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
3rd Sunday of Lent | March 7/8, 2015
PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the readings here. This homily is based on the Gospel reading.
I must admit, after hearing the Gospel from today, I couldn’t help but think back to my freshman year of college.
Let me set the stage.
It was the week before finals and I was a tad stressed. I had begun the laborious process of gathering together all of my materials and organizing them by class. I had piles upon piles of paper all arranged around my chair so that I could reach down and grab what I needed at a moment’s notice.
To an outside eye, it probably looked like chaos. But to me, I knew exactly where everything was.
So imagine my utter shock when I walked into my room and everything has been moved around. The bed, the furniture, and, most upsetting of all, my papers.
I was so angry, I could barely think straight. I stormed out of the room intent on finding my roommate and letting him have a piece of my mind.
I felt like one of the merchants in today’s Gospel. Filled with righteous anger. Appalled that someone would dare to interfere with my space.
Because let’s be honest. It is incredibly upsetting when someone overturns your table. When the comfortable routines that we have worked so hard to establish are rearranged. When the control that we believe we have is stripped away from us.
Every time our life changes, we watch our tables get flung across the room.
When we get the diagnosis that we have cancer or when our relative that we have cared for during their own bout with illness finally passes.
When we get the new job or lose our current one. When we get married or get divorced or get pregnant.
When we don’t make the team or lose out on the promotion or get overlooked for the position we’ve been banking on.
And like the merchants, we too can become fixated on the overturned table. On what has been lost, on what has been rearranged. We too can be paralyzed by the agonizing question . . . what comes next?
But I am convinced that when our tables are overturned, there is also an opportunity.
An opportunity to see the world in a new way.
To see the ones standing right before us, the ones who are always there but that we can so easily ignore or neglect or take for granted when we are so caught up in managing our own tables.
In many ways, this was the opportunity that the merchants missed that day. To see Jesus who was standing right before them. Inviting them into a new relationship with God. God who was at work in him.
And it was an opportunity that I almost missed.
If it wasn’t for some really good friends who stopped me in my tracks and helped to open my eyes, I would not have seen what my roommate had done for me.
See my roommate thought that the new set-up would be more conducive to studying. He wanted to help me out because he knew how stressed I was.
And so, he had overturned my table out of love for me.
No, my friends, we do not often get to choose when our tables are overturned. But that does not mean that we have to dwell on them.
Instead, we can choose to dwell on those who stand before us. Even if they are the very ones who have overturned our tables.
We can choose to dwell on our God who calls us by name.
Our God who invites us to focus our lives on him. Beckoning us to choose him, in this moment and every moment. Helping us to prioritize our lives so that our God stands at the center, influencing our every decision, shaping each relationship we possess, forming our very character into the person we are destined to be.
We can choose to dwell on those we love who stand before us.
Our family and friends who cry out to us. Comforting us in our distress. Offering counsel in our confusion. Asking for our help, our support. Journeying beside us, whether we are heading towards the cross or basking in the glory of the Resurrection.
We can choose to dwell on the stranger in our midst who stands before us.
The one who shakes us from our comfort zone by their demands for justice . . .
The poor and the homeless, the addict and the prostitute, the abused and neglected, the unborn and the elderly, the inmate and the refugee, the immigrant and the teenage dropout.
And in the process, we may just find that an overturned table is a new beginning.
Here we are, halfway through the season of Lent. A season designed to overturn our tables. A season designed to refocus our attention, to recreate us anew.
And I am convinced that Jesus is still crying out to each of us this day in the temples of our hearts.
May we have the courage to heed his words. May we seek him, even amidst the ruins of our overturned tables.
May God be Praised