HOMILY: Set Free

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time | June 11/12, 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 and Gospel readings, with themes from the second reading.

A few weeks ago, one of my eighth grade students was sent in from recess after allowing his competitiveness to get the best of him.

As we were talking, he looked at me and said, “Fr. Brian, what is the point?  You know that I’m going to amount to nothing anyway.  I am just another minority male from the city. And we know what happens to those.”

I was shocked.

Here was a kid who had never gotten anything less than a B on his report card.  A star athlete who had numerous championship trophies in his collection.  A natural leader who earned maybe ten detentions his entire time with us.

And yet, it was obvious that the demons of self-doubt and inferiority lurked just beneath the surface.  That the institutional racism that has poisoned our city had also poisoned his mind.  Convincing him that he would never be good enough.

And so I looked at him and said the first thing that came to mind.

I said, “My brother, you realize that there is nothing you have done or will ever do that will make us stop loving you.  Your family will always love you.  We here at Nativity will always love you.  And your God will always love you.”  

He looked at me and said “…Nothing?”

“Nothing.”

And then he wrapped me in a hug and did not let go.  And then he cried, experiencing the freedom that comes with love.  Freedom from one’s own guilt and shame.  Freedom from all of the chains and shackles that the world wraps around us to prevent us from living as children of God.

I could not help but think of that student as I reflected on the readings for this weekend.

For in these readings, we witness numerous people who come to accept the truth that there is nothing that one can do that will ever separate us from God’s love.

We see King David accept that love and mercy, even after his laundry list of sins . . . adultery, deceit, murder, arrogance

We see the woman weeping tears like my student, experiencing the love of God that freed her from her guilt and shame, her scandal and her failure.

And in these women and men, we are invited to see ourselves.

To see that all of our sins.  All of our failures.  All of our rough edges and broken pieces are washed away in the waves of God’s mercy and love.

But there is a catch.

We must be willing to accept this truth.

We must be willing to accept this love.

And I have become convinced, my friends, that this is much easier said than done.

Like my student, I believe that many of us struggle to believe that this is true.

Our fear of failure always seems so much larger than God’s ability to love.

And so we try to earn and keep God’s love.

We convince ourselves that the only way that God will love us is if we are perfect.

If we make Honor Roll or earn the Varsity letter.

If our children don’t make any mistakes and our marriage never has any bumps.

If we make partner or earn the promotion.

If we say so many rosaries or donate so much money to charity.

And above all, we must not fail.  We must not mess up.

Then God will have to love us.

But the irony is, that was the tragic flaw of Simon in the Gospel.

For he too felt that he had earned God’s love.  That he had a right to God’s favor.  For he had done everything “right”  He had followed the law, kept the commandments, and played by the rules.

And that made his heart jealous and judgmental.  For what right did that woman have to claim God’s love.  How could God love her compared to him?  

If only Simon could have seen the truth that Christ was offering him.  Which is that God did love him and always would.  He just needed to choose to live in that love.  A love that would free him from his fear and from his need to judge his sister on the journey.   He just needed to welcome the love that was always there into his life.

My friends, today we are once again receiving this invitation.

The invitation to accept God’s love that is just waiting to set us free and to send us forth to be love to the world.

You are loved my friends.

Live in that freedom as the children of God.  May God be Praised.

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