HOMILY: Eyes & Hearts Open

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time | September 25, 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.

This past weekend, I chaperoned my 1st overnight retreat with Salesianum.And like any retreat, I quickly grew to care for this particular group of young men as they grappled with how to follow God and hear his voice in the midst of an often chaotic world.

I always leave retreats inspired by the hope, the passion and the vulnerability of our young people. In their willingness to leave their comfort zone, in their willingness to open their hearts to another, in their willingness to change and to grow, they constantly teach me how to be a better priest and a better person.

But there was this one student in particular who really left an impact on me.

It was the second night and he chose to share with the group how isolated he had felt at Sallies over the last three years. He said, “This is the first time that I’ve really felt a part of the brotherhood. And it is really nice.”

My heart broke for this kid.

For as I listened to him speak, I could not help but think back to my own experience of high school.

See, I was that kid my freshman year.

I remember walking the halls as if I was invisible. A lot of my friends from grade school were quickly making friends and I somehow found myself on the outside looking in.

In retrospect, it makes sense. I was a nerd. With super big ears and pathetically little body mass. And I was never exactly into the party scene.

But it still hurt nonetheless.

Nobody wants to be the outcast. Nobody wants to be the one who finds himself sitting alone. Nobody wants to find out after the fact that everybody went to a movie and you were not invited.

It really hurts to not be noticed. To not be remembered.

It really hurts not to be seen.

And yet, like the young man from Sallies, my story did not end there.

For we both soon discovered or rediscovered people who did see us for who we were. Who found our quirks endearing. Who allowed us to be ourselves. Who saw us and loved us. And in the process they helped shape us into who we would become.

As I watched him laughing with his peers on the retreat, I could his whole body language changing. It was as if years of weight were lifted off of his shoulders. I saw that young man smile more in those forty-eight hours than in all the time I had known him.

And that smile has not gone away.

I couldn’t help but think of that young man as I reflected on the readings for this weekend.

For like Lazarus, this young man had known what it is like to not be seen.

It’s interesting. No where in this reading do we find any particular malice on the part of the rich man.

It is not like he schemed against Lazarus or spitefully made sure that no one assisted him.

On the contrary, the rich man never acted against Lazarus because he never really saw him.

All those years, Lazarus had slept right outside his door, but the rich man never noticed.

He was too wrapped up in his own world . . . in its comforts and privileges, in its power and pleasure.

And therefore, he never truly saw him.

My friends, we are surrounded by Lazruses in our own lives.

Our schools are filled with kids who eat alone at lunch tables. Who sit by themselves on the bus. Who have no one to play with at recess and no one to talk to after school.

We live next to neighbors who no one visits. Who no one stops to chat with when they are sitting out on their porch. Who no one checks in on when their spouse dies.

We have co-workers that no one asks how there day is going. No one stops and notices the signs that they’ve been crying.

We have brothers and sisters who live on the very streets that we drive down each and every day that no one stops to talk to. That no one hugs. That no one offers a warm bed to or offers to purchase a meal.

We have a world with more refugees than in any point in our global history. And yet, too many of us simply turn off the TV. We click to the next screen. We refuse to see that they are our problem.

And every time we do not see them, we become like the rich man. Oblivious to the poverty of those all around us.

But if we allow God to open our eyes. If we allow God to open our hearts.

We could breach the chasm that exists between each other. We could be the cool water that quenches another’s thirst. We could be the one who makes the other into a sister or brother who belongs.

The choice is ours my friends.

We can see as God sees. We can love as God loves.

Or we can turn away, close our eyes and cut ourselves off from one another.

Open my eyes, Lord. Help me to see your face.

May God be Praised

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