HOMILY: Broken & Chosen

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 first and Gospel readings.

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time | September 24, 2017

A few weekends ago, I was sitting up in my room, enjoying a nice quiet Saturday evening.

When suddenly the doorbell began to ring.

Now, I’ll be completely honest.  Usually, I ignore the doorbell and hope someone else in the house will get it.

But it seems that everyone else in the house had a life that evening, for I was the only one home.

So after about the fifth ring, I resigned myself to the inevitable.  I would need to answer the front door.

So I walked downstairs and saw a disheveled looking young man, not much older than myself.  And as I looked at him through the glass, it dawned on me.

I had given him money the day before.  Money to help him and his wife catch a bus ride home from the hospital.

And here he was.

Not knowing that he had boldly lied to me, the man he was about to ask for money.

And for a moment I was so indignant.

How dare he?  How dare he come before me and ask yet again for assistance, after he had lied to me the day before.

And in that moment, I felt so justified.  Like the laborers in our Gospel from this morning.  I was so secure in my own righteousness.

For this young man was no better than those lazy laborers who arrived at the end of the day and still claimed their full reward.

He too had done no work.  He was a liar.  Probably an addict.  And yet he dared to presume on my generosity.  When I had already helped him.  When I was tired after a long week of working to make this world a better place.

And as I prepared to unleash my justified anger at this young man, I suddenly recalled the words of Bryan Stephenson.

See Bryan Stephenson had written a book titled Just Mercy, which I had been asked to read at Salesianum.  And in that book, he had a chapter titled brokenness.

And in that chapter, he stated a truth that returned with a vengeance as I stood on the other side of a glass door.  He wrote,

I realized they were broken people, too, even if they would never admit it. So many of us have become afraid and angry. We’ve become so fearful and vengeful that we’ve allowed our victimization to justify the victimization of others. We’ve submitted to the harsh instinct to crush those among us whose brokenness is most visible.

And in that moment, I knew he was right.  For on that night, I simply wanted this man to disappear.  So that I did not have to face the truth.  The truth that I was no better than he was.  The truth that I was just as broken.

And see I believe that I am not alone in my denial.  For everywhere I turn I see our collective efforts to crush the broken

We deport the undocumented and incarcerate the addicted and the mentally ill.

We expel the troubled teen and bar the transgender child from the restroom.

We drive the homeless from our streets and segregate our poor into neighborhoods far from our collective view.

We demean and silence the oppressed who dare to share their experience.  

Convincing ourselves that they must be lying.  Or that they are unpatriotic.  Or that they are evil.

All because these women and men bear visible witness to a truth that we do not wish to accept.

Which is that we are broken too.

That each of us is a flawed, fractured human being.

With our mistakes and failures, sins and scars.

A truth that is at the core of our Gospel for today.

For those indignant laborers, who were so angry at their fellow workers, missed a crucial point.

Which is that they had been standing on those same corners as the others just a few hours ago.

They were no different than the others, except for the fact that the owner found them first.

They were chosen.  But so were those laborers at the end of the day.

Both were equal in the eyes of the owner.  And each received what they needed.

My friends, I am convinced that in the behavior of the owner we are reminded of the reality of who God is and who we are.

Yes, we are broken.  But we are also chosen.  Each and everyone of us is chosen.

And it is in the choice of our God that we too receive what we need.

We receive reconciliation and healing.

We receive strength and comfort

We receive unconditional love.

We no longer need to crush the broken.  We can embrace them.  For in them, we see our very selves.  Blessed and broken.  Chosen and beloved.

And so I opened that door.  I embraced that young man.  And as we both wept, I saw a different image in the mirror.  For I now saw God:  God alive and at work in two broken people who chose to love and to be loved in return.

May God be Praised.

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