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
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time | June 27/28, 2015
PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the readings here. This week’s homily is based on the Gospel reading.
My senior year of college, I decided to spend 48 hours as a homeless person in Washington DC.
It still remains one of the hardest things that I have ever done.
I remember the sense of humiliation that came from having to beg.
I remember the sense of disgust that came from eating someone else’s pizza crusts that were left behind on a table in Union Station.
I remember the biting cold that soaked into my very bones as I slept on a concrete sidewalk.
But the thing that I remember most is how alone I felt.
See, I came to realize that people don’t really like to interact with the homeless.
Hundreds of people walk right by. They avert their glances. They clutch their pocketbooks. They steer their children away from you.
Many of those who choose to give make the interaction as quick as possible. They toss a few coins into your dirty cup with a hurried . . .”There you go”. They rarely stop. They rarely look you in the eye. They rarely ask to hear your story. And they almost never touch you.
I never realized how much I took human touch for granted. But for 48 hours, no one shook my hand. No one patted me on the back. No one gave me a hug.
I was utterly alone.
I thought about those two long days when I listened to the Gospel again for this weekend.
For in my experience, I felt like I got a glimpse into the pain that the hemorrhaging woman must have experienced over the course of her life.
Yes, she suffered from tremendous discomfort and pain throughout her life as a result of her medical condition.
But I can guarantee that her greatest cross was the isolation that she experienced. For her blood flow would have made her perpetually unclean.
She would have been a perpetual outcast. Cast out from her home, her family, her village, and her faith community.
To interact with her would have been tremendous risk to one’s own reputation. One’s own standing in the community.
Why would anyone risk so much for someone like her?
See, when we hear this story, it seems like such a simplistic tale. A woman is sick. Jesus heals her. Everyone goes home happy.
But in reality, Jesus’ actions were shattering the preconceptions of everyone around him.
For he was choosing to risk everything for the sake of one who needed healing, for one who needed a companion on this journey we call life.
He was choosing to risk the opinion of those who followed him. He was choosing to risk his status, his authority, his public image.
He was choosing to risk the consequences of being declared unclean by the religious authorities of his time.
All for the sake of one who had faith in him.
My friends, we are surrounded by individuals just like the hemorrhaging woman in today’s gospel.
Individuals who are isolated from their family, their friends, their faith community, and the world at large. Individuals banished to the margins.
The child who sits alone in the cafeteria.
The teenage girl who is bullied for her glasses or the fact that she is overweight.
The young man who was diagnosed with AIDS
The gay couple who has decided to get married.
The homeless woman suffering from a mental illness
The teenager who contemplates suicide to escape it all.
The relative in the nursing home whose family is miles away
The heroin addict who can’t keep a job.
And just like Christ, we have a choice.
We can choose to maintain a healthy distance from these individuals for the sake of our own reputation, our own comfort zone. We can choose to ignore their desperate cries for the sake of what others may think or the judgements they may have.
Or we can choose to enter their lives. We can choose to be the healing touch of Christ for all those who find themselves isolated, abandoned, alone.
We can choose to embrace them for who they are and walk with them into the tomorrow that will determine who they will become. We can weep with them and laugh with them. We can talk with them and learn from them. We can be changed by them. And in the process, we can allow them to experience the truth that they are never alone.
The choice is ours. May we have the courage to walk the road that our Lord has already trod.
May God be Praised.