HOMILY: Holy Ground

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

NOTE: This homily dovetails nicely with the NOOMA Advent Study theme for this week, “Holy Ground.” To see my comments and reflection questions, head on over to the Leaven in the World Facebook Page.

1st Sunday of Advent | November 28/29, 2015

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

One of the things that I will always remember about living in Washington, D.C. is riding the Metrorail to and from downtown.

It was always an adventure, especially if you could not find a seat. Managing to stay on your feet when the train started moving was always a feat.  You quickly learned to plant your feet and hold onto whatever poles or rails were available to you.  Failure to do so came at your own peril, a lesson I learned the hard way when the train started moving and I somehow ended up falling into the lap of a poor, unsuspecting tourist.

But my Metro rides also taught me another lesson.

It came in the form of young woman who came stumbling onto an extremely crowded car late in the evening.  As she forced her way on, it was obvious that she would not be able to grasp onto a pole or rail.  She was tired from her journey and barely had the strength to stand.

As the car began, she basically toppled into the man directly across from me.  Now typically, this type of scene would have been embarrassing for everyone involved.  But the young man did not react as one would have expected.  He gently pushed the woman back to the center of the room and then moved in closer to give her support.  Others in the car followed suit.  The woman was soon surrounded by a circle of strangers who made sure that she stayed on her feet and safely made it to her destination.

I thought about that story as I reflected on the readings for this weekend, the 1st weekend of Advent.

The metaphor of a Metro ride is an apt metaphor for our Advent journey.

For we know where our final destination lies.  We know what stop ultimately awaits us.

But that knowledge does not necessarily make the voyage smoother.

On the contrary, the ground upon which we stand.  The holy ground that bears our weight is an uncertain terrain.  One in which we must always be attentive to where we choose to stand.

Each year as we begin this Advent trek, we are invited to readjust our footing, to plant our feet in such a way that we will not topple.  

We are called to be alert, to be attentive.

For the ground upon which we stand is always shifting.  

And the one who becomes complacent can quickly find himself or herself adrift without a foothold or something to grasp onto.

Like the scenes captured in Luke’s Gospel, our world is filled with constant change and upheaval.

Children get married and children are born.  New chapters are written as we start school or return to school or graduate from school.  We bury loved ones, face terminal diagnosis, and lose friendships that we presumed would always be there.  We change positions and lose our jobs and start new companies.  We watch as world events unfold in rapid succession, shifting our attention and focus from Ferguson to Francis to France in the blink of an eye.

And in all of this constant movement, it is all too easy to lose our footing.  To slip and tumble amidst our worries and concerns, our fears and our failures, our losses and our uncertainties.

But maybe that is why I took so much hope from my recollections this day.

For I believe that just like that young woman on the Metro car, we do not navigate this journey alone.  We do not stand alone.

For we are surrounded by God’s people, journeying with us towards the place prepared for us.

God’s people who bear to us the face of the one we seek.

Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us.

And so my friends, as we once again embark on our Advent journey.  Let us be attentive to the ones who share our car.  The ones whose footing is as equally uncertain.  The ones whose presence is enough to help us find our own way forward into the future that awaits us all.

To the regular commuters in our car.  Our family and friends, our co-workers and colleagues, our clients and our classmates, our students and our supervisors.  That in our familiarity we do not miss the truth that marks each of them.  The truth that they are Christ to us even as we are called to be Christ to them.

To the strangers who crowd into our space.  Whose needs and concerns impede upon us.  To the refugee in Iraq and the homeless veteran who lives down the street.  To the neighbor who prefers to keep quietly to themselves and the estranged relative whose absence is still keenly felt.  That in this time of preparation, we may see in each of them an invitation to stand beside them and support them on their way.

And in turn, in those moments in which our own footing seems uncertain.  When our own weight is shifting.  When we teeter on the edge of falling over.

May we trust that our God is with us.  In the outstretched arms and warm embraces of those that surround us.

Ensuring that each one of us sees this journey through.

Happy Advent my friends.  Let the trek begin.

May God be Praised.

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