HOMILY: Same Team

Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World prior to a given Sunday. To see the archive of all his posts, just click here: Salesian Sermons.

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A | January 25/26, 2014

This homily was written for St. Cecilia’s, a medium-sized suburban parish in Fort Myers, Florida. Fr. Brian will be a guest celebrant preaching an Oblate appeal.

PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on the first and second readings.

I would like to begin by sharing a story of an unathletic young man who desperately wanted to be chosen for the team.

The bell had rung and all of the students went pouring out into the schoolyard ready for another game of soccer. The young man stood hesitantly by the side of the field, waiting for the words that he was sure would come. All too soon, he heard the familiar voice of the popular eighth grader ring out over the school yard.

Let’s line up and pick teams. I’ll be captain.

The young man stood nervously as the first picks were chosen. Surely, he deserved a spot, he whispered to himself. I have to be better than some of these guys.

His optimism began to fade as one by one, the kids around him were picked until he was the last person standing in line. Pleadingly, the young man stared at the captain.

“Fine,” the captain exhaled. “I’ll take Fr. Zumbrum.”

And it is with that ringing endorsement that I left the line and joined my students in their daily game of soccer at lunch.

Now, it is hard to believe, but I recovered from that horrific slight from a group of 10 year-olds. But I couldn’t help thinking about it as I read the second reading this weekend.

Because, if we are honest with ourselves, we all want to be chosen by the winning team.

Whether it is the popular clique in high school or the successful project team at work. Whether it is the varsity sports team that brought home the trophy or the fundraising board that brought in the most money. Whether it is being viewed as one of the family by our in-laws or whether it is being asked out by the popular guy in class.

We all want to belong.

I believe that the men and women in the community in Corinth were not bad people. I believe they just wanted to belong to the “right” group.

They wanted to be chosen. They wanted to be first pick. They wanted to be special.

But they got caught in a false dichotomy. That if some are chosen, then others must not be. If some are first, then others must be last. If some are special, then others must not be.

Now Paul, who is never shy about his vision of Church, is horrified by the divisions that these attitudes have caused. Because for Paul, there is only one team. The Body of Christ. And we all belong by virtue of our baptism.

Each one of us was chosen. All of us were chosen. We were all God’s 1st choice.

Our race or class, our gender or sexuality, our politics or our achievements. They are part of us. But they do not define us.

What defines us is what we have in common . . . our one faith, our one baptism, our one Lord, our one commission to love one another as I have loved you.

Paul realized the power that this unity could bring.

He envisioned a world like the one described in our 1st reading.

 A world in which the body of Christ would be a light for all people, shining in the darkness of their doubt, their pain, their fear.

 A world in which the body of Christ would be an instrument of joy that would lift up all those drowning in the depths of anxiety, sorrow and despair.

 A world in which the body of Christ would smash all the shackles that weigh people down . . .the burdens of expectations, the weight of injustice, the shame of failure, the stigma of otherness.

 A world in which all would be called to bring their gifts to the table. A world in which all would find their place at the table.

 Now, I know what some of you may be thinking. That’s a nice ideal kid, but have you noticed the state of the Church today? We’re divided into literally thousands of denominations where ideological lines are drawn and sides chosen. We have leaders who have betrayed us, demographics that are betraying us and a world opposed to us. Where is your ideal in the face of so much darkness?

What defines us is what we have in common . . . our one faith, our one baptism, our one Lord, our one commission to love one another as I have loved you.

My answer is simple. I see it before me. I see it in your Church community. For you have made the world a brighter place. You have made the world a more joyful place. You have lightened the loads of many. And you have shared your gifts as you are able.

I should know, for I have benefited from your gifts. Through your generosity to the Oblate appeal each year, you have helped pay for my education and you now allow me to minister to inner city youth each day who would not be able to receive a quality Catholic education without you. If you doubt the difference you make, let me be a living witness to this truth. I could not live this life without you. We, the Oblates, could not live this life without you.

Thank you my friends for helping to bring Paul’s vision into reality.

Thank you for being Church.

Let us go forth this day to continue the work to which we are called.

May God be Praised.

POSTSCRIPT: If anyone out there is interested in making a donation to the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales (Wilmington-Philadelphia Province), check out their website here and look for the “Make a Donation” button in the bottom left corner. Leaven in the World is in no way connected to the Oblates, I’m just a fan of their work and always happy to support a good cause!

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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