HOMILY: A Place for Everyone at the Table

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

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time | August 16/17, 2014

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

Have you ever felt on the outside looking in?

An interesting question, especially this time of year.  For Back to School season is right around the corner.  And any teacher or student will tell you, there are always those kids who don’t exactly fit in.

The kid who is socially awkward and finds himself eating alone at lunch.

The kid that everyone rolls their eyes at or snickers when she goes to answer a question.

The kid that walks to the beat of his own drum and endures the ridicule that comes with it.

Sound familiar?

Well in case you’ve never met someone excluded from the popular club, let me introduce myself.  See, I was that kid.

This may surprise you, but I was not exactly the poster child for athleticism.  I was much more interested in the latest sci-fi movie or reading history books for fun.  And then of course, I had my lovable Dumbo ears and a total lack of shoulders.

Not exactly popular kid material.

But in grade school that was all okay.  I was allowed to be me.  So imagine my shock when I got to high school and everything changed.

I wasn’t smart, I was a nerd

I wasn’t a great actor, I was a terrible athlete.

I wasn’t cool, I was an outcast.

I was on the outside looking in.

Now, my experience may have happened freshman year in high school, but it doesn’t stop with that diploma does it?  Many of us continue to find ourselves on the outside for whatever set of reasons . . .

We are never quite welcomed into our in-laws’ family.

We find ourselves on the outside of the clique at work

We find ourselves having the wrong set of beliefs in our group of friends.

We suffer from depression that leads us to the dark margins of our own mind.

No matter what circle we stand outside of, no one likes being the outsider.

Which is why the readings for today are so powerful.  For they speak of God’s concern for those who find themselves on the outside looking in.

Not just in life, but in faith.

The ones who have been told that they do not have a place at this heavenly table.

The Samaritan woman who was told to be silent.

Who was told that her concerns would not be heard

Who was told that she was off God’s radar.

The Gentiles, the foreigners who were not part of the original covenant.

The newcomers who didn’t understand how God worked.

God stakes his claim.  Planting his flag beside all those who weren’t in the inner circle.  Claiming them as his own.

As with many of our readings, we find both comfort and challenge this day.

Comfort for all of us who find ourselves on the outside, especially when it comes to our experience of Church.

All of us who grapple with our past and question whether we deserve to be here.

All of us who question whether or not we believe everything the Church teaches.

All of us who have seen the brokenness within the Church and wonder if we want to belong

And challenge for all of us on the inside.  The ones who find comfort in these pews.  Who are safe and secure in our worlds.

For we must go where our God is . . . to the margins where the face of Christ is found in each person who stands on the outside looking in.

We must seek out the alienated and the frustrated, the socially awkward, the victim, the newcomer and the lost.  We must be the hand that welcomes, the smile that invites, the word that heals, the hug that nourishes.

We must be the ones that sit and listen to the pain, to the loneliness, to the outrage.  We must be the first ones to cross into no-man’s land and reconcile with the one who has walked away.  Who has been pushed away.  We must allow ourselves to be challenged, to learn from those on the margins.

We can no longer be comfortable in our own sense of belonging.  We can no longer silence the outsiders who do not agree with us.  We can no longer rest on our laurels and wait for someone else.

We are the Church, my friends.  We are the body of Christ.

Does the world experience God’s all-encompassing love through us?

May God be Praised

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

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