HOMILY: On Miracles and Vulnerability

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

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time | November 7/8, 2015

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

So, I don’t know about any of you, but October was just a tough month.

It was a bit of a perfect storm as all of the different facets of my life seemed to demand my utmost attention at the same time.

I was putting in 12 hour days at work and then spending hours at hospitals and beside patient’s bedsides.

I was teaching classes and then racing to funerals and weddings, often in the same weekend.

I would be on the phone with a friend going through a painful separation and then hang up to grieve with a family who had just lost their 22 year old cousin.

And in the course of three weeks, I would bury three young people under the age of 30.

Like I said, October was tough.

And over the course of the past few weeks, I realized that I could not do this alone.  I needed help.

And yet, admitting that fact was a lot harder than I expected it to be.

I remember staring at my phone, struggling with whether or not I should call a friend and share the tremendous pain that I was carrying in my heart.  

I remember feeling incredibly self-conscious when a friend sent a card with a Starbucks gift card, knowing that I could use a few moments of calm sipping on a warm apple cider.

I remember talking to my friend and turning down his offer to come and give me a hug.  Because I didn’t want him to see me cry.  

Maybe that is why I appreciate how difficult this interaction must have been for Elijah.

Here he was, a mighty prophet, capable of tremendous power.  And yet, he must ask for help from a poor widow and her son.

He had to ask for her to share from her already depleted resources.

He had to reveal his inability to do this on his own.  He had to show her his weakness, his need.

Knowing the whole time that she could have said no.  That she could have rejected him in his moment of need.

And in his vulnerability, I witnessed my own struggle.

See I am convinced that we all have our Elijah moments.

Those moments when we realize that we need help.  And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we second-guess this need.

Shouldn’t we be able to do this on our own.  Haven’t we been taught to be independent, to solve our own problems, to be our own advocate?  Isn’t this what it means to be a priest, to be a spouse, to be a parent, to be a boss, to be a friend?

Don’t other people have it tougher than we do?  How can we burden someone else with our baggage, when they are already carrying so much of their own?  Am I no better than the Pharisees, making outrageous demands on people and extracting from them what they cannot afford to give?

I should be stronger than this.  I should be better than this.  I should be able to handle this.

And so we hesitate to reach out.  We hesitate to ask.  We hesitate to name our own need, our own brokenness, our own vulnerability.

But if this reading offers us any guidance, it is in the fact that the miracle only happened when Elijah asked.  The miracle only happened when he allowed himself to become vulnerable.

My friends, today’s readings are an invitation.  And invitation to reflect on our true needs.  The hungers that we possess that are beyond our capacity to fill on our own.

Our need for relationship.  Our need for people who love us unconditionally.  Our need for people who will forgive us, who will listen to us, who will bear with us in those moments when we are at our lowest.

Our need to be heard.  Our need to be understood.  Our need to be broken and have that be ok.

Our need to feel welcomed.  Our need to have a home, where we are nourished and safe, cherished and formed.  

Our need for wholeness.  For peace.  For reconciliation with our past, with our present and with our future.

And in naming our needs, we too must have courage like Elijah to ask for what we need.  From our God who loves us.  From our sisters and brothers in faith who surround us.  From those we love who may not have much, but are willing to allow God to transform what they offer.

Who knows, maybe we too may just experience a miracle as well.

May God be Praised

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