Brokeback Lent

By Diogenes (articles) | Mar 05, 2006

For those who ask, "What can we do to help sabotage the Teaching Church while continuing in full communion?" Boston's Jesuit Urban Center always has some ready advice. Last week's Ash Wednesday Homily is a fine illustration of Inverted Ignatianism in action. The technique is simple. The homilist considers, at outset of Lent, what twinges of remorse experienced by his congregation -- in this case prosperous, predominantly gay male urbanites -- might result in an opening to the grace of repentance and a true conversion of life. He then seals that opening off:

For too many of us, what we think of as "our sinfulness," our not yet even being the full human beings we are created to become, remains a paltry and cheap catalogue of peccadillos, usually having something to do with sex or not being "charitable" toward each other. Those so-called "sins" are hardly worth setting aside 40 days each year to ponder; those sins of yours or mine are hardly worth mentioning, really. Remember how James Alison put it when describing his conversion to Catholicism? He says he had to learn as a Catholic how to sin, really sin. What he had thought of as sin, he discovered, was really boringly normal.

Having delivered that shot of morphine to the conscience, it remains to "emphasize the positive" by teaching one's listeners that their libido speaks more truly than do the Church's inhibitions of it, that obedience to irksome moral norms results in a "pretend" life, and that interior freedom comes from letting Hollywood tell you who you are. Our homilist resumes:

The consequence of not being free is sin. I suspect many in this community have already seen Brokeback Mountain. If not -- see it; if you have, see it again and reflect on the consequences of not being interiorly free, the consequences of not knowing who you really are and want to become, the tragic consequences and subsequent devastation that comes from only living in a "pretend" world. Watch carefully the price of dishonesty in yourself and with those whom you try to love. Let this Lent be a Brokeback Lent.

"Let this Lent be a Brokeback Lent." The sermon is a kind of Screwtape Letters in reverse -- written not to awaken readers to spiritual dangers but to assure them that there is nothing, really, to be afraid of. When Lent at the Jesuit Urban Center comes to an end, when the recommended austerities have done their work, we'll find not just an Easter People, but a Brokeback Easter People. Who could object to that?

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