Today, through one person’s encounter with theologian Ada María Isasi-Díaz, we invite you to reflect on the individual and communal dimensions of our vocations given to us in baptism. In Catholic social teaching we recognize God’s presence with us, and in turn our presence with each other, and through contemplation and reflection, we explore the call to recognize our gifts and one another’s.
The Holy One said to me,
“You are my servant Israel,
in whom I will be glorified.”
Thus says YHWH,
who formed me in the womb to be YHWH’s Servant
who destined me to bring back the children of Jacob,
and gather again the people of Israel;
“It is not enough for you to do my bidding,
to restore the tribes of Leah, Rachel, and Jacob
and bring back the survivors of Israel.
I will make you the light of the nations,
so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
Response: Here I am, Adonai, I come to do Your will.
I waited and waited for You, Adonai,
Now at last You have stooped to me / and heard my cry for help.
R: Here I am, Adonai, I come to do Your will.
You, who wanted no sacrifice or oblation, I opened my ears,
You asked no burnt offering or sacrifice for sins;
Then I said, “Here I am! I am coming!”
R: Here I am, Adonai, I come to do Your will.
In the scroll of the book am I not commanded / to obey Your will?
My God,I have always loved Your Law / from the depths of my being.
R: Here I am, Adonai, I come to do Your will.
I have always proclaimed the righteousness / of Our God in the great assembly;
Nor do I mean to stop proclaiming, / as You know well.
R: Here I am, Adonai, I come to do Your will.
From Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our colleague:
To the church of God in Corinth, together with all the holy ones throughout Achaia:
Grace and peace from our Loving God and our Savior Jesus Christ.
Blessed be Abba God, the God of our Savior, Jesus Christ, the Source of all mercies and the
God of all consoling.
The next day, catching sight of Jesus approaching, John exclaimed,
“Look, there’s God’s sacrificial lamb, who takes away the world’s sin!
This is the one I was talking about when I said,
‘The one who comes after me ranks ahead of me,
for this One existed before I did.’
I did not recognize him, but it was so that he would be revealed to Israel
that I came baptizing with water.”
John also gave this testimony:
“I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove,
and the Spirit came to rest on him.
I didn’t recognize him, but the One who sent me to baptize with water told me,
‘When you see the Spirit descend and rest on someone,
that is the One who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
Now I have seen for myself and have testified
that this is the Only Begotten of God.”
The Inclusive Lectionary © 2022 FutureChurch. All rights reserved.
The inclusive language psalms:
Leach, Maureen, O.S.F. and Schreck, Nancy, O.S.F., Psalms Anew: A Non-sexist Edition
(Dubuque, IA: The Sisters of St. Francis, 1984).
Used with permission.
As we journey with and through our faith, our collective and individual understandings and embodiments of Catholicism evolve and change over time. We are starting to open up spaces where theologizing, sermonizing, and reflecting are callings that we can all embrace as they are not limited to a select, elite few. Ada María Isasi-Díaz, mother of Mujerista Theology / Latin American Feminist Theology, advocated in her work that lived experience of trial and triumph is a place of sacred revelation just as important as scripture and the work of “traditional” religious scholars. She challenged the academy, the church, and other hierarchical institutions by recognizing, affirming, and lifting that we are all scholars in our own right and that divine inspiration is not limited or bound by credentials or ordination. Each of us and all of us can be microphones for God; the cacophony that results can be confusing and overwhelming, but the spirit dwells in that messiness to reveal and re-reveal that God journeys with us now and always. With this introductory context and in Ada María Isasi-Díaz’s honor and spirit, I write and share this piece.
In reflecting over the readings for this Sunday, questions around vocation and baptism kept coming to my mind and heart. What does baptism mean today? What does vocation mean today? How are vocation and baptism linked? How do we live into our baptismal vocation intentionally, sacramentally, intersectionality—and with fabulous fierceness? As I read and reread the words of Isaiah, the Psalmist, Paul, and John, I began to realize and internalize the individual and communal aspects of vocation and baptism. Our vocations, much like our lives, are interconnected with others’, as we do not live in silos or isolation. Our vocations may be unique to us, but we live into it and live it out in communion with others.
