Brief Words On The Cross

Much of my writing on finding meaning in homosexuality is focused on seeing it through the lens of suffering. I have long had the conviction that the only way of making sense of why God allows homosexuality to exist in the world is through seeing it as the “daily Cross” we are called to carry.

I do not mean to suggest that the experience of living with same sex attractions is perpetually onerous–rather, at times, it can be a source of great pain. In my youth, it was particularly painful to realize that my primary attractions were directed towards men, and that the fulfillment of those desires was opposed to God’s plan for humanity. It didn’t seem to me that an all loving, all powerful God would be so cruel as that.

But with the passage of time, I have come to accept those moments of pain associated with living with same sex attraction as moments united with the Cross of Christ.

A recent comment in the com-boxes of the blog Spiritual Friendship made me think of this again.

A fellow by the name of Matt writes this:

I think to reach the heart we have to be sure keep the cross central.

The fact is that celibacy is not fun. Nor, as a gay man, can I make myself want to lust after females. I find female breasts quite repulsive, for instance, and can not imagine ever wanting to touch one.

So, no matter what we do, we will never make celibacy or “heterosexuality” appealng to gay people.

But as a gay Christian, I do trust Christ and am powerfully moved by His willingness to die. If He loved me enough to do that then I can’t help but trust Him to want the best for me and from me even when that best is unpleasant. If his Word says no sex outside of male/female marriage then I accept that.

So the cross must always be central if we are to reach the heart.

I’m convinced that Christ invites us into transformation through “the renewing of the mind” towards a place of viewing the cross that Matt talks about as the most precious of gifts God has given us. “Take up your cross and follow me” is not so much an invitation to a pain that stems from blind obedience to the whims of a moralistic dictator, but rather an invitation to enter into the fullness of what St. Paul means when he says, “to live is Christ.”

In my Protestant past, the cross of Christ wasn’t discussed much. We focused more on the risen Christ. I think that gave me a misshapen view of God and of Christianity, and what life was supposed to look like for a Christian. The crosses in Protestant churches don’t feature a corpus–they feature the empty cross.

St. Paul wrote that he preached “Christ, crucified.” This is why my Catholic faith has become so important to me. This life, though filled with great consolations and joys, is one in which we are constantly being transformed more into the image and likeness of Christ, and that takes suffering.

That takes the Cross.

We all need the cross to become the man or woman God wants us to become. The cross I needed was the cross God allowed in my life: living with same sex attractions, and being asked by God to forgo those desires out of love and obedience to Him.

At this point in my life, I wouldn’t have my life any other way.

In a letter of spiritual direction to Dom Placid Bailly, St. Francis de Sales wrote,

Carry with sweetness and love this your cross, which as I understand is great enough to load you with blessings if you love it.

I find that to be the most beautiful–and sanest way–to view why homosexuality has been allowed by God in my life.

And when “taking up my daily Cross” becomes difficult, or overwhelming, or when I sometimes just grow weary of closing the door to a intimate relationship with a man, these words of Blessed Columba Marmion give me courage and inspiration:

Be convinced, my child, that Jesus will never impost a sacrifice upon those who yield themselves up to Him, without giving them a generous measure of the necessary grace and help to carry the cross, and without carrying more than the greater part of it Himself. To doubt this would be to doubt the love and fidelity of Jesus Christ, it would wound Him to the depth of His Heart.

Jesus will “carry more than the greater part of it Himself.”

On the path to Golgotha, Christ stumbled and fell. He had Simon of Cyrene to help carry the burden of his Christ.

When it seems that all is overwhelming, and I can’t go another step further on this day, or the next, Christ comes to my aid, like Simon, to carry the cross himself, and be nailed to it once again.

All He asks of me is to allow Him to help carry it, and to live today.

St. Francis de Sales once again puts this into focus for me:

Let us then serve God will today; as to the morrow, God will provide for it. Each day should bear its own burdn. Have no solicitude for tomorrow, for God who reigns today will reign tomorrow.

(I would add one caveat to Matt’s comments: I don’t often talk about “celibacy” as my state in life. I don’t think it’s our job to make “celibacy” appear appealing. Rather, the focus of the Church should be on promoting the virtue of chastity–celibacy will be the result of chastity for a man like Matt who feels no attraction for women, but it isn’t the goal. Celibacy isn’t a virtue that can be acquired. It has no inherent benefits, in and of itself. Only when it is associated with the virtue of chastity can celibacy be seen as a blessing. I’m of the mindset that to pursue chastity is the path of peace for everyone, and my goal, in light of the last quote from St. Francis de Sales, is to live chastely today. At the end of my life I may realize, “you know, I guess I lived a celibate life.”)

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10 thoughts on “Brief Words On The Cross

  1. Great post, Dan. Your plethora of fine quotes are always impressive; they make me want to make more time for good spiritual reading.

