BY FR. BRIAN ZUMBRUM, OSFS
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 Gospel reading.
3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time | January 21, 2018
What makes someone follow another?
It is a question that I was reflecting on a lot after hearing the Gospel once again for this weekend.
For I have always found it somewhat amazing that these grown men, with families, careers, and a life would leave everything on the shoreline and follow this wandering preacher.
How did they know that he was someone worth following?
As I was pondering this question, I began to think back on my own journey.
Who were the people that I chose to follow when a young man?
And one name came quickly to the forefront.
Mr. John Brixius, my high school principal.
See, John was responsible for an inner city high school in Harrisburg, PA. And in retrospect, this must have been an enormously stressful job.
He was responsible for a building that was always in some sort of disrepair. No air conditioning, heat that could be temperamental, and of course occasional sinks that flooded, drenching the choir room in a cascade of water.
He was always facing a challenging financial picture. Making do with very little, constantly needing to trim corners to make it all work.
And then of course, he was trying to educate 800 students coming from a diverse array of backgrounds.
But as a student, I never really saw all of the stress he was under. I simply saw how he made it happen.
He managed to make it all work. And he did so by first and foremost putting himself at the service of the school community.
He needed an extra history teacher, so he taught. Two or three sections a year.
He wanted a theater program, so he directed the shows. Giving nights and weekends throughout the year to ensure that we had the opportunity to perform on stage.
At the end of a football game, when everyone else was leaving, he grabbed his trashbag and began to walk the bleachers picking up trash.
He cleaned up the floor after someone got sick in the middle of the hallway.
He broke up the fight that occurred in the cafeteria.
He stacked chairs and put away tables after the school dance.
All as the leader of the school.
And now I understand why we followed him. Why we joined him in cleaning up those bleachers. Why we stayed after dances to sweep floors and wipe down counters. Why we always said yes, whenever he asked for our assistance.
Because here was a man who walked the walk. Who lived what he believed and what he preached.
Who understood that the last will be first.
Who understood that faith without works is dead.
Who understood that God is love.
And in reflecting on Mr. B, I came to appreciate why the disciples followed Christ.
For they too witnessed a man who practiced what he preached.
A man who showed mercy
A man who healed the broken and the alienated
A man who loved those who persecuted him.
A man whose relationship with God provided him with the strength to serve a wounded world.
And they followed him, knowing that they too would be challenged to walk the walk. To become leaders that others would follow.
My friends, I am convinced that the message of the Gospel is more relevant than ever.
For we are living in truly tumultuous times. Where the truth is twisted and distorted. Where the other is demonized. Where brute strength is deified and weakness is despised. Where the most vulnerable among us are at the mercy of the whims of the powerful who accumulate more and more.
Yes, we need the words of Scripture to be heard loud and clear. Those countercultural cries to love our enemies, to forgive our brother, to do unto others as Christ has done for us. For whatsoever we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do unto Christ.
But I believe that Mr. Brixius and Christ offers us a poignant reminder in our efforts to preach the Good News.
Which is that if we wish to lead others into a life giving relationship with Christ, we too must be willing to walk the walk. If we wish to preach, then we best practice what we proclaim.
For if we are the only Scriptures that someone will ever read, what will they encounter when they meet us?
Will they find mercy or judgment?
Will they be greeted with hospitality or hostility.
Will they be served or shunned?
Will they be loved or despised.
The world is waiting my friends.
May they know we are Christians by our love. May God be Praised.