Sep 192020

Life isn’t always fair

Fair

The readings this weekend are hard reading to preach on. In the Epistle we have Saint Paul struggling with a Shakespearean dilemma “to be or not to be”. In the Gospel we hear Jesus basically say that life is not always fair, but we have accept what is given to us and be happy.

These are hard messages to hear during a worldwide pandemic. It is even harder for me to hear in the midst of all the struggles I have right now. Many of you know that I am taking a break from the hospital and that I have receive a ton of hate on the internet lately. Death threats seem like a daily occurrence. People writing me messages just to tell me that I am a horrible human being for supporting black lives and the LGBTQI community.

How can I not love and support everyone? Even in the midst of despair and darkness, Saint Paul told the Romans that “love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:10) How could I deny them love and expect God to love me?

As a genderfluid pansexual priest I can no more refuse anyone love than I can refuse loving myself. And for many years I did try to refuse loving myself. I tried to refuse love to everyone else. And it made me a bitter and hate-filled person. It nearly destroyed my marriage and it did destroy many friendships.

Only when I accepted who I was, was I able to love others. The thoughts of suicide started to go away and the world seemed much brighter. Sharing love with others has helped me heal as an individual. So we could all learn a lesson that life should be about loving others rather than hating them. We should all learn to accept that all things are not fair, but life is worth living.

Then and only then can we truly say that we are Christians.

God loves you all and so do I!

Father Greg

Sep 122020

Forgiving Others as we Forgive Ourselves.

As I have been going about this week, I have noticed an increase in animosity and vitriol. This tension is always felt for me this time of year, especially around the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. This is the moment that the America that I had been raised to know for me died.

You see, up until that point I had been taught that a lot of our sins had been atoned for. Our past with racism, and xenophobia was just that in the past, and we were this melting pot utopia that had embraced all of various skin colors, and beliefs. When those 4 planes tore through the sky and like a knife, cut the rose colored glasses off the country and showed our hatred and intolerance once again this time toward people of the Muslim faith, and has since cascaded and renewed our in-sensitivities that had been lying dormant against people of color, migrant communities, and LGBTQI individuals.

As I grew in my faith and in my call, I was asked to challenge my own biases. In that I realized that even though I had known Muslim friends and colleagues, there was still a resentment inside of me and I needed to do the work to release this, and part of that was praying and asking God to forgive those fundamentalists that attempted to speak for an entire community of faith and damage all of our hearts and minds. It wasn’t until then was I truly free and could look at 9/11 and truly honor those we lost.

The readings this week teach us this hard lesson. Sirach says that “vengeance is the Lords” and we who “attempt to exact vengeance” will lose the ability to seek forgiveness for ourselves. For how can we seek the very thing that we will not give to others who come to us seeking it.

That is the real test, can we forgive others for how they hurt us? That does not mean forgetting the pain, and what they did, but forgiveness is letting go and releasing that pain. It frees us from those chains of anger and vitriol, and brings us to a place where it is just an event that shapes us.

This week I challenge you to take the time to find those moments in your life. And if you are ready to, tell God that you are ready to forgive. Then let God do the rest.

God bless.

Fr. Matt+

Aug 222020

Unbinding hate with love

I have recently started spending time on the social media app called Tiktok. Despite the news that has been spread about its evils, I have found it to be a place of great ministry. Many progressive clergy spend time on Tiktok reaching out to the younger generation.

I have also found it to be full of people who have been hurt, damaged and forsaken by the church. People who have been told they cannot be Christians and be LGBTQI+. And they are in need of our love and support. I would say that for every hateful “Christian” I encounter on Tiktok, I find 20 other people who are loving and in need of support.

The scriptures this weekend speak to our job as clergy to bind and loose peoples bondages. For many people this has been equated to binding and loosing their sins from them. However, the scripture does not say that it applies to sins only. It is my belief that this authority has been given to us to even loose the bonds that bind people emotionally, mentally and physically.