    It’s hard to wrap one’s mind around the fact that the crosses in our lives (SSA or otherwise) are often the source of the greatest graces and the seeds of the finest fruits of our lives, but the older I get, the more I see it to be true. Just last night I read this most insightful confirmation of what you write from St. Claude de la Colombiere :

    “Judge then what recompense those persons will receive from Christ who have followed Him along the way of His Cross. On the judgment day we shall understand how much God has loved us by giving us the opportunities to merit so rich a reward. Then we shall reproach ourselves for complaining at what was meant to increase our happiness, for grieving when we should have been rejoicing, for doubting God’s goodness when He was giving us concrete evidence of it. If such will be our feelings one day, why not anticipate them now? Why not bless God here and now for something we shall be thanking Him for everlastingly in heaven? It is clear from this that whatever the manner of our life we should always accept adversity joyfully. If we are leading a good life adversity purifies us, makes us better and enables us to acquire greater merit. If our life is sinful it serves to bring us to repentance and obliges us to become good.”

    ~St. Claude de la Colombiere

    • Hi Mary,

      That quote is very good! I think one of the hardest parts of this journey we’re all on is trusting in God’s Providence, and accepting the bitter with the sweet, and realizing that the bitter is the stuff that is of such value in our lives.

      Thanks for sharing that quote!

      Dan

  2. Excellent post. Thank you Christopher. Let us put our arms around the middle tree, containing everything we could desire — Our Lord Jesus Christ. That was the interesting thing about the manna in the desert, a type for Jesus in the Eucharist. It was understood the manna tasted like what you desired. The struggle to get to that realization is hard, but in the end we will know we have our arms firmly around everything that our heart truly desires. God Himself will set us free from the hunter’s snare. God bless you. Susan Fox http://www.christsfaithfulwitness.com

  3. Thank you for your blog! I discovered it a couple of months ago, and it has been a blessing to me. May God continue to bless you and your ministry!

  4. Very good post. You obviously understand that the point is chastity – to actually love chastity. Celibacy is a horrible burden without loving chastity. I can’t imagine the virgin martyrs considering chastity as a cross.

    I also read the comment from Matt. I think I understand what he was saying, although it seems to me something is off with his statement “Nor, as a gay man, can I make myself want to lust after females. I find female breasts quite repulsive, for instance, and can not imagine ever wanting to touch one.”

    I think lust needs to be differentiated from ‘attraction’ in these discussions.

    • I do agree with you about the comment from Matt–something was off. I think a better way to have put it was for him to say “to desire.” Desire is something in all of us, and desire, in and of itself seems to me to be fairly benign. Lust is more of a willful, higher octane version of desire.

      And yes, chastity is the goal, and a good. I don’t like talking about my “celibate life.” Or, for that matter, trying to live a “chaste life.” I suppose I like to say that I’m choosing to live the life that I’m convinced will bring me the most peace and fulfillment. And that life includes the pursuit of chastity.

  5. I think Protestant churches vary greatly on whether they emphasize the cross or the resurrection. I think both deserve their proper place and are conjoined together.

    St. Paul spells this out on his definition of the Gospel:
    1 Corinthians 15:1-5 NIV

    Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.

    The cross speaks to share Christ has done for us and illuminates the way to follow him. But it is not the cross alone. The resurrection is what anchors the suffering and seemingly meaningless death in the profound hope that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 CO 4:17).

    I would say Jesus does not die daily so much as wet daily die and place that death within his death that his [resurrection] life would become manifest in us. Perhaps the struggle with SSA doesn’t seem to manifest itself in resurrection life yet. It remains dead, it hasn’t yet been transformed by the grace of the age to come —for why then would it persist? But I am finding a call in this fray to exchange a paradigm of homosexuality for one of generous love, so help me God! The Father has a generous love and there is a way that being single, at least for now, enables me to be less discriminate and more generous with the love God gives me. Therefore I relate to others [men] not in the basis of what I can get but on the basis of what God is doing and wants to do and how he wants me to cooperate with the Spirit of resurrection to accomplish His end. I have not attained it but I pray the grace of God to help me.

  6. Hi,
    I just wanted to thank you for writing this blog. I am a 40 something midwest wife and mother of 2. I attended evangelical churches my whole life. In the past, I was taught that those in the gay lifestyle could not be Christians. This always seemed an odd teaching to me; our salvation is not about what we do, but what Christ did for us on the cross. Several things have caused me to want to understand more about the issue of Christ and same-sex attractions: a family member works for a denomination that celebrates gay marriage, several members of our church wrestle with same sex attractions, one of them who is a professor at an evangelical college and speaks openly about his desire to live a “holy sexuality,” and the clincher of all of these is a friend of my son who tried to commit suicide several years ago, who now is somewhat open about his struggle with same sex attractions. Our family loves this kid, he loves Jesus, and struggles tremendously. How in the world can I think that Jesus condemns him in his struggles?

    All of that to say, over a year ago, your blog was mentioned on the Focus On the Family website. I always look forward to reading what you have to say. It has helped me tremendously in trying to begin to wrap my brain around this whole issue. Thank you for your honesty and your obvious love for Jesus!

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