HOMILY: Different Parts of a Beautiful Whole

Pentecost Sunday (Mass during the day) | May 14/15, 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 here: Salesian Sermons

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

My second year in the seminary, I lived out in Brooklyn, Michigan for an entire year of prayer and study.  It was during this year and that I met an Oblate who was unlike any Oblate I had ever met.

His name was Fr. Mike Depcik, and he is one of the few priests in the world who was born deaf.

As part of our formation that year, our novice master offered us the opportunity to learn sign language so that we would be able to communicate with our brother Mike.

Well I quickly learned two things.

One, I am terrible at it.

Two, Fr. Mike is incredibly patient with those of us who are slow learners.

So one day, after butchering an attempted story in sign language, I tell Mike, I am really bad at this.  I am so sorry.  I have no idea how you actually understand a word of what I am saying.

He smiled and then taught me a lesson that I have never forgotten.

He said, Brian, I have experienced two types of people in the world.  People who are comfortable talking to me and those who are not.  And those who are comfortable talking with me, I can always understand.  For they are speaking the universal language.  The language of love.

For those who are comfortable talking to me are people who know how to love.  And those who are not comfortable talking to me are simply afraid.

It all comes down to this choice.  To love or to fear.

I couldn’t help but recall his lesson as I reflected on the readings from today, the Great Feast of Pentecost.

For I believe that this dichotomy is blatantly at work in the characters in our story.

For when the disciples began speaking in every language, we see the two responses.

One group of people was afraid.  All of the languages were disorienting and confusing.  The comfortable boundaries of what they knew and understood had been blown away.  And they were left with a new reality that frightened them.

And so they struck back.  They struck back with words of ridicule and scorn.  They walked away.  And ultimately they would actively fight the spread of this new religion, bathing the streets in the blood of Christian martyrs.

But then there was another response.  A response from those whose hearts were open to the possibilities of God’s power.  For they did not hear a chaotic blend of different tongues.  They heard the one universal language of love being spoken by these disciples.  And they responded to that love with an openness of spirit that would transform them and the world.  For they would become the Church.

My friends, I am convinced that this same basic dichotomy governs our world today.

Look around and we can easily see the power of fear that continues to abound in our own lives and in the world.

For it is fear that lashes out when our comfortable worlds are challenged or reconstructed.

It is fear that reaches for tools of anger and hatred to respond to differences and diversity.

It is fear that demonizes the other and that thrives on exclusion and bigotry.

It is fear that supposedly keeps us safe.

Safe from change.  Safe from losing our control.  Safe from all that we do not understand.

But our Church was not built on fear.

It was built on the backs of those disciples who chose love over fear.  In imitation of the one who chose the cross in love, not in fear.

And in this choice to love, they built a Church in which every language, every nation, every tribe, and every people were like a note in a beautiful symphony.  All different, but all part of a beautiful whole.

My friends, this is the Church we belong to.  This is the Church that we are a part of.  And each of us are those beautiful notes.

The innocence of giggling children and the probing questions of curious teens, the idealism of twenty somethings and the pure joy of parents cradling their first born child, the quiet witness of the grandmother in her hospital bed and the generosity of spirit given by the volunteer coach or scoutmaster, the persistence of the teacher, the grieving of the widow, the healing touch of the surgeon, the enthusiasm of the adult with Down’s syndrome, the companion who stands beside the one who mourns, the passion of the advocate in their fight for justice.

These are our notes.

This is our song.

And yes my friends, it is sung by conservatives and liberals.  It is sung in Spanish and English.  It is hummed in prisons, sung in boardrooms, whistled on street corners, and chanted in neighborhoods from Chester to Cairo, from Wallingford to Washington DC, from Philadelphia to Puerto Rico.

Here we are my friends, on our feast day.  The feast day of the Church.

And once again we are presented with the choice at the core of our discipleship.

The choice to live with love or to live in fear.

Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love.

May God be Praised


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