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
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time | October 10/11, 2015
PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on the Gospel reading.
So the other morning I was scanning the morning news, when I came across a fascinating article in Time magazine.
It was by a photojournalist who had travelled to Europe to photograph the items that refugees had chosen to carry in their perilous trek from the Middle East to the promise of safety in unknown foreign lands.
When the author spoke to one man, he said that he had nothing. Surprised, the author inquired as to why. Was there not something worth carrying?
The man looked the author in the eyes and replied with wisdom far beyond his years.
“They told us that we would need to toss our baggage overboard or risk swamping the boat. I decided that the life of the person sitting next to me was worth more than my stuff. So I threw it overboard.”
Now I must admit, this story really shook me.
For it really challenged me in my typical response to this Gospel.
See, I have never considered myself as rich, even before I took the vow of poverty.
I am still wearing t-shirts that I purchased in high school and shoes that have holes in the soles.
I live in a rectory that is so old that the central air coils blew out in June and we didn’t have the resources to replace them.
I don’t have a credit card.
And my debit card got declined the other week when a hotel dared to put a $500 hold on my account.
So I guess I always assumed that my camel would fit through the eye of that needle just fine. Now the Donald Trumps and Bill Gates of the world, they have work to do. But I am good.
But then I read this article and I found myself questioning my smug presumptions that I was as willing to leave everything behind as I thought I was.
What would I really be willing to throw overboard for the sake of my brother or sister in the proverbial boat?
Would I really be willing to toss my identification papers away? Would I really be willing to surrender my place in the world and have to start over? Would I really be ok with the fact that all of the work I have done to get to where I am today would be meaningless?
Would I really be willing to toss those precious mementos that fill my cupboards and bookshelves? Could I really watch as my family rosary fell to the bottom of the sea?
Would I be willing to throw myself upon the mercy of others with no way of actually providing for myself? Would I really be ok with losing my house, my car, my job? Would I be willing to toss the insurance policies, the debit card, the cell phone, and the spare cash into the sea for the sake of the stranger sitting next to me?
As I grappled with those questions, I came to realize that maybe I was not as unattached as I once thought.
And in that discomfort, I found myself reconsidering my initial assessment of this Gospel.
For maybe all of us have our camels that are laden with baggage.
Baggage that comes with living a life in 21st century America.
We have our homes and our cars.
We have our bank accounts and our bills.
We have our cell phones and our spending money.
We have our 401Ks and our private school tuition.
We have our addictions and our need for the newest, the best, the most advanced.
We have mounting debts and unrealistic expectations of what sort of life we must provide for ourselves and for our families.
And in sorting through all this baggage, we can too easily miss the person sitting in the boat. The person whose very survival depends on our willingness to re-evaluate what we are willing to toss overboard.
Now, we may not be asked to toss everything overboard. But is there something that we could let go of so that another person had something to grab onto?
Are we willing to empty our closets of the clothes and the shoes that we don’t actually need. The ones that could be clothing the family who just lost everything in the flooding in South Carolina or the homeless man living under the bridges that we drive under on the way to work?
Are we willing to say no to the temptation to have the newest game system or the newest cell phone or the newest car so that we can make a substantial donation to help feed the hungry, care for the sick or rehabilitate the imprisoned?
Are we willing to change our throwaway mentality that endangers our very planet? The mountains of trash that we generate each year from plastic to-go cups and plastic bags when we have reusable coffee mugs and tote bags. The countless bottles and cans that we toss into trash cans because we don’t bother to search for the recycling. The food that we carelessly send to landfills because it is blemished or not to our satisfaction.
Are we willing to detach from our things so that we reattach to one another?
To the family member who could use our presence more than our paycheck. To the friend who could use that home-cooked meal with her husband being in surgery. To the stranger whose face interrupts us as we eat dinner and invites us to walk with her in her struggles to survive crippling drought in Africa, child slavery in Pakistan or coastal flooding in the Pacific.
This Gospel is not easy, my friends.
But it is not impossible. For nothing is impossible with God.
So let us get to work. For I don’t know about you, but I have quite a few camels that need to be unloaded.
May God be Praised.