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
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time | October 17/18, 2015
PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on the Gospel reading.
So full disclosure. I love being an Oblate.
I know, you’re shocked.
But seriously, there are so many parts of my life that I genuinely love.
I love teaching. I love watching as a student suddenly grasp a concept that they have been struggling with all day.
I love when a student comes running into my office clutching a test that they aced after studying for it all week.
I love witnessing a couple vow their lives to one another. I love the look on the face of the groom as he sees his wife for the 1st time as she walks down the aisle.
I love collecting the gifts from little children as they carry them down the aisle.
I love sitting beside my brother Oblates after a long day and sharing a meal together.
Like I said, there is a lot to love about this life.
But, I also need to be honest. There are parts of this life that I would rather do without. There are moments in which I wish I could say, no thanks.
And of all the difficult parts that come with this job, having to sit beside someone in their darkest hour is probably the hardest.
I was reminded of this again this past week as I was invited to the home of a family who had just lost their cousin to cancer. It was an excruciatingly difficult night. There were no words that would ease the pain and grief. So I was simply present. Holding, Hugging, Sitting beside family members as they wept for a life ended far too soon.
Maybe it is no surprise after this past week, but I really sympathize with James and John. For I too wish that I could have Christ without the cross. That I could have this life without having those moments of darkness, grief, and despair.
I mean, let’s be honest. These two men had experienced some of the best parts of discipleship.
They had witnessed Christ’s power to heal the sick and drive out demons.
They had seen the impact of his teachings on their friends and neighbors.
They had gained a group of sisters and brothers in faith who were with them on the journey.
It is any wonder that they wanted this to continue forever? That they wanted to sit with Jesus in his glory free from pain and labor, free from division and scandal, free from defeat and death.
But Jesus understood a truth that the disciples had not yet fully grasped. Which is that the cross is an unavoidable part of our human experience.
And in becoming human, Christ accepted that the cross would be part of his life.
That he would know what it was like to be misunderstood and rejected. That he would know pain and suffering. That he would experience the grief and loss of others. And finally that he too would taste death.
And in that choice to carry his own cross, Jesus redefined for James, John and all of us what it means to be disciples of Christ.
For if we are to bear the name Christian, then we must desire to sit beside Christ, in both the light of his Resurrection and the shadow of the cross.
We must desire to sit beside Christ who is present in each person we encounter.
The Christ present in the five year old as she gleefully tears the wrapping paper off of her Christmas gifts and the Christ present in the toddler battling a fever that one rocks gently to sleep all night long.
The Christ present in the teenager as she races to show you her college acceptance letter and as he cries at the kitchen counter over his recent break-up.
The Christ present in one’s spouse as you celebrate your wedding night and as you get the news that the cancer is terminal.
The Christ present in our friend as we toast her recent promotion and as we grieve over his recent divorce.
The Christ present in our classmate as he delights in making Honor Roll and when she learns that she was cut from the basketball team.
The Christ present in the one who reaches out and the one who pushes us away. The one who we enjoy being with and the one we would rather run away from.
And as we sit beside those that we encounter each day. As we sit with them in their joy. As we sit with them in their grief and sorrow.
We will discover the truth that James and John couldn’t see.
Which is that the seats beside Christ are all around us, always prepared for us.
We just need the courage to sit down.
May God be Praised.