HOMILY: Gifted to Set the World Ablaze

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

Pentecost Sunday, Mass during the Day | June 7/8, 2014

PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily picks up themes from the feast of Pentecost, with a focus on the second reading.

When I first moved to Michigan with the Oblates, I quickly met a whole bunch of guys who had a diverse array of gifts.

Some were natural leaders: presidents, principals, pastors.

Others were more charismatic: excellent preachers, retreat leaders, teachers.

But the one who left the lasting impression was Br. Jim Rago.

He was living in the community residence attached to one of our local high schools.  He was fully retired and dealing with the numerous health aliments that come with aging.  He was soft-spoken and preferred to stay in the background and out of the spotlight.

By all outward indicators, he lacked many of the gifts that we are often taught to value.

But he had gifts that were far more precious.

He had the gift of time and the gift of a servant’s heart.

Which is why everyday he went to the cafeteria and would take the trays from the students when they finished eating.

Such a simple, almost insignificant gesture.

And yet, by the end of the year, he had become a beloved fixture in the school, treasured by students, teachers and Oblates alike.

There is a great story that is told of a freshman who was poking fun at Br. Jim as he walked past carrying some trays.  A senior suddenly stood up and walked toward the table.  He stared the freshman straight in the eyes and stated loud and clear.  You can mess with anyone in this school, but if you mess with Brother, you mess with me.

Without realizing it, Br. Rago taught each of those students the lesson of today’s readings: though many parts, we are all one body.

Today we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost.  The birthday of the Church.

But often this can remain an abstract concept — as if the Church were something separate or apart from us, its members.

As if the Spirit only comes to certain people.  To priests and apostles, sisters and saints.  As if Pentecost was a once and done moment, instead of an ongoing process.

The reality is, my friends, today is our feast day.  Today we celebrate each other and the gifts that each of us have been given by the Spirit.

For truly, each one of us has been given gifts.

Look at the infants in our midst . . . they remind us of the truth that we all need one another.  That we are entirely dependent on others and on our God.  They offer us the gift of their own vulnerability.

Look at the children in our midst . . . listen to their laughs, watch their joy as they explore this world that we too often take for granted.  They offer us the gift of their own innocence, their wonder

Look at our teenagers, our young adults. . . listen to their hopes and dreams for the future, ponder their questions, wrestle with their doubts.  For faith and the Church are not something they take for granted.  In the crucible of their skepticism and their idealism, their disagreements and their convictions, they are bringing to birth the Church that they will one day lead.  They offer to us the gift of their potential, of what the world and Church can be.

Look around at the adults in this room.  Their gifts are as diverse as they are.  The gift of parenthood, that calls one to give of themselves for the sake of another.  The gift of a career that makes this world a better place . . . whether by saving lives in an operating room, ensuring someone’s retirement in an insurance company, or by brightening someone’s day as they approach the customer service desk.  The gift of patience as one deals with parents who are aging or the anxiety of searching for a new job. The gift of forgiveness that one offers to friends who have gossiped or the spouse who walked away.

Look at those who are elderly or ill . . . watch as they accept the limitations of their human body.  Let them teach us about the gift of their courage as they face the final journey into the unknown. They offer us the gift of detachment, of perspective on what is truly important.  They are living reminders that we are defined by who we are, not what we do.

We are God’s chosen people my friends.  Each of us is gifted.  Each of us is special.  Each of us is loved.  Each of us is irreplaceable.

Which means each of us is also called to discover our gifts, to use our gifts.  To follow the example of the early disciples and go forth into the world proclaiming the Good News.

The Good News of the Easter Season.

That Christ is risen.  That death, sin, suffering, sorrow, and darkness do not have the final word.  That we are not alone in our journey.  That we are loved, unconditionally.

We will each speak in our own language.  We will each use our own gifts to do so.  But if we are faithful to our calling, if we are true to who we are and whose we are, then truly this world will be set ablaze with the light and love of our God.

Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.

May God be Praised.

Image courtesy of http://www.cruzblanca.org/hermanoleon/

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