HOMILY: Christ in Disguise

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time | July 23, 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 hereSalesian Sermons

PROTIP: You can take a look at the readings here. This homily focuses on the Gospel reading.

So last weekend, my phone was stolen and my wallet was cleared out of all of its cash.

And it happened in Church of all places.

Needless to say, it left me a bit rattled.  I had been living under my false illusion of security for so long that I guess I never envisioned those things would happen to me.

I mean really, who steals from a priest right?

Now, at the end of the day, this was all a minor inconvenience.  Yes, I lost my contacts, but I have an old phone that had most of the numbers still saved. And yes, I lost some cash, but to be honest, I probably would have given the person the cash if they asked.

But it was hard not to feel violated.  And I quickly found myself tempted to judge this individual, harboring feelings of anger and frustration.

But then a teacher of mine from grade school reminded me of a lesson that I had long ago forgot.

She reminded me of my childhood pastor who confronted the reality that people were stealing from the Poor Box.  

Everyone expected him to rail against those who were stealing from the least fortunate among us.

But he didn’t.  Instead, with genuine care and concern in his voice, he simply said.  This individual must be in need.  And therefore maybe the Poor Box was just meant for them this week.

And in his simple speech, he reminded all of us that we should be very careful to judge.  For if we do so, we may just be missing Christ in disguise.

A lesson that is at the heart of our readings for this weekend.

I have always loved this Gospel for it subtly critiques a tendency that we all are prone to from time to time, by using an image from nature that all of his listeners would have been familiar with.

See wheat and the weed fennel look virtually identical when they are first sprouting.  No master farmer would ever try to distinguish the two when they are still growing.  For odds are, you would get it wrong more times than not.

It is only when the two crops are fully grown that one can finally distinguish them.  It is only at the end of their journey that one can finally tell who they are.

And in his discussion of wheat and weed, Jesus is critiquing our tendency to judge . . . not plants, but people.

For the reality is, like the servants in the Gospel, we are so quick to offer our services in judging our sisters and brothers.

We are all too comfortable with our own analysis of the situation.  We are all too certain that this person is wheat and this person weed.

We hear a label and assume that we understand them.

Criminal

Addict

Undocumented Immigrant

Single Mom

Drop-out

Thief

Adulterer

Murderer

But like the wheat and fennel, I have become convinced that judging people is just not that simple.

For I have former students who are criminals.

I have visited them in their cells and sat through their court hearings.  And yet at the same time I still remember them sitting in class, laughing and discussing.  I still remember sitting beside them as they buried their cousin who was murdered or as they grappled with family abuse.

I have friends who are addicts, who also happen to be some of the most selfless people I know, who have given their life to making the path easier for those who will follow them.

I have watched single-moms do the seemingly impossible by working two or three shifts to keep their children in private school.

I have dined in the home of the undocumented and listened to their stories of war-torn homelands they left behind and the future they are building here.  

And in the process, I have come to realize that the reason we cannot judge is because none of us are ever fully defined until we come to the end of our journey.

We all are a mixture of wheat and weed and let’s be honest, on any given day, we would be hard pressed to separate the wheat and weed in our own life, much less in someone else’s

So let us continue on our journey this week, my friends.

And in the process, may we heed the wisdom of our 1st reading.

May we too be just.  May we too be kind.

And in the process, may we too give hope to a people waiting to experience God’s love, not judgment this day.

May God be Praised.

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