That is why I preach love instead of hate. I feel that by doing so I can loose the bonds that have bound people for so long. All the hateful rhetoric that makes them physically sick, emotionally damaged, and mentally hurting can be healed with love. And by showing them real love and support, we can free them from a lifetime of hateful bondage.

That is why I choose to continue to preach that Hate Has No Home in the church, in my life, or in the world around us. We must work together to spread the love of God to all we meet. Regardless of their faith practice, nationality, race, gender expression/identity, sexual orientation/identity, social status, or financial status.

You will see me standing with Black Lives Matters protestors, LGBTQI+ individuals, the homeless, the unwed mothers and fathers, those protesting the death penalty, and those fighting for healthcare and living wage. Not because I am trying to be political. But because I am trying to live the Gospel.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” (Matthew 25:40. NIV)

You are loved!

Father Greg.

Jun 052020

Fighting hatred and racism with love

Say no to racism

I am saddened and dismayed at the amount of hatred and division that exists in our world today. Many people are standing up to violence and racism in our world. Others are content to allow things to remain as they have always been. And others are indifferent to either viewpoint.

Even sadder is the fights that are occurring within each faction. There are those who feel we are not doing enough to combat racism, bigotry and hatred. Other feel that we must only work with, love or support those we agree with 100%. And still others feel we have all gone too far.

Jesus was a radical protester. He stood up to oppression, hatred and bigotry. A prime example of this was the story of the Samaritan woman. We read in John 4:9, “The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)” Jesus was friends with the outcasts of society. He spent time with tax collectors, prostitutes and the Samaritans. He shattered their ideas of social class, racism and bigotry.

And yes, he even flipped over a few tables and whipped a few people. Yet, he loved them all. Even those who crucified him. From the cross he cried for God to forgive those who murdered him. He begged for their immortal souls even as he drew his last breath. He left us an example of how we ought to live.

Jesus wants us to stand up for the defenseless and the downtrodden. He also wants us to love one another. Saint Paul encourages us all to, “Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (2 Corinthians 13:11-12)

Today, as we stand against racism, bigotry, hatred and division, let us not forget to love one another. Love those standing shoulder to shoulder with us. And love those standing on the other side of each issue. Pray for our own conversion of heart as well as theirs.

Won’t you join me as I struggle to walk this path as well?

Jan 032020

Hope is not gone

hope

So many things are happening in our world today. It is so easy to loose hope and to despair. Hate, bigotry and division seem to be a common way of life. War, death and despair spread like a plague. However, I have hope. Hope is not gone or dead.

This Sunday we celebrate the wise men that traveled from afar to visit the Christ Child. We know the stories and the misconceptions that surround this event. The reality is that they arrived almost 2 years after the birth in Bethlehem. They came to the young child’s home and brought gives with various symbolic meanings.

The Wise Men left behind their lives and likely their families to travel to an unknown situation because the alignment of the stars told them to. They had hope in something they could not quantify beyond their faith. So they stepped out in faith and traveled to see a King.

That same King is the one I have faith in today. And that King reminds us that despite all the horrible things going on, we can have hope that everything will be as God wants it to be. Ultimately, as people of faith, we have to put everything in God’s hands. Once we are willing to do that, all the fear and uncertainty starts to fade away. We can have hope and trust that God will bring us through.

It is my prayer that Saint Francis Parish will continue to be that beacon of hope to the world around us. We will continue to welcome everyone into our parish family. And we will work to provide them with the hope, light and love that can only come from God.

I pray that this Sunday you will come and visit with us. Now is the time to experience the hope that the Sacraments can bring.

Come experience a radically welcoming and inclusive parish in Augusta, GA!

Bishop Greg

Oct 042019
changes

Today I went to see my primary care doctor. It was a routine visit. However, as is the case in most of life, nothing is really routine. He encouraged me to continue making little changes to my routines and life to become more healthy. The idea of little changes is one that Saint Francis spoke of a lot.

