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
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time | July 4/5, 2015
PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the readings here. This week’s homily is based on all the readings.
So this may not come as a surprise to any of you, but I am a hopeless idealist at my core.
I think that is what drew me into teaching.
This idea that I could change the world by educating our children.
I remember watching movies like Dead Poet’s Society and thinking . . . That will be my classroom one day. Students standing on desks, reciting poetry, ready to transform the world.
I think it was a large part of why I took the job at Nativity because I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to have the opportunity to go into the heart of the inner city and be a transforming agent in the lives of these young men.
And yet, two years in, I have learned that my idealism failed to teach me a pretty important lesson.
Real change is hard work.
Somehow, all of those movies failed to capture the full picture.
There never seem to be any scenes in which the teacher is seen spending long nights preparing lessons that ultimately fail.
They never show the teacher spending several hours filing papers on a Saturday, while the sun is shining and the whole rest of the world seems to be enjoying the outdoors.
They rarely show the discouragement that comes when the student you have been working with for the entire year utterly implodes when he needed to shine.
They miss those heartbreaking moments in which you admit defeat. When you must expel a student. When a family randomly moves their student without so much as a goodbye. When you are told off by the very people you are trying to help.
It seems that the real journey towards change is much harder than the one we are capable of imagining.
This is probably why I take so much comfort from the readings for today.
Because in the Gospel, we find Jesus grappling with the same reality of his own mission. We see him struggling. We see him failing. We see him persisting even in the midst of his setbacks and disappointments.
And in his journey, I am convinced that we find a model for our own.
See, I find it fascinating that this Gospel is paired with the 1st reading.
For in the 1st reading, Ezekiel is not given an ideal assignment.
In fact, the reading proclaims just the opposite.
This assignment is going to be excruciatingly difficult. For the people of Israel are a rebellious house. And odds are, they are not going to change.
But God sends him anyway.
Nowhere do we find a guarantee that this road will be easy. Nowhere do we find the consolation that we will find success in our mission.
Nowhere are we told to seek another road because this one has gotten difficult. Nowhere are we promised a greener pasture if this one becomes barren or doesn’t yield the future we expected.
Truly, there is nothing idealistic about the readings for today.
And yet, just like Ezekiel, just like Christ, we are still sent anyway.
We are still sent to be parents in a world in which forming our children seems more and more difficult. We still must watch as our children make mistakes. We still must watch as our children take paths that break our heart. We still must watch as our children get hurt.
We are still sent into our workplaces with all of the long hours and the pettiness, the miscommunication and the questionable policies.
We are still sent to our friends and family members with all of their baggage and their neediness, their ingratitude and their lack of sensitivity.
For this is where God wants us. Not for our own glory. Not for our own sense of accomplishment. Not for our own ideals.
But because it is where God desires us to build the kingdom. Because it is where God has desired to change us.
For in our weakness, in our failure, in our doubt, we are given God’s strength.
To remain a source of light even in the darkness.
To remain a source of joy even in the face of grief, sadness, and bitterness
To remain a source of reconciliation in the face of division, distrust and long-lasting fueds.
To remain a source of hope in despair.
To remain a source of love in the face of apathy and hatred.
And in so doing, we will be changed. We will be molded into the image of the one we profess as Lord.
And, who knows, that may just be enough to change the world.
May God be Praised