HOMILY: On Tadpoles & Joy

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 hereSalesian Sermons

2nd Sunday of Easter/Divine Mercy Sunday, Year A | April 26/27, 2014

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

The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord . . .

I invite you to take a moment and think about those people in your life who just radiate joy.  Who brighten a room or a day with their very presence.

I know for me, when I think of people in my own life, I can’t help but think of Fr. Tom.

I first met Tom when I was working as a hospital chaplain intern down in Florida.  Tom happened to serve in the chaplaincy department with me.  We spent many long days walking with patients and families as they dealt with the reality of sickness, pain, and death.

I remember leaving that hospital many days feeling completely burned out.  I would get into my car and just cry.

But then I would see Tom, who just exuded this peace, this joy that I just could not understand.  It was perplexing to me.  How could he see the same things I did and yet still be smiling?  How could he embrace the suffering of another without breaking down himself?

One evening, we were walking down the driveway and I watched as Tom stopped to smile at a foul-smelling pool of water that had collected at the end of the driveway.  I remember looking at Tom and saying, I’m sure you’ll be glad when this dries up.

His smile seemed to grow.  He looked and me and said, “Look closer, Brian.”  I peered into the pool and saw a whole collection of tadpoles.  There were dozens of them, darting in and out of the algae.  There was literally, an entire ecosystem that had somehow formed in our driveway.  I looked up at Tom, who now had a glint in his eye.  He laughed and said.  I don’t expect this puddle to dry up anytime soon.  You see, I sneak out here each night and fill it with the hose.  I want to make sure these tadpoles have a great future ahead of them.  He chuckled and I couldn’t help but laugh with him.

I have never forgotten that moment with Fr. Tom.  Because it was in that moment that I began to understand Tom’s joy.

It was not some passing feeling, that shifted with the wind.

It was not some naïve optimism that denied reality.

It was a conscious choice to see the world differently.  To live differently.  And in so doing, he helped make the world a more joyful place.

It is this choice that is at the heart of our Christian faith.

To embrace the hope that lies in the Resurrection and allow it to transform how we see the world, how we live in this world.

To live with joy, even as we carry our cross.

And yet, it is a choice that is not necessarily easy to make.

Look at the Gospel.

Here are the disciples, overjoyed to be in the presence of Christ.  And yet, just one week later, they are back in the locked room.

Their joy had been hidden away.  Hidden behind the locked doors of their fears, their anxieties

And, if we are honest with ourselves, it is in these disciples that we can see ourselves.  Every time we allow our own fears and anxieties to bury our joy.

It can be our fear of the future that leaves us second guessing the path we are supposed to take

It can be our anxiety over our finances, how we are going to make ends meet, plan for retirement and get our kids through college.

It can be our fear of failure.  Of looking like a fool.  Of disappointing those we love.

It can be our stress, our worry that leaves us constantly fretting over every possible storm cloud, whether real or imagined.

It can be our busyness that prevents us from living life because we are so focused on merely surviving it.

It can be our fear of suffering.  Our desire to avoid the cross.  Our fervent efforts to escape pain, to escape death.

No matter what our particular fears or anxieties are, they become our locked rooms.  The locked rooms into which Christ appears.  Gifting us with His peace.  And giving us a command . . . Rejoice.

Be my joy in this world.

Whether you are celebrating the birth of a child or burying a loved one.  Rejoice.

Whether you are preparing for your big conference call or gently weeding your freshly planted garden.  Rejoice.

Whether you are studying for your final exam or waiting for your latest blood work.  Rejoice.

Whether you watching the sunrise or the summer storm.  Rejoice.

And in so doing, we too may attain the object of our faith.  The salvation of our souls and the recreation of this world.

Now that is something to smile about.

May God be Praised!

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