strive to invite all, to welcome all…to listen and learn from  each other,   
This is the hand of the spirit, I know that for myself because I have heard Jesus say  follow me……   

…not as a command but as an invitation...and I hear Jesus say “stay with me”,  even when I get distracted, disappointed in myself,  or the church, or in our  elected officials, or the state of the world ....  
….tenderly lovingly and clearly I hear Jesus say “Follow me”.  

Imagine, you are busy at something one day (could be at a soup kitchen, walking  down the street in the eyes of a homeless person, or a friend in need...and you  think you feel a soft cloak made thrown over your shoulders.. as Elijah threw his  cloak over Elisha…   and you hear something... and you know the voice... you know the voice ... 

“follow me”   

… and you follow. 

 June 29th, 2019  M.E.Hurson  

Monday, July 1, 2019

Reverend Arda Itez Has Something To Say June 23rd Homily

We’ve come together to honor and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, history and those who’ve paved the way. I feel so privileged to be standing here before you. June 28th, 1969 was the day the story changed. Down on Christopher Street a marginalized community stood up, said enough was enough, and the gay liberation movement was born. I can’t help but wonder if any of those Stonewall heroes and heroines, many unsung, could have ever imagined 50 years later we’d be here, much less in a church, celebrating the community they helped liberate. We’ve come a long way since then, but there’s still work to be done, and we must be vigilant, especially now.

This past week I read an article about a survivor of the Pulse nightclub massacre, who was at the “Freedom March” in Washington, D.C. If you’re not aware, this march is for people who have decided to leave behind their LGBTQ “lifestyle”, as they refer to it, and shed their former identities by embracing Christ. Reading those words broke my heart for so many reasons, the least of them being his complete and total misunderstanding of Jesus Christ and his message.

There are so many types of oppression, but this is the most egregious and devastating kind. The kind that attacks your  identity, your being, your very existence, through a patriarchal theology upheld by those who believe God is small, binary and belongs solely to their demographic. A God THEY’VE created in THEIR own image.
It’s time to lay that fallacy to rest once and for all.
It’s time to heal the wounds inflicted in the name of God.

We, in all our cisgender, transgender, non binary, hetero, homo, bi beauty, have been made in the image of God.

And we don’t REALIZE our inherent divine worth... which is not conditional... It’s not something that can be taken away from us, its part of our dharma. Whatever you call God, the Divine, your higher power, you are a manifestation of that. God is expressed, God lives, walks, talks, loves through you. You are borne from the Source of all things, you are consciousness experiencing itself. My friends, the world is not, could not, be whole or complete without the LGBTQ+ community.

When you awaken to who you are, nothing outside of yourself can make you otherwise. Then you are truly free. We know false and harmful ideologies still permeate pockets of our society, wreaking havoc on the lives of those who are victimized by it. This is why it’s up to us, allies included, to carry the message forward. As it’s been said before, until we’re all free, none of us are free...and everyone should feel safe and proud to be and celebrate exactly who they are, not just in June, but 365 days out of the year. That’s the freedom we should ALL be striving for.

Today we honor and praise heroes, activists, resistors and pioneers like Harry Hay and Frank Kameny, who began fighting for equal rights in the 1950’s. Marsha P. Johnson, the trans woman, who after Stonewall, went on to demonstrate on Wall Street against the extreme prices of AIDS drugs and was a mother figure to the youth that came her way. AND Stormé DeLarverie, who was given the moniker of ‘guardian of the lesbians’ and the ‘Rosa Parks of the LGBTQ community’. She walked the downtown streets like a gay superhero. AND Tammy Novak, the 18-year-old trans woman who, like Stormé and Marsha, was one of the first people to fight back. AND her friend, Sylvia Rivera, the 17-year-old Puerto Rican drag queen and trans activist who yelled, “Its the revolution!” and went on to become a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, the Gay Activists  Alliance, and the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries with Marsha. She dedicated her life to helping homeless young drag queens and trans women.

As we honor these ancestors and so many others that haven’t been named, we must recognize our own sacred responsibility to one other and especially, the next generation. We must protect, companion, inspire, guide, mentor, support, uplift and love each other in every way we can. Dear ones, this is the only way to know God. Through love, service and devotion to one another. Let’s continue to be the example to the rest of world, as New York City has always been. Let the force of our radical love send powerful, transformative waves of healing out into the Universe, especially to those who are still struggling to break free.

May it be so.

Reverend Arda Itez
June 23rd, 2019
St. Francis Xavier Church NYC