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
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time | August 2/3, 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 had one of those days when you are just running on empty? You find yourself going, “I can’t do this anymore.”
Earlier this weekend, I had one of those moments.
It was in the middle of our end-of-summer program BBQ. I had just finished four weeks of programming with our students that had me putting in 12+ hour days. And I knew that I had an entire weekend ahead of me in which I needed to write 300 pages for our reaccredidation process.
So when I was told that a family wanted to speak to me about an altercation between two students, I was done.
I truly felt that I had nothing more to give.
As I sat down with the readings for this week, I couldn’t help but draw connections between my own experience and the experience of Jesus at the beginning of the Gospel.
What was going through his mind as he got into that boat?
Was he too struggling with that sense of exhaustion that comes when all of our hard work does not seem to make a difference? When we look ahead of us and see a never-ending quest that will surely break us in the end. When we begin to question what we’re doing, why are here.
Think about it. Over the course of Matthew’s gospel, we have seen Jesus preaching, healing, teaching. And yet his message keeps getting misunderstood. His closest friends are somewhat clueless. His enemies grow in number by the day. And now, his dearest friend, his cousin has been murdered for doing the same thing that Jesus is doing.
Alone in the boat, with only his thoughts for company, I would be troubled if Jesus didn’t have some questions. I would be concerned if he was not heart-broken and fatigued.
See, we hear the words of the second reading today that proclaims that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
But I don’t know if we always believe that.
Too often, especially in those darker moments, when things seem hopeless, when we seem hopeless, we can feel utterly alone. Separated from everyone. Adrift in a boat with no one to comfort us, no one to encourage us.
The mother struggling with post-partum depression who is barraged with a daily litany of “You should be happy. What a beautiful child you have”
The addict who has relapsed for the umpteenth time.
The graduate student preparing for her comps, convinced that she will never pass them.
The caretaker watching his wife slip away under the curse of dementia. Angry at himself for the frustration that wells up inside him at her for her own forgetfulness.
The single mom working double shifts who still never seems to have enough to pay all of the bills. Whose child is constantly asking why he doesn’t have the same things as his friends at school.
The twenty-something who doesn’t know what’s supposed to come next in life. Who feels rudderless and misunderstood.
The doctor whose patient died because of her own mistakes. Mistakes fueled by an insane schedule that she had no control over. Mistakes she keeps hidden for fear of litigation.
The father haunted by the memories of the child that was lost in a miscarriage. Trying to be strong for his wife as they struggle to conceive.
Yes, we all have the moments in the boat.
But at some point, the boat returns to shore. And we are faced with a choice. Jesus was faced with a choice.
He saw the crowds clamoring for more, even as he knew how drained he was.
And he had to decide what to do.
We see our children, our deadlines, our friends in need of a helping hand. We see the strangers in our midst struggling to put food on the table or a roof over their head. We have relatives grieving, a spouse who is craving our presence, and a co-worker who just lost her job.
And we too must decide what to do.
Let us look to the example of our brother, my friends
He chose to allow God to work through him. He chose to be filled with the Spirit who would nourish him and feed him, even as he went forth to feed others. He chose to give of himself, trusting that God would provide the difference. He may have had no-thing more to give, but he could still give himself.
And in that act of total surrender, miracles happen.
Crowds are fed. Children are raised. Projects are accomplished. Homes are built. Exams are passed. Addictions are held at bay. Healing occurs. Forgiveness is granted. Goodbyes are said. Directions are found. Dreams are fulfilled.
And a child will feel at home in his new school because he now knows that his assistant principal is there for him.
Isn’t it amazing what God can do?
May God be Praised.