The Choice to Love

BY FR. BRIAN ZUMBRUM, OSFS

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time | October 7, 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 hereSalesian Sermons

Last year, I was asked to celebrate a rather unique event.

My grandparents were celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary and they asked if I would help them renew their wedding vows.

Needless to say, it was truly a remarkable moment.  I looked at my grandparents as they smiled at each other, gripping the worn and wrinkled hands that they had held onto these past 60 years, and I was in awe.

In awe of the power of love that had united these two individuals together in a relationship that then poured forth love into the world.

And as I looked around the room, I saw the power of what their love had wrought.  Hundreds of people from across the country gathered to bear witness to the transformative power of love.

But I was also struck by the reality of so many in that room.  There were couples on the verge of divorce and couples who were divorced and remarried.  There were mothers who had never married and widows who had buried their spouses years ago.  There were individuals who were gay and transgender. There who those who had chosen to remain single and those who desperately wanted a partner but could not find one.  There were happily married couples with children and grandchildren of their own and then couples who would never have children, despite their desire for them.

It was as if that room was a microcosm of who we are today as a people in 2018.

And it is that reality that comes face to face with our Gospel from today.

Because let’s be real, this Gospel is certainly divisive.

For this Gospel has often been the weapon wielded by the Church to shame and isolate our divorced brothers and sisters.  Using the teachings of Christ on divorce as a bludgeon to judge and condemn those who lives did not take the path they had anticipated when they said their own “I dos”

But I wonder if in our zeal for the “law”, we are missing a much more profound lesson contained in this Scripture, a lesson that has profound implications for all of us.

See, Jesus mentions the hardness of heart that made ancient divorce decrees possible and I believe he is right.

I believe that countless situations, choices, and individuals harden our hearts, making it difficult to give love and receive it in return.

We find ourselves caught in the rat race, fighting for promotions, worrying about deadlines and stressed about finances.  And in this whirlwind our hearts harden.

Our friends gossip about us behind our back and we learn of the betrayal and our hearts harden.

We are assaulted as a teenager but our story is not believed and our hearts harden.

We learn that our partner has been unfaithful and our hearts harden.

We summon the courage to take a risk and we are embarrassed and humiliated.  We fail and our hearts harden.

Our spouses become violent and abusive and our hearts harden

We are hurting and grieving, but don’t know how to share that or who to share it with and our hearts harden.

And as our hearts are hardened, all relationships become more difficult to sustain.  Marriages end. Friendships are severed. Family ties unravel. Faith is lost.

But the truth is my friends, Jesus came to heal hardened hearts.

To offer a pathway by which all could reach that ideal proclaimed in Genesis and reiterated by Christ.  That no one is meant to be alone.

And that path is the path of love.

Love that is designed to be expansive and overflowing.  Love that is constantly working to soften the hearts that the world hardens.

It is the love at work in a marriage.

It is the love at work between friends.

It is the love at work between parents and children.

It is the love at work between teacher and student, nurse and patient, counselor and client

It is the love between members of the Body of Christ gathered here in this space.

It is the love of our God for each of us, as we are, where we are.

This is the choice that is laid before us this day.

We can choose to allow our hardened hearts to gradually isolate us from one another or we can dare to love, letting that love gently pour forth from one relationship into another until  we become one as our Heavenly Father is one.

And so, though my own heart is calloused and hard from years of betrayal, judgment, self-inflicted wounds and soul crushing losses, I will choose this day to love.  Letting that love pour forth into each person I encounter.

May you too have the courage to do the same in emulation of the one in whose image and love you were made.

May God be Praised.

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