Part 4 | Stewarding Our Inheritance
Throughout this month, we’ve covered the inheritance of grace, of family and faith community, and LGBTQ experiences in the 21st century. These inheritances aren’t the same, nor are they of equally enduring value.
Stewarding our inheritance necessarily means living in the tension. As we saw in Part 1 of this series, we’re given the ridiculously generous gift of grace from God the Father…yet we receive it as our fragile, fallen selves. In Part 2, we explored the both/and of our communal inheritances. This includes our family and cultural heritage—with their blessings and shortfalls—as well as our inheritance from a spiritual and visible, human Church. In Part 3, we acknowledged that Catholics and the wider LGBTQ community—while diverging in critical ways morally—also share common hopes. We share an “existential” inheritance, so to speak, simply by being human.
Here in Part 4, I’d like to go into some practicals as to how we at Eden Invitation steward our both/and inheritance. But first, a Gospel story.
Welcome to the Both/And
“As [Jesus] was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “…you know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” | Mark 10:17-21
Stewarding what’s good can be “easy,” at least in consideration. Preserve it, nurture it, grow it. We do this with the grace of God, with our personal gifts and talents, our good relationships, and, yes, our material resources!
The “Rich Young Man” has a good inheritance. Let’s remember that few people in the ancient world were “self-made,” the way we consider it today. If you had wealth, you were most likely born into it. The wealth had accumulated across generations, likely through the acquisition of land or resources. Jesus must recognize the goodness of this material inheritance, because his first piece of advice is more general: you know what you must do! Keep the the commandments entrusted to you and your ancestors. Steward that inheritance. The Hebrew people saw wealth as a sign of blessing from God. It was also a cause for responsibility to the poor, the outcast, the stranger, and those deprived of family, such as widows and orphans.
The answer is no different today for us. If we find ourselves in a bind—how do I live? How do I serve? How do I steward my life?—this this the first response we should seek. In other words, “Am I living what I’ve already received?” When it comes to sexuality and gender, here are just a few related teachings we’ve inherited and are called to steward:
God’s eternal existence as love, and our call to participate in that love through the life of grace
The norm of God’s creation is the human person created male or female, a unity of body and soul
The reality of the fall and its enduring impact on the person
Moral imperatives honoring human life (including respect for the body) and sexuality, including…charitable speech, prohibitions against violence, and chastity according to one’s state in life
The sacramentality of marriage
The universal call to holiness and personal vocation
The history of salvation progressing “gradually and in stages,” and our invitation to imitate God’s graduality in our interactions with others
Yet sometimes “maintaining” isn’t quite enough. Sometimes stewarding our inheritance might take us farther than we want to go. Jesus sees and loves the questioner. Because of that, he takes him to the next level. Despite the wealth of his forefathers, the rich young man was missing another inheritance. Jesus challenges him to forsake one inheritance in place of another. In this situation, the clinging to wealth meant that he was—to some degree—neglecting the full possibilities of his spiritual inheritance. Jesus asks him to reconsider.
In some cases, a “yes” to our spiritual inheritance may well lead us to priesthood or religious life, a cross-country move, or a new career. It may lead us to a radical new way of living. It could mean leaving one way of life to choose celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom. It could mean forsaking an inherited culture of scrupulosity and choosing to see yourself as beloved child of the Father. It could mean cutting out “influencer” voices or social media channels because of who you become when you scroll there.
Jesus calls us to both steward what we’ve received and think in radically new ways about what that stewardship could mean. Our Eden Invitation community members live in the dual dynamic of the both/and: both Christianity and LGBTQ experiences. There is no perfect formula for navigating this tension in the world today, particularly in the midst of so many loud and confusing voices. Here at Eden Invitation, we’re not trying to shout a new method from the rooftops. Instead, we encourage you, dear reader, to continually listen to the still, small voice of the Spirit and take one step at a time. Here’s how we try to do that through our values.
Stewarding Our Personal Inheritance: Beloved Unrepeatability
“Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him…we are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us.” | CCC 2280
We are both heirs and stewards of God’s promise. Heirs, because the graces we receive are free gift from our Father. Stewards, because ultimately our lives belong to Him. We accept our identity as imago Dei and the shaping of our unique stories. This means embracing the both/and of God-given realities about the human person, and integrating that into our day-to-day lives. This will include coming to terms with the complexities of our families, faith communities, and other influences on our lives, detailed in previous blogs in this series.
This requires daily stewardship of our whole person—mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically—as a gift from God the Father. Living the both/and can mean avoiding extremes. Catholics have adopted this concept from Aristotelian ethics: virtue is found in the middle.This month provides an example of the balance to be struck. When it comes to LGBTQ experiences, we avoid despair. This may come from a deep shame over an experience we never chose, or from a lack of hope in God’s plan for our virtue. We also avoid the pride that would either disregard Catholic teaching in self-reliance or adopt a Pharisaical attitude towards those “not like us.” Instead, we humbly come before God, obedient to His law, trusting His promises, and receptive to graced possibilities.
It also means coming before God daily in authenticity and surrender. As the first blog noted, the history of our inherited redemption is messy. The daily Christian life is no different. Prayer might feel like Jacob’s story in Genesis 32, when he wrestled with God and had both a blessing and a dislocated hip to show for it. No matter where you’re at, there’s no reason to stop praying every day. There are no excuses that are really worth it. We can’t steward our inheritance well if we’re not engaging with God directly every single day.
