BY FR. BRIAN ZUMBRUM, OSFS
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time | August 5, 2018
Every year since I joined the Oblates, I have gone on a week long retreat. An opportunity to recharge the batteries. To reflect. To renew.
And one of the exercises I always do is I review the year that has past, journaling about the highs and lows.
Now I must admit, I came into this year’s retreat, weighed down with a lot from the past year.
Stress that comes with balancing two schools and parish
Conflicts with colleagues
The loss of my brother Oblate who I was living with
The uncertainty of what this upcoming year would bring. Would I need to move? Would I need to switch jobs?
And part of me directed my frustration at God. Where are you? Why are you not making this easier? Why can’t I go back to those simpler times? Those fleshpots of Egypt.
When I was newly ordained and everything seemed new and exciting
When I was first in the Oblates, spending a year in blissful solitude learning about our spirituality and truly experiencing the power of prayer.
When I was in college, hanging with friends without a care in the world.
But then I decided to re-read my journal entries from years past. And I came to a rather uncomfortable realization.
Which is that my nostaglic memories of the past were not exactly accurate.
My 1st year ordained I was overwhelmed with trying to manage a middle school despite the fact that my training was in high school ministry.
That year of solitude found me constantly questioning why I wasn’t out doing active ministry. Not to mention, my brothers in community were driving me insane.
And college. One moment of drama after another. While simultaneously pulling all-nighters trying to keep up with the classwork.
What happened to the simple, carefree times that I remembered?
My friends, I believe that this romanticized craving for a past that never really existed is a powerful force that remains as true today as it was for our ancestors in Ancient Israel.
Think about it. Our sisters and brothers had just escaped slavery. Backbreaking work of making bricks in the hot Egyptian sun, under the lash of the oppressor. They had watched their sons be murdered by a particularly cruel pharoah.
And they wanted to go back.
Because the uncertainty and fear of the present had them clinging to a fantasied past.
And, today, throughout our nation, we hear similar conversations. Of going back to the glory days of our Church or a time in which our nation was great.
Despite the fact that we can never seem to agree when that mythical era was. For whenever we try, people begin to recall the darkness and flaws and brokenness that was present in those chapters of our history as well.
Maybe like the Israelites, we are just afraid and uncertain of this moment. And we would rather cling to a fantasy than face it.
And yet, this longing for the past misses the great truth of the Christian journey.
The truth that is revealed to us once again in this beautiful Gospel.
Which is that Christ is the Bread of Life. Not was or will be.
He is a present reality, continuing to feed his flock with what they need in this moment.
Like daily manna that cannot be stored for the future. Christ comes to us in each unique moment of our lives, providing us with what we need.
Inviting us to trust that he will be with us tomorrow. And the next day. And the next.
It is a lesson that seems uniquely appropriate as I ask for money this weekend for my order the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. For I could easily be caught in nostalgia for the past in which we had dozens of men studying to be priests and were opening new schools and parishes left and right.
Instead of facing the reality of an aging congregation in which I am the youngest ordained. Sure there is plenty of uncertainty.
But I am not afraid.
For I believe that Christ continues to grant us our daily bread. Nourishing us as we continue to bear his light and love to the world.
You my friends are Christ to us. Through your generosity, you remind us that we are not alone. You walk beside us and minister to and with us as we all seek to build the kingdom.
And you give me the freedom to plunge back into the work that God has given me that is sacred and lifegiving. To teach our youth and minister to our poor. To preach in English and Spanish and to accompany families through the valley of the shadow of death.
Where are you God? Right here. In this moment where you have always been and always will be. Amen. Amen.
May God be Praised.