BY FR. BRIAN ZUMBRUM, OSFS
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time | August 26, 2018
It is probably natural that as we begin another school year, I have been thinking a lot about my 1st year teaching.
And let me tell you, it was quite a year.
150 battle hardened Juniors who made me earn every penny of my salary.
There was the student who saw me coming to ask about his homework and took off running. And so I trucked after him, sprinting down three flights of steps and beating him to the door. Shocking, he didn’t have his homework and I now needed oxygen.
There was the student who threw a textbook at his English teacher, but assured me that he had no intention of throwing one at me.
But my personal favorite may have been the young man who was appalled that I had the nerve to give him a test, so he crumpled the test into a ball and ate it, staple and all.
So it is probably no surprise that by October I hit a breaking point.
I stormed into our chapel in the middle of the night and just started yelling. Mixing in some colorful language that is definitely not appropriate for a homily.
You never told me this would be so hard.
Why is it always me? Why can’t someone else get screwed?
C’mon, where are you? Answer me!!
And then something remarkable happened. God answered.
Now, I am not the guy who hears voices, sees lights or enjoys long chats with the saints in my bedroom. To be quite frank, I am a bit of a skeptic of the supernatural in that regard.
But I am convinced God answered that night.
Because the voice I heard inside my head said the two things I least wanted to hear in that moment.
When you said you wanted to follow me, what did you think you were getting into?
And then the proverbial nail in the coffin. If not you, who? For these are my sons and I love them.
I had no answer. For I knew that God was right.
Where else would I go?
For Christ was here. In this moment. With these students.
And so I stayed.
I couldn’t help but return to that evening in October as I listened to the readings for this weekend.
For in many ways, the Israelites and the disciples are confronted with the same choice that I was.
The choice to stay in the present moment, to stay in the fire.
Even though it was difficult.
Even though the future was unclear.
Trusting that God was with them in that moment.
And in this choice that they made, I believe that we are all offered an example for our own journeys.
My friends, no matter what path we choose in life, we will find difficulties.
Whether it is the grade school child anxious about where she will sit at lunch.
Or the high school senior struggling with the pressures of college applications, a full course load, and his athletic seasons.
Whether it is the wife who chooses to leave her abusive husband.
Or the widower struggling with managing his household on his own.
Whether it is the parent nervous about putting their child on the school bus for the 1st time
Or the young professional struggling with his depression.
Life is hard. And the crosses come in all shapes and sizes.
But in each of these moments, we too can be tempted to walk away. To seek the proverbial greener pastures. Where life is easy.
No mess, no anxiety. No pain, no loss. No betrayal or confusion.
And honestly, I would understand anyone who chose that path. For staying in the fire is not a pleasant experience.
But like Peter of old, I find myself going. Where would I go Lord? For here, in this moment, with these people, carrying these crosses, I encounter you. The source of everlasting life.
The choice is yours my friends. But as for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.
May God be Praised.