HOMILY: What is the Point?

3rd Sunday of Lent (Year A Scrutinies) | February 27/28, 2016

Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World. To see the archive of all his posts, just click hereSalesian Sermons

PROTIP: You can take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on the first and Gospel readings.

So one of things that I have learned over the years in working in educating is that it just may be one of the most frustrating fields that one can labor in.

Case in point, this past Wednesday.

There is a young man at Nativity who I have sheltered under my wing for the last two years.  He has dealt with a lot and I have done everything in my power to help him overcome all of the barriers in his life.

I have given him bus fare when he lost his.

I have given him my lunch when he forgot his.

I have given up every free period to track him down and make sure that he has completed his assignments and studied for his tests.

I have even called him at 7 AM when his alarm clock broke to make sure he got to school on time.

So imagine my frustration on Wednesday when I learned that he had utterly failed his social studies test.  Why?  Because he didn’t feel like studying the night before.

I was done.  I remember sitting in my office going, “What is the point?”  I felt like I had utterly failed him.  And in the process, I had wasted an enormous amount of my time.

I just felt overcome by futility.

A feeling that comes through so powerfully in our readings for today.

For here you have a woman who is caught in her own cycle of futility.  

Day after day, she heads to the well.  Drawing water underneath the scorching sun rather than waiting until evening when she would have to face the withering scorn of her neighbors who would judge her and her lifestyle.

Day after day, she returns to her home with a man who doesn’t truly love her.  Just the latest in a string of failures who have left her feeling used and broken.

And in that endless cycle, I can imagine that there were days in which she too sat by the well and asked . . . “What is the point?”

Here you have Moses grappling with the people that he has been tasked to lead.  Enduring their grumbling and their pettiness.  Wearied by the burden of leadership and the hardness of their hearts.  And in his frustration, you can picture him shouting up to God . . . What is the point?

My friends, I am convinced that when we look at the woman standing by the well, when we look at Moses standing before the people we can all too easily see ourselves as we battle our own circumstances that can seem so futile at times.

For let’s be honest, Lent seems to always be a painful reminder that change is incredibly hard.  We make our resolutions to fast, give alms and pray.  We desire reconciliation.  But all too often our labors seemed mired in futility.

Habits that persist despite our desire to stop.

Addictions that defy our efforts to break them.

Sins that continue to weigh upon us . . . the words we have uttered, the wounds we have inflicted, the temptations that we succumbed to, the opportunities that we failed to seize.  A litany of failures that can have us asking . . . What is the point?

We too have our days in which we strain under the burden of leadership.  When all of our hard work does not seem to make any difference.  When the endless to-do-lists and the endless clamoring for our attention takes its toll.  We feel inadequate.  We feel frustrated.

And we can find ourselves asking . . . What is the point?

And to us all . . . to Moses, to the woman at the well, to you and I in our moments of frustration and futility.

God reminds us of what the point is.

That in our labors, in our seeming futility, in our brokenness and our bitterness . . . our God is gently transforming us and the world.

For it is in these moments that we see our God work miracles.

It is through Moses, as frustrated and flawed as he was, that God worked a miracle.  Quenching the thirst of the people and gently reminding them that God is always with his people.

It is through the woman at the well, as broken and skeptical as she was, that God worked a miracle.  Opening the hearts of an entire village to a God who had chosen to walk among them.  Reconciling an entire village, long estranged by ancient feuds and hostilities.

And it is in these moments that God is still working miracles through us.

Giving us the strength to stare down the demons for another day.

Giving us the compassion to walk beside someone in their moments of brokenness, for we are palpably aware of our own.

Giving us the confidence to try again, even after we have fallen.

Giving us the humility to ask for forgiveness and giving us the courage to extend that forgiveness to another.

Giving us the perspective to see the God alive and at work in those who fail us.  Inspiring us to head back out into the vineyard once again.  Confident that our God is still alive and still at work.

And so on Thursday, I called that student back into my office.  And before I could say a word, he said.  Please don’t give up on me.  I really am trying.

A tad teary-eyed, I looked at him and said.  I can’t ever give up on you.

For my God has never given up on me.  May God be Praised.

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