Isaiah and the Psalmist spark off this multifaceted discernment by reminding us that being beholden and beloved by God calls us to shine our lights to shatter darkness within ourselves, around us, and throughout society. How are we shining? Is our light being blocked somehow? Are we blocking and shading our own light? Are we preventing others from shining and sharing? Our baptismal vocational call, individually and collectively, is the mutual kindling and rekindling of our light and each other’s light.
Paul continues this thread of individual and communal vocation in his exchange with the community at Corinth. The greeting shared in the reading raises the question: What does it mean to be community, church, and Catholic amidst all that is happening in our lives and in the world? There has been and continues to be debate over who can receive sacraments, and arguments over who can and can’t be ordained. We live with increasing violence towards people of color, ongoing stigmas against queer and trans people, attacks on reproductive and civil freedoms, and so much more. The greeting in Paul’s letter is a reminder that we are not alone, while also challenging us today to claim, reclaim, and proclaim the roots of our faith, and ultimately, the roots of what grounds us as a communal church. How are we beholding, embracing, experiencing, loving the presence of God in ourselves and in each other?
These questions bring us to John’s narrative involving John the Baptist and Jesus. Our baptismal vocation individually and communally is twofold: We are called to be John-like affirmations of our vocations to prophetic justice, and we are called to widen the circle of the church and of Catholicism by humbly-yet-fiercely celebrating how God’s presence, voice, and spirit are made real in us and through us and through each other. Ada María Isasi-Díaz calls for both the certainty that her and other Hispanic women’s experiences hold the revelation of God, and that the moral decisions that they, especially those who were poor had to make every day meant that they had something special to offer the Church to make it more universal. Without them the Church does not have the fullness of God’s people.
I close my queries with a tweaked version of Ignatius of Loyola’s challenge to the early Jesuits that is still very much relevant today: Go and set all afire as individuals and as community…shine, blaze, kindle, rekindle boldly and unapologetically now and always. ¡Amen, que así sea!
To learn more of Dr. Ada Maria Isasi-Díaz’s work:
For as long as I can remember, the discussion on vocation was very much a binary–either ordination/religious life OR marriage. However, it is time that we disrupt this binary as it is not a reflection of the multivocality within God’s calling for us as individuals and a community of faith. Isasi-Díaz embodied this multivocality by being a woman, Latina, professor, scholar, woman religious, activist, writer, aunt, mentor, and so much more; all of her identities intersecting and enriching each other. Sharing our light can take on many forms and how we live into our vocation is anything but binary. Our baptism may grace us with an individual calling but that vocation is embodied and expressed through the communion we share with others. We are not alone, as God is with us; and we are not alone, as we are in solidarity with each other.
In the Vision Vocation Network’s online “Catholic Social Teaching: A Guide,” writer Joel Schorn has this to say about some of the dimensions of Catholic social teaching:
The centerpiece of society is the family; family stability must always be protected and never undermined. By association with others—in families and in other social institutions that foster growth, protect dignity, and promote the common good—human persons achieve their fulfillment. The human person is both sacred and social. We realize our dignity and rights in relationship with others, in community.
Today, in an age of global interdependence, the principle of the common good points to the need for international structures that can promote the just development of the human family across regional and national lines. What constitutes the common good is always going to be a matter for debate, but a proper communitarian concern is the antidote to unbridled individualism, which, like unrestrained selfishness in personal relations, can destroy balance, harmony, and peace within and among groups, neighborhoods, regions, and nations.
There is much truth in Schorn’s reflection on the communal aspects of Catholic social teaching. As it relates to the readings, my reflection, and to Ada María’s witness, there is much resonance, transformation, and wholeness with affirming that the smallest unit of self is communal, be it in our families, friends, chosen families, church communities, and/or as Isasi-Díaz would often reflect, the barrio (neighborhood). For both Schorn and Isasi-Díaz, we come to embrace ourselves when we are in conjunto with others who share our identities, intersectionalities, passions, and other emotional connections of solidarity. As with our vocational calls, family is diverse, vast, and complex which reflects how we are all created in the diverse, relational image of God. As Schorn states, we are able to affirm and celebrate our dignity and sanctity through our relationships, whether that be relationship with the sacred, or our relationships with each other (I would even add the relationship we have with ourselves and the embracing of us by us).
Catholicism is a communal experience of faith, helping us recognize that we do not journey alone and that there are others whose journeys enrich, challenge, inspire, and hold us (As we also enrich, challenge, inspire, and hold them).
