A Reflection during the Eucharist of Tuesday, June 22, 2021.
1 Peter 4:12-19
Memorial of St. John Fisher (Bishop) and Thomas More, martyrs
Reflection delivered by: Reverend Angel Del Rio
Click on the audio player below to listen to the audio of this preaching.
“I am not a fan of saints. Believe me. I am not a fan of saints! This is in spite of me naming my local ministry in Dallas after a saint: Saint Romero of America Ministries, Still, I just can’t… I’m not a fan of saints!” That’s how I responded to Eduardo, my spouse when he asked me: “Are you ready for going to the UACC Synod tomorrow?” We were on our way to meet a few friends for the afternoon, so I continued my response to him with: “I am not a fan of saints!” and he was puzzled by that and asked me: “but why? What’s going on with that? I don’t get it”. Then I responded: “Well, I was invited to preach / to offer a reflection this coming Tuesday, during mass, which is the memorial of St Thomas More and I just find it difficult preaching on that celebration”. He then said: “Tomás Moro? He sounds like a Spaniard saint, isn’t he”? “Nah, he’s English, from London,” I replied.
“Thomas More was born from a wealthy family, I believe, and received a nice education that made him become an outstanding lawyer and very influential in politics. He also wanted to become a monk, a Carthusian I believe, but eventually decided on staying as a lay man, and got married, and made a family. He was a very devout layman to the Roman Catholic Church which he profoundly believed was One, Indivisible, Absolute, headed by the one and only Pope who no one was above him. When he found out about Martin Luther’s protestant movement in Germany, he thought that this was going to become a serious problem for the Roman Catholic Church, that this would divide the Church, and that this would weaken the Church’s power around the territory. Therefore, he used his influence and political power to silence them, to reprimand them, to stop them. When the King of England requested Rome for an annulment of his marriage, the Pope denied his request and so the King became upset and declared himself as the head of both the church and the state in England. Thomas More didn’t like this either because the Church is One and Indivisible, with the Pope as the only head and no one above him, so, he refused to follow and accept the King’s position. Once again, he used his influence and political power to create political instability in England to stop the King. Eventually he was taken to jail and then decapitated. Many years after that, Rome elevated him, to the altar, as martyr, because of his undivided loyalty to the throne of Peter… the Pope”. Eduardo stopped me right there and suddenly said: “Do you know the consequences of what you are saying, right? Do you understand what you just said?”
It seemed like I was not getting whatever was troubling his mind, so I replied: “No. I don’t get it. What’s that”? “Well, don’t you see that this guy believed that the only true church was the Roman Catholic, and the only true head was the Pope? Everyone opposing his view of a One Indivisible Church, with the Pope as the only head, was a problematic person for him and he excluded them using his influence and power!” He answered. “Why the UACC would want to celebrate the feast of someone, that, if he were alive today, he would not consider you all as Catholics as you think you are! He most likely would have excluded you guys and used his influence and power to silence you as well! You are not a part of his church as he sees it!” Well, Eduardo didn’t know that the reason why we were including his memorial in Tuesday’s mass was because we follow the Roman Catholic Calendar and his memorial happened to come on that day, the first day of our Synod…
And then Eduardo continued with his speech: “I understand that he was acting as a man of his time, evaluating whatever was happening around him through his own lenses, which were his religious believes and values, and his own world view. He was being authentic to himself by reacting to the “signs of the time” as he saw them, I get that.” Eduardo continued his own reflection. “But hey, don’t you realize that you are acting as a priest once again, as a married priest, married to another man, in a catholic church that happens to be unique from the Roman church, because, before you, there were many gay, lesbian, transgendered, queer, and non-binary people who dared to dream of a new catholic church where they would feel welcome and included; a church where they would celebrate the sacraments and even have them be accepted as ordained ministers; But many of them were silenced, reprimanded, excluded, expulsed, and in many cases they gave up their lives for their dreams”.
At that moment I too thought of the many men and women: nuns, religious sisters, bishops, priests, lay leaders, theologians, who also dared to dream on a new Catholic church who could be inclusive, and open their doors to leadership and ministry for everyone no matter their gender and civil status; a church who would reflect, welcome and promote women In all areas of ministry and leadership in the church; a church with a defined missional theology; a church working on social justice and living a sacramental justice momentum… and they too were silenced, reprimanded, excluded, expulsed, and in many instances they paid with their lives because they dared to dream.
Today we begin our Synod: The UACC 2021 Synod. May each one of us dare to dream of a new church that is opened to everyone who feels the call on a leadership role and/or serving in various ministries in our cities where we are from. May we enter in a true reflection on how this new church looks like and begin building it. May we dare to dream, so that we honor those who came before us dreaming the new church, wanting new beginnings, and are not here with us anymore, are not remembered by the Roman Church, nor are celebrated by anyone. May today’s message of the Risen One echoes in our hearts today as he whispers to us, in a refreshing way, once again, saying: “If you want to follow me, go after the opportunity, dare to dream the new church, go for the challenge, and carry it with you, and make it true”. Amen.