The recent rash of suicides among young gay youths cannot fail to move the Christian heart, or indeed any heart capable of compassion. While any suicide is a terrible tragedy, the suicide of a young person who feels that his or her life will never change, and who moves towards despair as a result of constant bullying and harassment, is especially poignant.
Many of the gays and lesbians, young and old, who have spoken about this in the last few days have pointed to how wounded they have felt by their churches and by other religious organizations. The Christian community must find a way to reach out more compassionately to gay and lesbian youths, help them feel welcome and valued, and help them know that they are beloved by God -- and by us. We must lead, as we do with any group, and as Jesus did, first with welcome, not condemnation. For my part, here is a prayer I composed for all who feel excluded, rejected, marginalized, shamed or made fun of, in any way or in any place, religious or otherwise:
"A Prayer When I Feel Hated"
Loving God, you made me who I am.
I praise you and I love you, for I am wonderfully made,
in your own image.
But when people make fun of me,
I feel hurt and embarrassed and even ashamed.
So please God, help me remember my own goodness,
which lies in you.
Help me remember my dignity,
which you gave me when I was conceived.
Help me remember that I can live a life of love.
Because you created my heart.
Be with me when people make fun of me,
and help me to respond how you would want me to,
in a love that respects other, but also respects me.
Help me find friends who love me for who I am.
Help me, most of all, to be a loving person.
And God, help me remember that Jesus loves me.
For he was seen as an outcast, too.
He was misunderstood, too.
He was beaten and spat upon.
Jesus understands me, and loves me with a special love,
because of the way you made me.
And when I am feeling lonely,
help me remember that Jesus welcomed everyone as a friend.
Jesus reminded everyone that God loved them.
And Jesus encouraged everyone to embrace their dignity,
even when others were blind to that dignity.
Jesus loved everyone with the love that you gave him.
And he loves me, too.
One more thing, God:
Help me remember that nothing is impossible with you,
that you have a way of making things better,
that you can find a way of love for me,
even if I can't see it right now.
Help me remember all these things in the heart you created,
loving God. Amen.
Follow Rev. James Martin, S.J. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JamesMartinSJ