Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted regularly 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.
3rd Sunday of Advent | December 17, 2017
This past Sunday, I attended the funeral of the 30 year-old father of one of our students.
He was shot in front of his own son during a home invasion just blocks from this very church.
And as I was driving to the service, my mind was racing as I watched the endless Christmas displays whipping past my window.
“Peace on Earth,” one proclaimed.
“Joy to the World,” said another.
“Merry and Bright,” flashed a third.
And I found myself getting angry.
Who we were trying to fool?
Peace on earth? Look around. Violence and war are all around us. Violence in the very land of Christ’s birth. Violence on the very streets that I call home. Violence in our grade schools and churches, as if nothing and no one was sacred anymore.
Joy to the World? Look around. This season is marred by grief and loss. The recognition that one’s loved ones won’t be around the table, stolen from us through estrangement and divorce, illness and death.
Merry and Bright? Look around. Can you not see the darkness? Can you not see the despair?
As I parked the car and entered the Church, I was still angry and grief-stricken. I sat in my seat alone, waiting for the service to begin. But as the service drew nearer, my row began to fill up. Middle school students and their parents there to support their classmate. My colleagues and boss, there to stand by one of our own. Suddenly, I was not alone in my grief and pain and anger.
And then the father of the deceased spoke. He looked out into the congregation and said, if I may, I have a word that I would like to share.
“Here it comes,” I murmured. Here would be the uttered cry of a devastated father. Here would be the anger and pain that I could not voice.
But I was wrong.
He looked at us all and said, “Every time my son and I called, we ended by saying I love you. The last words we ever shared were the words I love you.”
My friends, I am never going to end a phone call or conversation again without saying I love you to the person I am speaking with. I am not going to miss the opportunity to love.
And so, if I could ask a favor of all of you. I invite you to stand and share your love with the people you are sitting beside. Let us be a source of love in the world.
And as I obeyed the voice of the prophet in my midst, I found myself embracing colleagues and students and parents, repeating the one truth that shines above all.
I love you.
I have not been able to forget that scene as I prepared my homily for this weekend.
For in Paul’s letter, I am confronted with the paradox at the heart of this Advent season.
Which is that we are given a commission to rejoice in the midst of sorrow.
We are given the opportunity to be light in the midst of the darkness.
We are given the promise of peace in the midst of violence and war
We are given the command to love in the midst of hatred and division
And though I had struggled with how this is possible, I saw it lived out by a father who had been robbed of the greatest gift, the gift of his child.
I saw a man stand against the darkness and say I will be the love that I wish to see in the world.
I will be the joy.
I will be the peace.
I will be the light.
A man who like our John the Baptist would not experience the fullness of the truth he proclaimed on this side of heaven.
But that did not stop him from living that truth.
It did not stop him from proclaiming that truth.
My friends, we have one last week of Advent before the glorious celebration of Christmas.
And the invitation of these readings is extended to each of us this day.
Are we going to be sources of joy? Are we going to radiate joy into the lives of those who still mourn. Who mourn the loss of their independence or their loved ones? Who mourn the loss of their dreams or their home?
Are we going to be sources of light? Are we going to radiate light into the darkest fears that cling to those around us? Fears of failure and of loss. Fears of the future and of the past. Fears of terror and violence, of illness and aging.
Are we going to be sources of love? Are we going to radiate love into the lives of those whose hearts are callused with hate and prejudice, whose hearts are fractured by wounds suffered and abuse endured, whose hearts have been abandoned and discarded.
Are we going to be the Christ that we wait for?
Rejoice always. I say it again rejoice.
For the one who calls you is faithful and he will also accomplish it.
May God be Praised