HOMILY: Gifted and Irreplaceable

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 hereSalesian Sermons

Pentecost Sunday, Mass During the Day | May 24, 2015

PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the readings here (for 2nd Reading, use 1 Cor option, for Gospel, use Jn 20 option). This homily is based on the Pentecost themes of giftedness and acting as a member of the body of Christ.

A few weeks ago, the Pew Report released its findings on the religious landscape of the US.

And, not surprisingly, the picture wasn’t great.

The survey noted some pretty steep declines in church membership and church attendance, especially among my generation, the Millennial generation.

As I kept reading, I came to realize that I am a bit of an anomaly, a twenty-something who goes to Church weekly.

And this got me to thinking, Why am I still Catholic?

Because, if I am honest with myself, I struggle with many of the same questions, concerns and doubts that have led so many of my friends and family to walk away.

I can understand why people do not find Church to be home anymore . . . whether it is because they are gay or divorced and remarried.  Whether it is because they struggle with a Church dominated by men or because they have seen the Church worry about its reputation more than its children.

I can also understand why the Church loses relevance for people.  For it is hard to be spiritually renewed by many of our masses each Sunday.  Let’s be honest, most of us have experienced some terrible homilies, dreadful music, and inhospitable congregations in our lifetime.  Who would want to stay for that?

Which all brings me back to that initial question.  Why am I still Catholic?

A perfect question for today.  The Feast of Pentecost.

For I believe that the answer to this question can be found in the readings for this Sunday.

For it is the power of the Spirit at work in our Church that gives me hope.  The outpouring of the Spirit that we are plunged into at our baptism.  The Spirit that renews us each time we gather to break bread around this altar.

Every day I witness the Spirit at work among us, pouring out gifts upon the people of God.  Gifts designed for the building up of the kingdom, right here and right now.

I look at the sense of wonder, the innocence, the trust that children possess.  I listen to Nathan proclaim the 1st reading.  I watch my 7th graders allow a 2nd grader to score on them in soccer.  I see the smiling face of a friend’s child as I baptize them.  And my faith in the Church is restored.

I look at the passion and dedication of my fellow educators.  I watch as my colleagues work 10 hour days and still volunteer to chaperone a field trip that they will pay for out of their own pocket.  I listen to friends here in this parish who speak of their students and their future as if they were speaking of their own children.  And my faith in the Church is restored.

I look at the idealism of teenagers.  I watch with pride as young gentleman from Sallies work all year to help our boys at Nativity.  I sing beside Steve and Dierdre each week, amazed by their ability to find time in their busy lives to enrich this liturgy each week.  I smile as I receive e-mails from former students asking for financial assistance as they travel on a service trips to Haiti, Camden, and New Orleans.   And my faith in the Church is restored.

I look at the selflessness of parents.  I look at this congregation and see generations of parents who have chosen to give of themselves for the sake of their children.  I visit with friends who are just beginning the journey of parenthood and I marvel at their ability to manage it all.  And my faith in the Church is restored.

I look at the faithfulness of those who have given their lives to this Church.  I look at those who have never wavered in their commitment, even as neighborhoods changed and loved ones passed away.  Even as they were hurt or slighted by the Church they loved.  Even as getting to mass became more and more of a struggle.  And my faith in the Church is restored.

See, I am still Catholic because of all of you.  I am still a Catholic because of the gifts that each of you bring to the Church and to the world.

For in sharing your gifts you help me to share my own.

And it is in that giving and receiving of gifts that I experience that peace that Christ gives us in the Gospel.

Peace. Shalom. Wholeness.

The peace, the wholeness that comes with knowing one’s place in the world.  Knowing that one is an irreplaceable part of the body of Christ.

That one’s hopes and dreams, one’s failures and struggles, that one’s past, present and future are part of a story that began before the dawning of time and will continue until the end of the world.

That no matter what we have done.  No matter what we question.  No matter what we doubt.  No matter how far we stray or wander.  We always have a place in the body of Christ.  We always have a home in the Church.

Today is Pentecost, my friends.  The birthday of the Church.  Our day of celebration.

Our day to celebrate our gifts.

Our day to celebrate our place in the body of Christ.

Our day to celebrate the Spirit alive and at work in each of us.

Let us celebrate well, my friends.  For truly, this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.

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