Gospel Reflections

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Lk 3:15-16, 21-22

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Marna Rogers

Published: January 13, 2019

" ...The interest of the people by now was building.  They were all beginning to wonder, "Could this John be the Messiah?"

But John intervened: I'm baptizing you here in the river. The main character in this drama, to whom I am a mere stagehand, will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy spirit within you, changing you from the inside out ..." After all the people were  baptized, Jesus was baptized.  As he was praying, the sky opened up and the Holy Spirit, like a dove descending, came down on him,  and along with the Spirit, a voice: "You are my Son (my beloved child), chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life."

How we need Luke right now!

He was a Gentile among the other Jewish Evangelists.  He wrote of racially distinctive Samaritans and other outsiders of the time ~ women, sheepherders, common laborers, the poor.  With God there are no outsiders. Our Church membership embraces all. We pay a terrible price for naming others outsiders; exclusion of others harms us the most...

For this Glimpses, I have been praying with a photo of Judy and Dennis Shepard, parents of Matthew Shepard, at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. They had come to bury Matthew's ashes in the crypt of the Cathedral, twenty years after his death. When he died twenty years ago (1998), they were afraid to leave his ashes in a burial site where his cremains could be abused and disturbed.

To understand this journey, we must travel to a lonely road in Wyoming's prairie,  where a doe had kept watch all night, lying beside Matthew's body, and only chose to leave this young man when the young policewoman approached to see why she had been keeping watch. The bloodied figure, tied to a fence, only revealed who he was from the tracks of his tears... a young Caucasian man, horribly beaten, pistol-whipped.  She felt the boy had been there all night. The doe looked the officer in the eye and then, perhaps judging the boy would be taken care of now, left quietly.  The doe was, she felt, God being present to this young man. (This anecdote was in the "Washington Post article.)

For the next three days he would be cared for lovingly by hospital personnel, and his parents were able to fly from the southern Mediterranian, where his Dad worked, to be there when he died... Matthew Shepard had paid a terrible price for who he was becoming.

Twenty years ago, I had been at the College of the Holy Cross where Judy Shepard had been invited to speak. This was the first public event hosted by a new club, allowed to establish itself on the campus that year, with faculty advisors, and the right to invite others for public events.  This was the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) group.  It was SRO (Standing Room Only) at the Hogan Center, for students and guests.

Shepard had been invited to share Matthew's journey. He had actually just visited his parents overseas, she noted. She and Matthew had had a very honest conversation about who he felt he was, a young gay man.  He asked her to tell his Dad after he left for the United States, and college in Wyoming.  She agreed.

Later, in the time for questions, so many young adults there asked her advice. She noted that so often, like with Matthew, the mother is left to tell the Dad. Many asked to speak with her privately... She reflected that they themselves would have to do much of this work of revealing who they were becoming, but she made time to speak with those who wished.  The line was beginning to form as we left...

Matthew's death revealed then the hatred so many Americans and others harbored toward gay people. Violence toward those who are different seems to have escalated, and in many of the places where we are in mission, the danger to so many persists, even death by government decrees for being lesbian/gay.

Matthew's death moved his mother to support so many, and choose a public life she may never have imagined for herself. With his Dad, they brought their dear son to a safe resting place.  Their son, chosen and marked by their love, pride of their lives... hopefully they, Judy and Dennis, know he changed all of us.


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