We have deep respect for people with same-sex attraction, but we can’t pretend that they’re welcome on their own terms. None of us are welcome on our own terms in the Church; we’re welcome on Jesus’ terms. That’s what it means to be a Christian—you submit yourself to Jesus and his teaching, you don’t recreate your own body of spirituality.
Archbishop Charles Chaput, Erasmus Lecture, October, 2014
Reflection – This quote has been bouncing around on social media this past week, and I personally find it such a beautiful encapsulation of the heart of so many issues, that I wanted to close off the month of October—‘month of the Synod’—with it.
‘None of us are welcome on our own terms in the Church’ – this is a statement for the ages. I personally find it, not a harsh or unkind formulation, but actually something that thrills me and moves my heart.
I’m not sure why this is so. Perhaps it is because it has been many, many years since I realized that my own terms were so narrow and poor, tangled and twisted, that I would be much better off living on Jesus’ terms for the rest of my life.
I think that is it: it may seem that surrendering our own terms to live on Jesus’ terms, accepting Him and His teachings (which, if you are Catholic, you believe to have been entrusted to His Catholic Church without error) is a great loss for us, a terrible sacrifice, an acceptance of a life that is smaller and poorer, lonelier and bleaker.
All I can say is that my experience, which is far from complete, has been that as I simply forget about ‘my own terms’ – my ideas, my self-concept, my likes, my deepest convictions even – and throw myself into the arms and heart of Jesus, completely accept what the Gospel and what the Church teaches me about Jesus and about life, my life becomes richer, more beautiful, more joyous, more peaceful. More. Simply more.
We think we know who we are. We think we know what our life is about. We think we know what is important. We think we know so many things. We are wrong. Even when we are right (IBELIEVEINGODTHEFATHERALMIGHTY, DAMMIT!), we are wrong.
Life is a perpetual surrender of the fortress of the self into the sweet captivity of the Lord, which is true freedom. Life is a perpetual collapse of our defenses, the dissolving of our lines of resistance, the white flag going up, the glum acceptance of our defeat at the hands of our Adversary—only to discover that He is the great captain of the liberating army come to cast down all tyranny from our souls forever.
It is all so much better than we realize—this loss of our selves and our certainties, our ‘terms’. God’s terms are better, and that is the great lesson every single human being has to learn, or perish.
And we all have to learn it—those ‘inside’ the Church most of all, perhaps. It is so easy for us to become smug and sure of ourselves, and so quietly substitute our dreary old terms for the flaming charity of Christ.
We all have to learn it—the gay and the straight, the married, the cohabitating, and the divorced, the faithful and the faithless, the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’. We all have to learn it. That contemporary hymn got it wrong: none are welcome, not the way we think we should be welcomed. All are welcome, but only at the cost of opening ourselves up to radical, complete, total conversion of heart daily, always, until the end of our lives when we finally lose our fight with God and our terms finally pass away—and we enter into the infinite, eternal courts of heaven and know ourselves at last to be what we always were becoming—sons and daughters of God caught up into the life of the Spirit, the life of the Son, the life and love of the Father.
None are welcome and all are welcome, and all in all are welcome on exactly the same terms, which is the mercy of God transforming us all into mercy, in a radical transformation the ‘terms’ of which we cannot measure or comprehend in any fashion.
It is all so much better than we realize it to be now.