12th Sunday in Ordinary Time| June 25, 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 Gospel reading.
I believe that we all have a moment in which we realize that the world is not this perfect place we envisioned it to be. A moment in which we experience fear in all of its brutal force.
For some of us, this shattering occurs when we are incredibly young.
An uncle abuses us.
A father abandons us.
A mother neglects us.
For others, this shattering was linked to an event that gripped a nation and reminded us of how false our illusions of security were.
Images of planes flying into towers and hurricanes tearing through a city.
People, Places and moments that became burned into our collective memory
Columbine and Pearl Harbor
ISIS and The Pulse Night Club
Sandy Hook and the Assassination of JFK
The KKK and the Kent State massacre
And for others, they have never been afforded a world in which the illusion of safety was ever present.
They have grown up in neighborhoods in which hunger and disease stalk each resident, in which the stray bullet is an ever-present threat, and in which the very institutions that are supposed to protect and defend them instead betray and threaten them.
Yes, the paths we take to discover our fear are as diverse as we are.
But regardless of how we arrive at this moment, we all eventually must face the fact of what it means to be afraid.
And that includes me. I too must face the fact that I am afraid.
For I know what frightens me.
I fear the death of those I love. I fear the death of those students that I have formed and nurtured. I fear the pain and the grief that inevitably follows such a loss.
And yet, I hear these readings for this weekend and I am at a loss for words.
Fear no one.
Be not afraid.
How? How can I do that?
How do I go back to a time when I was not afraid? How do I return to a time when the world seemed safe?
It seems impossible. A dream bought into only by children and fools.
For we cannot go back. We cannot erase the experiences we have had.
We cannot deny what is true. We cannot hide from the world. We cannot live in a fantasy land divorced from reality.
And yet, nowhere in these readings do we find any indication that God wants us to go back.
On the contrary, our God is a God of the present. Even when that present reality includes persecution and injustice. Even when that present reality involves the potential loss of everything one holds dear, including one’s very life.
And it is in the midst of that present reality that our God still invites us to be not afraid. To fear no one.
For it is not the circumstances of one’s life that dictates the power of fear. It is the rhythms of our own heart.
For if we look at Jeremiah, we do not see fear.
When we listen to the words of the psalmist, we do not hear fear.
And if we look at the person of Jesus Christ, we do not see fear.
We see pain and struggle, we hear uncertainty and injustice, we see evil and death.
But we do not see fear. For each of these individuals refused to allow the circumstances of the world to separate them from their source. God. God who is love.
And in remaining close to their God, their hearts were sustained with a love that drives out fear. A love that sees the God alive in each person. That sees God’s handiwork written in every word of our story and every star in the cosmos. That sees God within our own soul.
Giving us the strength to bear with whatever may come our way with gentleness and compassion, with courage and grace.
Giving us the ability to forgive those who wrong us, to reconcile with those estranged from us, to embrace those who hate us.
Giving us permission to find joy even in the midst of sorrow, to find peace even in the midst of chaos, to live without fear even as we name all of the reasons we should be afraid.
It is true, the world has never been an easy place to live in. But that has never stopped the saints who have gone before.
And so my friends, let us strive to remain close to our God. Let us turn to our God with hearts full of uncertainty. With hearts wounded. With hearts crippled with anxiety and stress. With hearts that are timid and afraid. With hearts that are ready.
And then let us let love slowly drive out fear. So that one day, we too may exclaim
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I fear no evil. For You are with me.
May God be Praised.