Most of us view Saint Francis as the kind of person who walked in and made radical changes to the world around him. However, Saint Francis’ story is one laden with little changes that created a ripple effect. Take for instance is renunciation of his father’s wealth. While not a huge change that effected the world in that moment, it started a ripple that would change everything in the church.

His rebuilding of the chapel in San Damiano was a small step that involved just him at first. But as he worked to rebuilt the chapel, others joined his efforts. Saint Francis did not start out to form a religious order. He just wanted to be closer to God. However, today there are 4,688 communities, 30,068 members (not counting the Third Order or lay orders), with an additional 20,289 priests. And that is just in the Roman Catholic Church! That does not include the Anglican/Episcopalian or Old Catholic/Independent Catholic orders in the world.

Saint Francis did not envision his work to help the poor and sick becoming a world-wide movement of people dedicating their lives to the service of others. I am not sure any of the founders of the main religious orders started out with that goal. But along the way, that is what happened.

Our little changes in life can have a big impact. In my own life, I have started to eat more vegetables and I go to the gym to exercise several times a week (5 times if possible). In the past year and a half, I have lost 42 lbs and I feel much better. My doctor encouraged me to remove processed foods and diet drinks from my diet as well. And today I started that process.

Here at Saint Francis Parish, we are committed to making little changes that we hope will impact others lives for the better. We need your help to make that happen. Whether it is financial support (via https://paypal.me/saintfrancis) or by volunteering your time and energy to help us grow. You can make a difference in our world by committing to little changes. Join us for Sunday Mass at either of our locations. Volunteer to help at Mass. Sign up to help with the blessing bag program. Let us know what your strengths are and how you would like to help our parish.

Your help can be a little change that sets the world on fire!

Jun 222018

Hate has no home at Saint Francis

Hate has no home here

Yesterday marked the beginning of my twentieth (20) year since I was consecrated as a Bishop. It also marked my 39th revolution around the sun. In all that time, I have never seen the kind of hatred, bigotry, and racism that I have seen in the last couple of years. And this week, that hatred, bigotry, and racism touched our sister parish in Flourtown, PA.

Bishop St George, the pastor of Saint Miriam Parish arrived at the parish to find the parish had been vandalized. They had damaged one of the Saint Francis statues and torn up the “Hate has no home here” sign. It is sad that someone destroyed a sign calling for an end to hate because of the hate in their heart. They destroyed a statue of the saint who said, “Let me be an instrument of your peace.”

This person had so much hate in their heart that they could not see the great irony of their actions. They could not see that they were damaging the very church who would welcome them into the fold with open arms and not condemn them for their past.

At Saint Francis we have seen our share of hate. I get hate mail on a regular basis. I even had someone advocate for branding other human beings by tattooing their crimes and sins on their foreheads. And sadly, they did this in the middle of Mass, right in the middle of my homily on forgiveness!

We have allowed hate to overrun our society and it is creeping into our churches. We as a church have a moral obligation to stop it. It is our responsibility to call it out, to shine the light on it wherever it resides. Sometimes we have to turn away people who damage those seeking refuge in the church. It does not mean that we love them any less, it does not mean that we hate them. No, it means that we must protect those in our flock from the hatred and bigotry that resides in them. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 5 Saint Paul tells us that sometimes we have to remove those who are disruptive and dangerous to the church as a whole.

We will continue to love them from afar and to pray for them. Even those who vandalize and damage our parishes. But we cannot give hate a home in our parishes. This is why we have the Covenant at Saint Francis. It is a pledge to build up the community while leaving behind the hatred, bigotry, and damaging behavior that we have all experienced in other churches.

And at Saint Francis we will continue to love everyone while still protecting the body of Christ from hate and violence.

