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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.
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A | February 22/23, 2014
PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily draws on all of this week’s readings for inspiration.
When I was in college, I had the opportunity to spend 48 hours as a homeless person on the streets of Washington DC.
Each night on the streets, we would stay with someone who was actually homeless. That was how I met Bo.
Bo was a piece of work, always cracking jokes or laughing about the absurdity of life.
As we sat around the fire that evening, I got up the courage to ask the question that had been on my mind all night: “Should I give money to the homeless? How do I know that they won’t use it on alcohol or drugs?”
As I think back on that question, I am amazed by my own arrogance. Here I am speaking to a man who has been living on the streets for years. Who has experienced hunger, cold, rejection, betrayal, abandonment. And I have the audacity to ask whether or not he deserves my dollar as a homeless man. Whether he is worth the investment of my time and my treasure.
But Bo just laughed and said, “Don’t block your blessings kid. Look, you will never know how that homeless person will use that money. You will never know what kind of person he or she truly is.
But none of that matters.
What matters is that you are choosing to see another. To love another.
And that tells me what kind of person you are.”
I was left speechless — not an easy feat, mind you.
And that’s when I noticed his leg was bent awkwardly. I asked him about it and learned that his leg was broken, had been for months. But no hospital would take him, so he just made the best of it.
I just couldn’t understand.
Who was this man?
Who lived without anger, without bitterness, without despair?
Who saw me as I was, a child of God who was desperately afraid?
Afraid of looking like a fool. Of making a mistake. Of being wrong.
Afraid of being met with rejection or hostility.
Afraid of being inadequate in the face of so much evil and suffering.
Who was this man who chose to love me anyway?
He was the voice of wisdom.
He was the face of Christ.
Our readings for today speak of loving our neighbor, loving our enemy. Words that we have heard since childhood.
But Bo made me realize that hearing this call and acting on it are two very different things.
Bo helped me to understand that before we can ever truly love another, we need to realize that we are already deeply loved by God.
We are already loved,
even when others tell us we are unlovable because of the choices we have made or the circumstances we find ourselves in.
We are already loved,
even when others fail to do so. When they hurt us, abuse us, neglect us, abandon us.
And once we allow ourselves to live in the freedom that comes with knowing that we are loved,
then we are able to truly love each person we encounter.
For we will no longer need approval or gratitude or a reward.
We will no longer worry about being rebuffed or taken for granted or being ignored.
We are no longer blocking our blessings.
So, in the spirit of Bo, I urge you, my friends, to love.
When your parents don’t understand you. When they judge your appearance, your relationships, and your life choices. Love anyway.
When your children scream at you and slam the door. When they fail to call or forget your birthday. Love anyway.
When your heart is breaking as you watch the casket wheeled out of the Church. Love anyway.
When your ex asks for the children for an extra weekend or begins dating someone new. Love anyway.
When your friend gossips about you behind your back and now is tearfully asking for your forgiveness. Love anyway.
When the homeless man asks for money for food and then rejects the sandwich you give him. Love anyway.
For then we may just be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect. May God be Praised.
For your reflection, as you prepare for this week’s celebration of the Eucharist:
- Set aside some time this week to sit quietly and ask God to deepen your awareness of how deeply loved you are.
- During Mass this week — as the gifts are being brought up to the altar, as you walk in the line to receive communion — ask the Holy Spirit to help you call to mind, to picture in your head, at least one person who you are being called to love anyway.
- As you go forth from Mass, ask for the Spirit’s guidance in helping you put into the action Christ’s words to love our enemies.
Image courtesy of http://www.cruzblanca.org/hermanoleon/