HOMILY: Starting with the Source

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time | February 12, 2017

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 readings here. This homily focuses on all of this week’s readings.

It always amazes me how good students can be at practicing law.

Fr. Brian, the handbook says that our socks need to be black. But it does not say that we have to wear socks.

​Fr. Brian, I do have an ID around my neck. The handbook doesn’t say it needs to be my ID.

Fr. Brian, you asked for two pages, you didn’t tell me how much had to be written on those two pages.

Fr. Brian, you said the permission form was due by today. I still have 8 hours if I use Pacific Standard Time, right?

They are good, I gotta admit. But what is also fascinating, is how rigid students can be in interpreting the law and its enforcement when it comes to their classmates. The same student who can somehow find the loophole in my instructions is outraged when his peer does the same.

​Why does he get an extension on his paper? That’s not fair.

​Fr. Brian, so and so is playing a game on his IPad. Thought you should know.

​Of course he won’t get in trouble. He’s your favorite. If I did that, I’d get a detention.

​Didn’t you just see that? How come you only ever see when I’m doing something wrong?

Now I would love to say that this trend slowly dies down as we get older, but let’s be honest.

We can be just as inconsistent as my students when it comes to the law.

​We still are constantly seeking the loopholes . . .

​They won’t actually pull you over until you are going 10 miles over the speed limit.

I’m pretty sure I can count that as a tax deduction. They never really check these anyway.

​I’m not stealing. I’m just borrowing it for awhile.

​It’s not a lie. I may just be embellishing things a tad.

And yet, at the same time, we can be so rigid when it comes to others who are breaking the law, whether the laws of the state or the laws of our Church.

I mean I’m sure they are good people. But they broke the law and they need to be deported and do things the right way.

The law is the law. If someone is divorced and remarried they should not be able to receive communion.

We need a zero tolerance policy. If a student does drugs, they are out. If they bully another student, they are out. We must be consistent

Can people not read the sign. 7 items or less. Geez, how hard is it to follow the rules.

It seems that as a culture we view law as a set of necessary limitations that keep us all in check. Restraining our freedom. Forcing us to do what we would otherwise not do.

We begrudgingly allow ourselves to be shackled, terrified of what would happen if the laws were suddenly abolished.

And in that way, we are not that different from the Pharisees of old.

For they too were terrified of what would happen if the Law was removed. For they believed that it was the law alone that kept the Jewish people united in the face of a frequently hostile world.

And so they too clung to a rigid interpretation of the law towards their fellow Jewish believers, even as occasionally they developed loopholes along the way.

And yet, this is not the image of the law that Christ proclaims in today’s Gospel.

For Christ did not begin with the Law. He began with God.

The source of the law.

The giver of the law.

Who saw in the law God’s plan for the human person. A plan that would lead to the flourishing of each and every human being.

​And so, contained in each law, he saw the values that God desired for the people.

​He saw the importance of faithfulness and commitment in forming a family.

​He saw how quickly anger could lead to hatred and violence

​He saw the danger in reducing people to objects of our own pleasure or desire.

​He saw the necessity of integrity, in the words one speaks and the life one lives.

It was this vision, this wisdom that Christ possessed that allowed him to proclaim the value of the law, while often challenging particular regulations when he viewed them as shackling one of his beloved sisters or brothers . . . whether it be the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, the disciples as they consumed grain on the Sabbath or dined with a known tax collector or sinner.

He did not concern himself with legalism. He refused to be boxed into a black or white mode of thinking, preferring to step into the grayness of an individual’s story and love them in that moment. And in that process, he affirmed the values that he knew would set that person free.

I am convinced that if we going to see the world as Christ sees it, we need to rethink our view of law.

We must allow ourselves to enter into a relationship with the God who stands behind the law.

The God who continues to offer us the values we need to become who we are called to be.

Integrity. Justice. Fidelity. Peacemaker. Joy-filled. Merciful. Compassionate. Tenacious. Gentle. Humble. Generous. Patient. Kind.

And when we discover these values, we too will not be afraid to fulfill the law, even as we will need to step beyond it from time to time to meet our sisters and brothers where they are. We will not be afraid of the gray, messy aspects of another’s story. We will be freed from our own rigidity, our own scrupulosity, our own fear, our own need to judge and condemn.

For we will finally be able to live in the freedom of the children of God.

May God be Praised

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