Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World prior to a given Sunday. To see the archive of all his posts, just click here: Salesian Sermons
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time | August 1/2, 2015
PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on all of this week’s readings.
How many of you have had the experience of going on a wonderful trip or vacation, only to have some minor hiccup occur at the very end of the journey?
I had one of those moments this past week.
I had just spent an amazing week in northern California with family and friends.
I enjoyed amazing sights, wonderful food, fantastic conversation and quality time with people I love.
Truly I could not have asked for anything more.
Until I arrived back in Philadelphia and my luggage was stuck on a broken conveyor belt.
Now, I must admit, as I stood in that airport staring at the lifeless baggage carousel, my mind was circling through its own little conveyor belt of complaints.
Are you serious? How hard can it be to pick up a piece of luggage and carry it up to us?
This is just my luck. If they had just let me carry on the bag in the first place this never would have happened.
Why me? I mean don’t they realize how tired I am?
That’s it. I am going to go find an employee and give them a piece of mind.
Gone were the peaceful thoughts of a wonderful week of vacation. So quickly replaced with complaints, worries and frustration.
Maybe it is no surprise after that memorable moment that the 1st reading from this weekend really stuck with me.
Because it seems to me that human nature hasn’t changed too much in the thousands of years since the Israelites crossed the wilderness in search of the Promised Land.
Seriously. Here you have a people who have witnessed miraculous signs and wonders directed against one of the mightiest nations in the Ancient world.
They were given freedom, a dream that was beyond comprehension for a people previously subjected to a cruel slavery.
They were protected from the Egyptian army by the parting of the Red Sea.
And yet, even after all of those moments in which God demonstrated his ability to protect them, to provide for them, here they were lamenting the newest hiccup in their journey.
Let’s be honest, I believe that this temptation to fixate on the negative is something that many of us grapple with.
We walk outside and immediately have a critique of the weather, regardless of what it may be.
We take for granted the technological marvels that surround us until they stop working.
We barely register all of the times in which people serve us well, but we are all too ready to relive our one negative experience with a clerk at a store or a waiter at a restaurant.
And yet, I have to believe that this is not who we are meant to be. On the contrary, I believe that it is this side of ourselves that is part of the former self that St. Paul encourages us to leave behind.
So how do we do it? How do we become the “new person” that we are called to become in our second reading?
I believe that the answer comes down to gratitude.
For in the words of Meister Eickart, if the only prayer we ever prayed was thank you. It would be enough.
See I do not believe that it is a coincidence that this first reading is paired with the Gospel. For in the Gospel we are hearing Jesus’ reflections on the Bread of Life. The Eucharist.
A word that literally means to give thanks.
For that is what this celebration should be about.
Giving thanks for all of the many ways in which God provides for us.
In the food that nourishes us and the flavors that delight us.
In the shelter that encloses us and the beauty that astounds us.
In our work that brings us a sense of purpose and fulfillment and in the recreations that renews us.
In the Church that has been our refuge and our strength and in the Word that challenges and comforts us.
Giving thanks for the people that God has gifted us with on this journey.
Our family and friends.
Our co-workers and neighbors.
Our brothers and sisters in the faith. Those sitting beside us, praying with us, embracing us at the sign of peace, checking in with us as we walk to the parking lot.
At the end of the day, this is what it means to participate in the Eucharistic feast. This is what should define us as Christian.
And so, once again, we are presented with a choice.
The choice of whether or not we wish to live this life of gratitude, this Eucharistic life.
Let us give thanks, my friends.
Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good. God’s love is truly everlasting. May God be Praised.