Today is the fifth Sunday of Easter and the readings offer us a glimpse into the early days of the Church. The people are energized and mobilized, sorting out what is being asked and called upon by both the community and God. It is an exciting time of growth and change. In the context of Pope Francis’ Synod on Synodality, I can’t help but read these texts and wonder if the Holy Spirit is again calling us to move toward a greater understanding of what the Catholic Church can be when we are open to learning and hearing from everyone.
In the first reading from Acts, we see the installation of the order of deacons and the call to serve the community. “As the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.” The reading goes on to detail how the Twelve heard the injustice and called upon the community to choose seven men “filled with the Spirit and wisdom” to serve the community. When the Hellenists found an injustice, they brought it forth to the Twelve, and their needs were met and fulfilled by calling forth those within their own community. Who is the Church ignoring or underserving, and what do parishioners hunger for today? For me, the answer is that I hunger for a church that is diverse, inclusive, and transformational.
When I was Campus Minister at a high school for young women, one of my favorite experiences was liturgy. Each Mass and prayer service, the preacher was a student or faculty member. It was always exciting for me to see the freshmen experience their first school liturgy, often times witnessing a woman preach for the first time. I loved the excitement and the hunger the students and faculty alike had for hearing women preach. The flipside of this was that after graduating many students found themselves disappointed and longing to find a space where they once again felt represented on the altar. It took me years to find a space of welcome and inclusivity after I left that job and searched for a parish home that offered that kind of freedom and care for my spirituality. It shouldn’t be that hard to be spiritually fed.
In the second reading (1 Pt 2:4-9), we come across the well-known verse, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Reflecting on cornerstones, I find myself thinking of all the women with Theology degrees and decades of pastoral and ministerial experience who have been called to, but denied, ordination. I mourn for the dedicated men and women who have lost parish and Catholic school jobs because of sexual orientation. People who were embodying what it means to live as Jesus in their commitment to ministry, removed from positions out of fear and extremely misguided beliefs. Denied the opportunity to fully serve and offer sacraments, rejected by the hierarchy because of gender or sexual orientation, how many cornerstones of our faith have been left without resources and support to thrive in their call to ministry? It’s not a question of if women and LGBTQIA+ persons are capable or called. We have seen over and over again that God calls people from all backgrounds. “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises’ of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Each person, beautiful and uniquely imbued with the divine, is part of the story.
Finally, in John’s Gospel, Jesus said to his disciples, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” Jesus has always made it clear that there is space and welcome for all both on earth and in heaven. Diversity of life is what brings beauty. It is what causes ecological environments to thrive. It is what invites people to grow into the best versions of themselves. If we are going to work to transform the Church, then let us be like the Hellenists and call for our Church to inclusively care for all people. As we look for leadership and guidance, let us look to those who have been rejected, for there we may find the cornerstones of our Church.
Katie is a wife, mom to two amazing kids and Catholic lay minister who lives in the Chicago suburbs.