HOMILY: Open, Vulnerable, and Courageous

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 hereSalesian Sermons

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time | September 19/20, 2015

PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on the second and Gospel readings.

A few years ago, I was making a phone call to one of my friends.  

The phone call wasn’t going to be easy because we both had a lot on our minds and on our plates at that point in time.

So imagine my surprise when the voice I hear on the other end of the line wasn’t my friend.

It was her 5 year old daughter who had seen my name pop up on the phone.

“Hi Uncle Brian!” she yelled.

Taken aback, I remember going, “Hi Lacie.  Is your mom there?”

“Maybe.”

“Can I speak to her?”

“Maybe,” she said with a mischievous giggle.  “But first, I have to tell you something.  It is very important.  Are you ready?”

“I think so,” I remember replying.  Because to be honest, I had no idea where this conversation was going.  And yet, I didn’t want it to end.  

“I love you, Uncle Brian!” she yelled.  Then she burst into a round of giggles and began running through the house yelling, “Mom, Uncle Brian just called me!  But I will let you talk to him if you want to.”

It was such a brief moment, but I have never forgotten this interaction.  To be honest, I don’t remember what my friend and I talked about that day.  But I remember Lacie.

Maybe that is why this scene came back to me when reflecting on the readings for this weekend.

Because like the child mentioned in the Gospel for today, Lacie was my divine interruption.  She too was placed in my midst, forcing me to answer the question that Jesus puts before his disciples.  Are you willing to learn from this child?

For I am convinced that all children can teach us if we are willing to listen.

If we are willing to see.

If we are willing to be interrupted.

If we look at our children, we see a remarkable openness to the world and to the God that they see everywhere.

They see God in dandelion seeds blowing in the wind.  They see God in the puddles that reveal their own reflection.

They see God in each person who smiles at them.  Who sings to them.  Who listens to them babble as if they were speaking the most important words ever spoken.

They believe that this world is bigger than what they see or experience.  They somehow sense that truth is present in their imagination.  In the stories that they have heard shared again and again.  In the larger than life figures that just have to be real.

And yet, at the same time, we see how truly fragile children are.

Every need they have must be provided for by another.  They are not independent.  They are not self-sufficient.  

And they do not pretend to be.  With every ear-splitting shriek, they remind us of their need.

But they are also vulnerable in another way.

For each child opens their heart to others without hesitation.  They have complete trust in the goodness of the world and each person in it.

They cannot imagine that someone would violate that trust.  That someone would actually seek to hurt them.  If only they were right.

I am convinced that in his dramatic gesture today, Jesus is calling his disciples and us to a twofold response.

On the one hand, he is calling us to reflect on our own openness, on our own vulnerability.  He is calling us to learn from the children he places in our midst.

Have we allowed our own views of the world to become rigid and inflexible?  Are we always convinced that we are right?  Do we no longer have anything to learn?

Have we chosen to box God into our own rigid categories, assuming we know exactly who God is and how God works?  Assuming we know who God favors and who God has forsaken?

Have we become cynical, skeptical and hardened?  Do we distrust others because of the wounds and scars that we bear?

Are we willing to change?  Are we willing to heal?  Are we willing to reclaim our inner child, risking it all to be open and vulnerable once again?

And on the other hand, Jesus is sending us forth to wrap our arms around our children, denouncing all that strips them of their childhood.  To become servants for the sake of those least able to care for themselves.

Denouncing the war and violence that has buried 5 year olds in the rubble of bombed building, that has sent seven year olds to the ERs of every one of our cities, and that has left 3 year olds drowned on the shores of our seas.

Denouncing the abuse of children that continues to persist within our families, within our schools, within our churches.  Robbing them of the childhood that is theirs by right.

Denouncing all of the qualities that St. James warns against:  the selfishness and blind ambition, the greed and the jealously, the hatred and the anger that makes children pawns in our own adult games.

Are you ready, my friends?  To be Open.  To be Vulnerable.  To be Courageous. To be Servants.  

To be true children of God?

May God be Praised.  

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