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 of Easter, Year A | May 3/4, 2014
PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on the Gospel reading.
Have you ever been so caught up in your own journey, your own thoughts that you miss what is right in front of you?
It was May of my first year teaching and I was nearing the finish line. It had been quite a year to say the least.
See, I had been given a particularly challenging set of 150 high school junior boys and tasked with teaching them morality. By the time we were through, close to 40 of my students would be suspended and five expelled. I broke up three fights, endured a broken window, several broken desks, spitballs, screaming matches, personal insults, and a complete lack of motivation for anything remotely related to my class. As one substitute teacher informed me, they were the worst students he had ever taught in his 40 years of teaching. And in fairness, they earned this dubious distinction from him after spending their time in Eucharist adoration making animal calls to one another.
But somehow through it all, I had persevered. The chaos had become more manageable, and there were even classes in which I was confident that a few of them had learned something.
So I approached my end of the year evaluation brimming with confidence. Finally, I would be recognized for all of achievements.
So imagine my dismay when it didn’t happen. The evaluator had the nerve to point out the obvious . . . I struggled with classroom management and that my lesson that day wasn’t the most riveting of my career.
I was crushed. And as we are prone to do, I began to blow it way out of proportion. I began to question whether or not I was meant to be a teacher. I began to wonder if I had failed.
I went to my classes that Monday, distracted and downcast. I handed out my evaluations and sat there silently, watching as my students filled them out. They were taking longer than expected, but I was too preoccupied to give it much thought. As the bell rang, the students turned them in.
I sat down during my next free period and began to read them. And suddenly my eyes were opened.
Page after page I was told about the impact that I had made in their lives. How I was their favorite teacher. How I had believed in them when no one else had.
I suddenly saw the truth of what I had accomplished that year, the impact I had made. It just took Christ at work in my students to explain it to me.
And to think, I had almost missed him.
Like the disciples, I had almost missed Christ because I was so caught up in my own life, my own worries, my own troubles, my own ego.
Each and every day, Christ is reaching out to us . . .
Through that favorite Scripture passage that someone posts on Facebook
Through the comfort that comes from receiving communion as the melodies of our favorite hymn envelop us.
Through the little child who embraces us and whispers I love you.
Through our elderly grandfather who smiles from his hospital bed, grasps our hand, and tells us it will be ok.
Through the co-worker who covers our shift, the friend who drops off the freshly made meal, the sibling who calls just because, the mother who tells us exactly what we need to hear.
But we can still miss him, even when his presence seems so obvious to others. Look at the disciples. Here is Jesus with them. Opening up the Scriptures. Walking beside them. Breaking bread with them. And they still miss him.
Here we are in our own Emmaus story. Here we are once again as Christ breaks open the Scripture for us. Walks with us in those who surround us. Breaks bread with us.
And yet, we too can still miss him.
But when our eyes are opened, when we do see. It changes everything.
And suddenly, like the disciples we realize that we have to go back. To share the Good News. To be Christ to those who are with us on the journey.
Something that I had too often downplayed in my concerns over being a good teacher. I had forgotten that my true purpose was to be Christ to them. It was a lesson that Anthony reminded me of when he wrote:
Mr. Zumbrum, over the past year I had started to doubt God. Nothing in my life was going right. But you brought this faith back to me. I still struggle a little with God, but you definitely strengthened it. Thanks.
I now realized how blind I had been. I thought my students needed a perfect teacher with quiet classrooms and flawless lesson plans. But what they really needed was someone who believed in them, championed them, and loved them no matter what. They needed me that year to reveal Christ’s love to them.
See, Christ does not work through perfect people. He works through us, as imperfect as we may be, as messy as our lives may be.
Just as my students were Christ to me when I needed him, I needed to be Christ to them and to the many students that would come in the future.
This is our call my friends, to be Christ to one another. To become what we receive.
To reveal Christ to the cashier who has had a long shift
To our brother who just wants to play with us.
To our daughter who just wants one more story
To our friend who needs that hug
To the stranger in the pew who isn’t quite sure if he belongs
Let’s answer the call, my friends. Let us see Christ. Let us be Christ to one another.
May God be Praised.
Image courtesy of http://www.cruzblanca.org/hermanoleon/