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
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time | September 6/7, 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.
So I have a confession to make . . . I’m not perfect.
I know, it’s pretty shocking isn’t it?
I mean who would have thought that a 29 year-old doesn’t have all the answers? Who would have thought that a priest could make a mistake?
But the fact is my friends, it’s true.
I am not a perfect person.
And yet, it is really hard to accept that. Isn’t it?
I remember how difficult it was to sit through community meetings. These meetings would be when every Oblate in the house would gather to discuss where each of us was on the spiritual journey. And inevitably, this is where my brother Oblates would gently point out areas in which I could still grow.
My mind would immediately begin racing.
My first line of defense would be denial. I don’t do that. I have never fallen asleep at prayer. I don’t enjoy the spotlight. They must be mistaken.
This would be followed quickly by the reverse accusation. Well it’s not like they are perfect. When was the last time they made it to Morning Prayer on time? Last time I checked, I wasn’t the one who procrastinated on his theology paper last week.
And finally, my mental gymnastics would end with the wounded pride. What more do they want from me? Can’t they see how far I’ve grown? I’m not perfect. What are they expecting me to be?
Now, I know that few of you have had the pleasure of experiencing a community meeting. But I would bet that we have all been in the situation in which someone has pointed out our faults.
It’s not easy is it?
Even though we know that we are not perfect, we try so hard to pretend that we are. We resist the truth at all costs, even when it comes from those who love us unconditionally. We deny it. We attack the one who speaks it. We make ourselves the martyrs.
Maybe that is why so many of us struggle with embracing the call of the readings for today.
For who wants to be the one who tells someone else that they are not perfect?
Who wants to be that person?
And yet, the first reading and the Gospel make it pretty clear.
If we are going to claim our identity as Christians, then we must intervene when we see our sister or our brother taking a path that will hurt either themselves or another.
When we see our friend bullying another student in class.
When we see our friend sleeping around after his break-up with his girlfriend.
When we see our spouse drinking to excess.
When we see our friend falling for a man who is abusive.
When we see our parents being judgmental, driving away one of our siblings from the family.
When we see our co-worker trampling over their colleagues in their race to the top.
When someone hurts us through their insensitive comment or selfish decision.
How do we speak the truth in a way that it will be heard?
Jesus makes it pretty clear.
We can only reach out in love to another when we have owned our own imperfections.
Today’s readings are not a call to be judgmental. They are not a justification for those who would criticize or attack another on the basis of their own moral superiority. They are not an opportunity to place ourselves above those we are speaking to, as if we had all the answers. As if we were perfect.
These readings should never become a bludgeon that we wield in the name of God.
On the contrary, those we speak to must first know that we love them unconditionally.
That we will love them even if they do not change. That we will forgive them if they hurt us. That we will still treat them as a beloved sister or brother, parent or child, friend or co-worker.
That we will love them even if they wound themselves or others. That we will be there to help them pick up the pieces.
That we will never abandon them.
And in this act of vulnerability. In this decision to put ourselves out there for the sake of another, God will be present.
Giving us courage and strength, humility and patience, wisdom and persistence.
To speak the truth. To be compassion. To embody love.
May God be Praised.