Jun 152018

Change is needed

Change

The world seems to have gone crazy lately. In fact, many people seem willing to exchange the truth for a lie and to exchange compassion for hatred, bigotry, and violence. Change is considered to be a dirty word, and yet, change is exactly what we need!

We have been warned throughout Scripture that such times would come. Many people think that these are the end times, but I believe we are merely at the end of an age. We are at a point where the pendulum will swing back to a more compassionate and caring place.

That said, we must be willing to be the instruments of change in the world around us. We cannot bury our head in the sand and expect things to improve on their own. Throughout history good men and women chose to hide their eyes from the horrors around them. And by doing so they, at very least, allowed bad things to happen, and at worst, approved of those acts.

For years I have preached about walking the middle of the road and now I see now the error of that teaching. By walking the middle of the road, I have allowed the evil the world to triumph. Rather than walk the middle of the road, we need to be willing to speak up against the horror of hate, bigotry, anger, and violence that has taken over our society.

Make no mistake, you will loose friends and family if you choose to speak up. People will label you as a troublemaker or worse. They even treated Jesus this way. Everyone abandoned Jesus. You are in good company.

Now is the time to stand up. It is time to stop hiding from the darkness and to confront it. It is time to live our faith. And our faith calls us to love others, to take in the stranger and refugee. Today is the day to be Christ to the world!

And if that cost me everything, I will give it all up to serve others and to follow my Christ!

Jun 022018

Dark and Light

Dark

They say the night is darkest right before the dawn. Given the struggles I have experienced in my life, I believe this to be true. But the dark can never truly overcome the light.

The last two weeks have been difficult. Today is day 16 of my life without my pain medication and my anti-depressants. The worst of the withdraw is behind me. And now I begin the process of finding my new normal. It has been tough, and the last week has been the darkest by far. But now the light is beginning to shine over the horizon.

One the interesting parts of the journey through PTSS and depression has been the rediscovery of my emotions. This means that I am experiencing a full range of emotions where in the past I had a rather muted range of emotions. That process of discovering my new emotions and normalizing them can take months or even years.

Father Rick reminded me today that in life “sorrow and joy walk side by side.” This is so true. We cannot experience light without the darkness. Sorrow helps us understand joy. Unrest helps us know peace. And doubt helps us know what true faith is all about.

When life is its darkest, we must remember that Christ is right there with us. He experienced all the pain, sorrow, frustration, joy, peace, love, and even darkness that we do. Christ comes to us in the moments to walk with us and provide us with the strength and love we need to survive and flourish.

And the church is here to provide you with the support and love you need to move forward. Without my brothers and sisters in the church (especially my fellow clergy in the OCCI) I would not have made it this far. It is our goal to provide a church family where you can find strength, love and support through the struggles of life.

Come and experience a different way to be Catholic!

May 252018

Life can be hard

life

Life can be hard. At times it seems like no matter how hard we try, things remain difficult. As a clergy person, I experience people at the worst moments in their lives. And sometimes that occurs when I am dealing with a difficult time myself.

God did not promise that life would be easy. In fact, we see story after story in scripture about how difficult life can be. Matter of fact, the entire book of Job is one long story about how difficult life is. Job was a man that worked hard to follow God. And still he suffered from some very sad and disturbing things. He lost his family, his money, his possessions, and then his health.

Despite it all, he did not give up. Yes, he felt upset, angry, and even depressed. But he never walked away from God. He trusted that God would bring him through all these sorrows to a better day.

We are called on to stand firm on our faith even in the darkest moments of our lives. You are not alone in your struggles. Too often, people think that they are alone and that no one understand what they are going through. But that is wrong. So many people struggle everyday too. We must not isolate ourselves, but instead, we need to reach out to those around us for encouragement and strength in these difficult times.

And the church can be an outlet to help you through those times. We are not perfect people, which means that we have been through similar things to what you have been through. It is our hope that we can be there to help you through your struggles too.

And together we can work toward a brighter day!