Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World. To see the archive of all his posts, just click here: Salesian Sermons
Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross | September 13/14, 2014
PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on the first reading.
The year was 2006 and I was on my way to a nursing home as part of a service trip my junior year of college.
It had been a stressful year.
I had been a ridiculous overachiever taking 21 credits a semester, resulting in 54 papers that I needed to write over the course of my fall semester.
I was also overextended, part of the planning team for our local Special Olympics tournament and our university’s Relay for Life.
And of course, I was immersed in the typical drama of college. Friends who were feuding. Couples who were hot and cold. Roommates who were no longer on speaking terms.
So when I walked into the nursing home, my mind was elsewhere. Stuck on all of my own struggles, my own baggage, my own stress.
That was until I met this little old woman humming contently in her wheelchair. I approached and asked how her day was. She looked at me and said, “Hunny I’m too blessed to be stressed.”
I wanted to say me too. But I knew that wasn’t true.
I was stressed.
And yet in that moment, I realized I wasn’t the only one carrying a cross.
Here she was alone in a nursing home. She had not had a visitor for several months. She was confined to a wheelchair.
And yet, she still had a smile on her face and a song in her heart.
I couldn’t help myself. I began to sing right beside her, “You’re beautiful. You’re beautiful, it’s true!” She smiled and began to sing in reply, “You’re handsome.”
Down the hall we went, our spirits a little brighter, our loads a little lighter.
I couldn’t help but think of my providential encounter as I read the readings for this weekend.
For here you have the Israelites grumbling in the desert.
Each of them was consumed by their own struggles. They had become blinded to everything else. ‘nd in dwelling on their struggles, they only made matters worse. They became bitter. They were poisoned, literally and figuratively. It was as if they were stuck in a spiral pulling them ever downwards.
But then they gained a new perspective.
They were confronted with a another serpent, not their own.
And it was only in this encounter that they were healed.
Every one of us in this room has crosses that we bear.
Some of them are so small . . .
The spouse who never cleans up after themselves in the bathroom.
The teacher who always seems to be calling out our mistakes.
The car that doesn’t start.
Others seem unbearable . . .
The divorce proceedings
The death of our parent, our child, our lover, our friend
The terrors of our past perpetrated by the ones we trusted, the ones we loved.
The pink slip
No matter the size or shape, these crosses can quickly consume our vision. And like the Israelites, we too can find ourselves being dragged lower and lower by their weight.
But when we encounter the cross that another bears. When he choose to open ourselves up to the struggles of the other. When we begin to help another carry their burden, our own begins to lighten on its own accord.
For we no longer find ourselves alone on the journey.
Today we celebrate an entire feast dedicated to the cross. But in many ways, today is not about crosses. It is about those who carry them. It is about Christ and it is about us.
Today is a reminder that crosses can be instruments of destruction or an instrument of salvation. It all depends on our perspective.
We too can find healing through the cross.
If only we have the faith to see the Easter Sunday that awaits our Good Fridays.
If only we have the compassion to reach out and lift up another’s weight.
If only we have the courage to let someone lift up our own.
May God be Praised