Stewarding Our Communal Inheritance: Mutual Belonging
“There is a certain resemblance between the unity of the divine persons and the fraternity that men [and women] are to establish among themselves in truth and love.” | CCC 1878
Inheritance implies a family lineage. We go along this covenantal road together. There are certain dispositions of heart that can make that journey easier in a world full of fallen, striving human beings! Stewarding our call to community means coming out of hiding to be loved and reverencing each person as holy ground. Anyone in the LGBTQ space—faith-based or otherwise—knows how radically unique people are. Under that umbrella, there is a spectrum of sexual desire and varying degrees of gender discordance. There are degrees of comfortability with those experiences and with the language used to describe it. There are both men and women of different ages and states of life. There are radically different backstories, existing challenges, and hopes for the future. Oh, and plenty of big personalities! To live in community, we need to live in the both/and of showing up as ourselves and opening our hearts to one another as unique, unrepeatable persons.
We don’t show up just to sit here! Within Eden Invitation, we’re moving in the same direction. Together we are all responsible for one another’s good. To live well together includes both accountability and forgiveness, both intentional friendship and awareness of eros, both giving and receiving in community. This requires self-knowledge both of your own trigger points or patterns of struggle and your personal gifts and strengths. This stewardship is attentive to who is being left out. It sets relational boundaries. It lives chastity. It calls on to Heaven.
Stewarding Our Missional Inheritance: Joyful Hope
“In God’s plan man and woman have the vocation of ‘subduing the earth’ as stewards of God…God calls man and woman, made in the image of the Creator ‘who loves everything that exists,’ to share in his providence…hence their responsibility for the world God has entrusted to them.” | CCC 373
What’s a lesson we learn from the rich young man? To steward one’s inheritance is to give it away. Bishop Barron calls this “spiritual physics”—God’s gifts grow in the measure they are offered to others. This “other” could be God, in a total surrender of life. This “other” could also include, like the rich young man, the recipients of his generosity. By its nature, an inheritance moves through generations like ripples on the water. We can start that process in our time for the good of others.
Stewarding our missional inheritance means we need to rely on God, not ourselves. It means trusting in God’s providential care for your past, present, and future. This is a temporal both/and/and. It isn’t always easy to be grateful for God’s movement so far, especially in the challenging places where He allowed pain and suffering (and might continue to do so). But we’re trying—we’re trying to hold onto his fidelity with one hand, even as we don’t deny the pain of our life with the other. Somehow we find the middle with “loose hands.” The memory isn’t gone, but we aren’t clenching so tightly that the grace can’t move freely.
Trust can generate gratitude and and celebration of the Holy Spirit’s creativity in your charisms and callings. For some LGBTQ persons, pairing life in the Church with “celebration” doesn’t feel like much of a both/and. Even within the Church, the focus on state of life vocation (i.e. marriage or a committed religious state as discernment’s endgame) can be discouraging to the unattached lay celibate. Yet we’re still called to be the stewards of our “what’s next.” Personal vocation matters. Your personal calling matters. It’s something to be celebrated! Even if you might feel the need, from time to time, to mourn the loss of possibilities the secular space offers. We’re invited both to accept certain boundaries—that famous tree that’s off-limits—and celebrating the Spirit calling us out into the fabulously diverse garden.
Stewarding that missional inheritance requires action! We step into self-gift for our communities, the Church, and the world. I was asked recently why some Catholics might choose to be “out” (i.e. more open or public about their sexuality or gender experiences). It boiled down to this: they have something to give. Because of what I’ve inherited from my Catholic faith, I can see how God has given to me through my same sex desires. Here are a few from my life:
In being attuned to who I’m attracted to and why, I’ve grown in self-knowledge of my desires, my strengths, and the areas where I feel absence.
In surrendering to God, I’ve dealt more tangibly with my longings for the divine than I ever thought possible.
In personal discomfort with women’s stereotypes, I dove more deeply into how God is the perfection of both the “eternal masculine” and “eternal feminine.”
In experiencing being a minority in one small way, I’ve grown in recognizing the marginalization and sufferings of others.
In sharing my experiences with friends and faith communities, it creates space for others to be vulnerable too.
In naming these experiences publicly, it provides just one more example that living at the intersection of faith and LGBTQ experiences is possible. Eden Invitation allows me show up with my whole person in ways I couldn’t before. My story, of course, isn’t a prescription for your life. Publicly sharing some of your vulnerabilities on the internet is not everyone’s calling. Every person needs to discern their gifts individually! Each one of us must do the work of knowing what has been entrusted to us (and who!). Each one of us must prudently sift through our inheritance. What do we receive, cultivate, and retain? What do we, like the rich young man, forsake in order to grow? Where do we break unhealthy cycles in families and communities? Who do we serve?
Stewarding our inheritance takes time. An entire life, really. I have hope. I believe I can increasingly better steward the wild, wonderful life God has given me. I believe Eden Invitation can increasingly better steward the communal space God is growing. I believe we as a Church can increasingly better steward complexity within our own institution and the individuals in our care. And I hope you believe it too.
Questions for Prayer & Discussion
Open your Bible to Mark 10 and prayerfully read the story of the “Rich Young Man.” What sticks out to you? Where do you see yourself in the story? What is God speaking?
Looking at the (seeming extensive, but actually brief) list of Church teachings. Which ones are most reassuring to you? Which are most challenging? When is the last time you talked to God about that? Hint: now is as good a time as any.
When you hear “you’re unique and unrepeatable” and “you’re God’s beloved” - how do you respond? Why?
Which of the “Beloved Unrepeatability” postures (the lines in bold) come easiest to you? Where could you grow?
Where do you experience belonging? Where do you feel “on the outside”? Why?
Which of the “Mutual Belonging” postures (the lines in bold) come easiest to you? Where could you grow?
How do you pass on what you’ve received?
Which of the “Joyful Hope” postures (the lines in bold) come easiest to you? Where could you grow?
This blog made possible by: bottomless Panera beverages, the listening ear of our staff, and the story of Denethor in the Lord of the Rings (though it didn’t make the final edit).