6th Sunday of Easter | May 21, 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 the second reading.
Give anyone who asks a reason for your hope.
Ironic that the week we hear this reading proclaimed, a student of mine asked me why I still remain a priest.
It was an interesting question.
He wasn’t concerned about why I entered.
He wanted to know why I stayed.
And I must admit, I wasn’t very satisfied with the answer I gave him. For I said that I love this life. And I’m not sure that I was telling the whole truth.
For there are many things about this life and this vocation that I do not love.
I do not love mornings. I do not love attempting to pray in the morning. I do not love navigating 95 on a morning.
I do not love the fact that there are often too many obligations packed into one day that have been running all over the tri-state area from dawn to late into the evening.
I do not love the fact that I often feel I am stretched too thin. I do not love the fact that it is often those I love most who get the short end of the stick.
I sure as heck do not love the heartache that comes with this work. I do not love watching students you care for fail or get expelled or get arrested. I do not love watching guys grappling with addiction or depression or crippling anxiety. I do not love seeing people in pain when they lose someone they love.
And I think the thing I love least of all is having to be the one that keeps it together in the midst of incredible loss or tragedy, even when your own heart is shattered. When all I want to do is crawl under my covers and hide, but I know I need to preach the funeral or visit the hospital.
No, I’m not sure I love this work all the time. And I would bet I’m not alone. I would bet that if we are honest with ourselves. We don’t always love the work that comes with being a parent or spouse. We don’t always love the work that comes with being a caregiver or a friend. We don’t always enjoy the work that comes with being a student. We don’t always love the work that comes with belonging to a Church.
So why do we stay? What is the reason for our hope?
Well I think I was reminded of it as I re-read the Gospel for this weekend.
For I do not stay for the work. I stay because of a person.
I stay because I love a person.
And that person is Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ who I believe is alive and at work in every person that I interact with in a given day.
Christ who is present in the student who stands up in front of 1100 of his peers and shares the painful road he had to take, but how it ultimately led him to the discovery that God loved him and so did his brothers.
Christ who is present in his classmates who gave this introverted, socially awkward young man a standing ovation.
Christ who is present in the parent who sends a note just because and the graduate who stops by school and surprise me with a hug and a glowing report card and the kid who is sent to the front office because he disrespected a teacher.
Christ who is present in one’s colleagues as you share a celebratory end of year lunch and in the parent of a young man who was murdered a year before and in your boss who is still frustrated with how the past year went.
Christ who is present in my friend as he gets ordained and in my friend as she buries her father and in my friend who stopped speaking to me after I called a helpline for him in his moment of crisis.
Christ who is present in a parish family that comforts me and supports me, who challenges me and stands beside me, who shares with me in my joys and sorrows.
Christ who laughs and cries. Christ who is in pain and who radiates joy. Christ who is isolated and who embraces. Christ who is wounded and who heals another. Christ who is justifiably angry and who brings peace in the midst of division.
And every time I encounter him in another, I am rejuvenated in my own vocation. I am pushed forward to do the work. Not out of a sense of obligation or duty. Not out of fear of what may happen. Not out of ego over what others may think.
I do the work because it is the work of the one I love.
I do the work because in so doing I encounter again and again the one I love.
I do the work because Christ is alive in me. This is my work.
My friends, there is ultimately only one reason for our hope.
It has been the same reason throughout our history as a Christian people.
But as we prepare for the end of another Easter season, we are challenged to name this reason once again.
We are challenged to name the Risen Christ in our midst that is the reason why we hope. The reason why we believe. The reason why we love.
We are challenged to see the Risen Christ in each person we encounter. In our spouse and our children. Our neighbors and co-workers. Our classmates and teachers. Our parishioners and our friends. In the poor and the convict, the refugee and the immigrant, the child with autism and the widow with dementia, the gang member and the white supremacist. The liberal and the conservative. The homeless and the addict. And yes we must see Christ in ourselves.
We are challenged to do the work of Christ. To love our God with all our heart and to love each other as Christ has loved us.
So let us take up this challenge. Let us live in Christ and love as Christ, today, tomorrow and always. May God be Praised.