Take some time today to reflect on and express appreciation for your communion of saints and cloud of witnesses. Who are the Saints, saints, holy heroes/sheroes/theyroes, ancestors, transcestors, family, and others who inspire you and have helped ground your vocation? Whose memories spark you into action and whose legacies are you continuing to live into and to live out? Consider creating a litany as a way of honoring these individuals and inviting them to be present (An example is Kittredge Cherry’s Queer Litany). Think of a creative written/visual way to place their names on a home altar, to carry with you, to post in a visible place in your workspace, and other way that serves as a reminder that you are not alone as there is a literal and figurative community who affirms you, holds you, and cheers for you. Perhaps consider sending the individuals who are still living a thank you note to affirm and celebrate their impact on your life (It may be the pick me up or booster these individuals need).
Reflect on the ways God has connected you to others to affirm their journeys of faith. Can you think of folks you have helped shine? How are you supporting others to live into their vocations and claim, reclaim, and proclaim their sanctity?
As I have shared throughout this reflection, Ada María Isasi-Díaz has been and continues to be a source of inspiration and of grounding in my faith journey. When I first met her during my MDiv studies, she was the first fellow Cuban in diaspora who claimed her voice, her faith, and her vocation on her own terms. Her witness introduced me to a side of Catholicism that I didn’t know existed and sparked a born-again Catholic experience. Whether it be her writing or hearing her stories of how her congregation in New York City continued to be church on the sidewalks when the diocese locked the doors of the building, her testimonio and solidaridad are prophetic reminders of our calling to be a church en conjunto. This insistence that the Church is for and of the people, even when authority takes away the building, is the living testimony of Mujerista theology ¡Ada María, presente! Others in my communion of witnesses are Marcella Althaus Reid, Pauli Murray, Gloria Anzaldua, John McNeil, my mother Rebeca del Cristo, and my beloved Jason Hernandez.
When I first came out and began the journey of reconciling my faith with my gender and sexuality, I learned and became involved with an organization called Soulforce. Soulforce is a force and source of transformation, not only here in the United States, but around the world as it helps us to deconstruct the many ways supremacies manifest themselves, and creates spaces of possibility for queer and trans people to embrace, embody, and express their sacred wholeness. At a point in my life (and a point in the lives of many queer and trans people) where I doubted that I was deserving of divine love and celebration, Soulforce came into my life to show me how to claim, reclaim, and proclaim my life as being equally blessed. Soulforce’s commitment of actively countering religious oppression and its ties to other forms of systemic oppression, sparked in me a remembering and re-membering of my voice that is just as prophetic as those who are ordained, credentialed, or have other titles.
“Draw the Circle Wide” by Mark Miller, performed by the Greater New Haven Community Chorus.
Visual Art: “Heretic in Good Company” by unknown
There will be times that our vocation’s prophetic nature is controversial and not fully embraced by others as it is seen as a threat to those in power. May we remember that we are in the good company of heretics who are now celebrated as saints.
On a black background white letters read across the top: “heretic in good company.” Underneath in white letters are names listed. Drawn in white in the middle of the names is an image of heretics being burned with a figure holding a sheaf of arrows next to it. The names listed are: St Joan of Arc; Galileo; Johannes Kepler; Meister Eckhardt; Copernicus; Tertullian; Martin Luther; Menno Simons; Matthew Fox; Origen; St Zephyrinus; the Beguines; John McNeil; Hans Kung; the Franciscans; Ivone Gebara; Hippolytus; Peter Waldo; Arnold of Brescia; Jesus of Nazareth; Tissa Balasuriya of Sri Lanka; Henry of Lausanne; Clementuis and Everard; Jovinian; Jan Hus; Peter Abelard; Gerard Segarelli; Pierre Thilhard de Chardin; Patrick Hamilton; IHM Sisters of Los Angeles; Charles Curran; Hoachim of Fiore; Leonardo Boff; John Courtney Murray; Theodoret; Ebion; Theodore of Mopsuestia; Lukas of Prague; Fratres Unitores; John Scotus Erigena; Giraude de Lavaur; Marguerite Porete; Giordano Bruno; Bill Callahan; the Vatican 24; Call to Action of Nebraska.