15th Sunday in Ordinary Time | July 9/10, 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 Gospel reading.
I remember my very first day at Nativity Prep.
It was faculty orientation and our principal was introducing the school and its mission to all of us. During those remarks, he shared something that I have never forgotten.
He looked at us and said, you have one job as an educator. It is to love your students. That’s it. If you love your students, everything else will fall into place.
I remember thinking . . . That seems simple enough.
How wrong I was!
For no one warned me that not every student is easy to love all the time.
It can get really hard to love a child when they are lying to your face or shutting down in your office.
It can be hard to love a child when they are arrogant or dismissive or rebellious.
And no one quite made clear the cost that would come with loving my students.
No one explained how personal it would all become. How I would lose sleep over kids who were failing and students we had to expel. How I would shed tears over parents that were buried and abuse that was suffered. How I would see the world differently after listening to stories of racial profiling and drive-by shootings and drug deals in their backyard
And no one could have prepared me for the hole that was ripped in my heart the day that someone murdered my former student.
And yet, through it all, I have clung to those opening remarks of my principal.
For I have come to realize that his remarks are more than just the wise words of a principal.
They are the echoes of a call that has been proclaimed from these Scriptures for over 2000 years.
The call that is at the heart of what it means to be a disciple.
The call to love your neighbor as yourself.
And yes, on the surface, it seems rather simple doesn’t it.
We must love our neighbor.
How hard can it be?
But if the events of this past week have taught us anything, it is that we are failing to live out this most basic call as a Christian people.
For when faced with those we do not like or do not understand, we are failing to respond with love.
On the contrary, we have chosen to fear them.
And in our fear, we have built walls to protect us. Walls built brick by brick, comprised of our prejudice and our ignorance, our anger and our hatred.
And behind those walls, we have unleashed our darkest impulses into the anonymity of the Internet to savage those we do not understand or do not agree with.
Behind those walls, we have surrounded ourselves with the very weapons that continue to bathe our nation in blood. Heedless of the accidental shootings, murders, and suicides that continue to claim the very lives these weapons were supposed to protect.
Behind those walls, we have repeated a countless series of lies so often that we now believe them to be true. We have stated that race no longer matters. We have stated that are rhetoric is harmless, that the hate we speak cannot possibly have consequences on the actions that others choose to take. We have stated that nothing will ever change. That we are trapped with the world as it is.
Behind those walls, we have become a nation caught in seemingly endless cycles of violence. In which too many of us are wringing our hands and looking to heaven to intervene. To stop the madness. To right the wrongs.
But our God has already given us that tool.
That one tool that can end the violence and the hatred. The one tool that can heal what is broken and restore what is lost.
And that tool is love.
A love that Christ embodied as he went to the cross for each of us and all of us.
And so, if we dare to claim the name of Christian, then we must do the same.
We must choose to love.
Even when it is not easy. Even when it hurts.
We must choose to love the immigrant who is here illegally and the Muslim refugee who escaped persecution in her home country.
We must choose to love the couple who insists on flying the Confederate flag out their window and the nativist who desires to build a wall.
We must choose to love Omar Mateen and the gay men and women that he murdered in Orlando
We must choose to love Micah Johnson and the police men that he executed in Dallas.
We must choose to love Philando Castile and the cop who killed him and his fiancé who watched him die.
I must choose to love the men who murdered my student.
For we must choose to love each one as ourselves. There are NO exceptions.
We must choose to make it personal. So that we can begin to comprehend each other’s fears. So that we can begin to feel each other’s pain. So that we can begin to mend each other’s hearts.
We must choose to love.
All through love, my friends, nothing through fear.
May God be Praised