Loved, Without Exception

BY FR. BRIAN ZUMBRUM, OSFS

Pentecost – Mass During the Day | May 20, 2018

See today’s readings here. This homily focuses on the Gospel reading. The archive of all of Fr. Brian’s homilies can be found here: Salesian Sermons

Fr. Brian, what exactly do you do?

It seemed like such an innocent question.

And yet, if you have ever attempted to describe your job to another person, it begins to seem so inadequate.

Well let’s see . . . I make programs for mass and track down students who are missing service hours.

I train Eucharistic ministers and turn on 150 electric candles for retreats and grade essay exams.

I sit in meetings and answer e-mails and counsel students.

I do home visits and attend rugby games and speak in front of prospective students.

Is that really what I do?  A series of seemingly unrelated tasks?

There must be something more.

And then, I recalled a conversation I had shared with a student a few days before and suddenly it all clicked.

I knew exactly how to answer this question.

See a few days before a student had come to me in a bit of a tailspin.  Homelife was a trainwreck, grades were abysmal and he was in full-blown panic mode.

As we were talking, he looked at me and said.  I’m just a failure.

I stopped him, looked him in the eyes, and said.  You are not a failure.  Sure, you have failed and in many ways a lot of people have failed you.  But you are not a failure.

You are chosen.  You are a gift.  You are loved my brother.  That is who you are.

He was getting a tad choked up at this point and said, I don’t know if I believe that.

I said.  Well I do.  I believe that God loves you and so do I.

He didn’t respond.  Just grabbed my hand and nodded his head.  Then the bell rang and he said, I’ll be back after school to write my English essay.  I can get these grades up and I am going to graduate.

And it was in that interchange that I truly was able to answer what I do.

Ultimately, my life as an Oblate, as a priest, as an educator and as a disciple boils down to spreading this one basic truth that defines our Christian journey.  Which is that we are loved, unconditionally.  And because we are loved, we possess the freedom to then love others in return.

And as I listened to the Gospel again for this weekend, I realize that this is the same final word that Jesus gives to his disciples about what they are supposed to.

For in his final act with his disciples, he gave them a gift.  The gift of the Spirit.  The gift of God’s love dwelling within them.

And it was this love that would sustain them through the misunderstandings and outright rejections, through the conflicts and exhaustion, through the persecutions and the exiles.

And it was this love that would motivate them every day to go forth and love one another.  Their fellow disciples, their Jewish sisters and brothers, their Gentile neighbors, and their Roman authorities.

My friends, today we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost.  The great feast of God’s love.

And like the disciples 2,000 years ago, Jesus is still telling us the same basic truth.

You are loved.  Unconditionally.  Now go forth and love one another as I love you.

And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we are too often like my student.

Afraid.

We are afraid to get it wrong and afraid of change.

We are afraid of aging.  Afraid of dying.

Afraid of difference.  Afraid of the unknown.

Afraid of our own failures and inadequacies.  Afraid of our secrets and our past.

Afraid of how we have been hurt.  Afraid of how others have failed us.  Afraid to trust.

Afraid to be vulnerable.  Afraid to show who we truly are.  Afraid to be weak, to be broken, to need another.

Afraid that we are not enough.  That we will never be good enough.

And so we choose fear over love.  And each and every day I encounter people who doubt that they are loved.  And who, in their insecurity, refuse to love another.  Masking their own fear in layers of apathy and anger and hatred for the other.  As if love was a finite resource that we can’t dare waste or squander on someone else.

For if there isn’t enough love for us, how possibly will I find love for another.

But, my friends, if we are truly an Easter people then we do not need to be afraid.  For love is always more powerful than our fear.  IF we choose to live in that truth.  IF we choose to allow the Spirit to truly enter our lives.

My friends.  YOU ARE LOVED.  Each and every one of you are loved unconditionally.

So go forth and spread that love to EACH and EVERY person that you encounter, without exception.

May God be Praised

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