BY FR. BRIAN ZUMBRUM, OSFS
2nd Sunday of Advent | December 9, 2018
Over a decade ago, I began my work at Nativity Prep.
And in those years, I have really come to appreciate just how different I am from the students I teach.
It has been a gradual realization.
Like when a student would ask me when I got the “talk” and realize that he wasn’t referring to the birds and the bees, but to what one does when one is pulled over by the cops.
Or when a student would speak so casually about the fact that the electric was turned off for the weekend or that he didn’t have his homework because he has slept in a different place each night that week. And all I can think of is the fact that I always had a home growing up: a singular residence where the lights were always on, food was always on the table, and I felt safe.
But it has also been a profound realization.
For no matter how hard I try. No matter how deeply I love these students.
I will never truly understand what it is like to be black or latino here in the United States.
And it was this realization that I was grappling with over the summer as I was directing yet another summer program. Questioning whether or not I was in the right place. Questioning whether or not I was the right person.
But one of the final days of the program, I stumbled across a group of my counselors chatting with some of the eighth graders.
And one of them said, “Yo man, you can trust Fr. Z. He’s got the black card.”
To which my 8th grader replied, “What? Fr. Z? He’s the whitest guy I know. I mean, have you looked at his wardrobe?”
And the student said, “No man. You’re missing the point. Fr. Brian isn’t black. But he chose to be one with us. And that is just as important.”
Now I must admit. I got a little choked up in that moment.
But I also gained a whole new insight into my Christian faith.
For over these next few weeks, we are preparing for the arrival of Emmanuel. The God who chooses to be one with us.
And it is this choice that makes all the difference.
For in God’s choice to love us enough to become one with us, our God reveals where we will encounter the divine.
In one another. When we choose to become one with them.
This is the great example that John the Baptist modeled for us in the Gospel for today.
For in his quest to encounter the divine, he journeys into the wilderness. He leaves the comfort of society. He eschews the trappings of the temple and its worship.
Driven by the belief that the God who loved him would be found on the margins. With those who perpetually dwell there.
My friends, as we race through these December days, we are frequently reminded of the challenge to keep Christ in Christmas.
But if we are to do that well, then we must emulate John the Baptist by seeking Christ where he chooses to dwell. Where he chooses to become one with us.
With all those who are other.
All those who are on the margins of our own lives and in our own society.
We may never understand what it is like to be poor or an immigrant. To be a refugee or a single mother. We may never understand what it is like to be gay or transgender or to live with a permanent disability. We may never know what it is like to live in an active war zone or to slowly lose one’s mind to dementia. We may never be a felon or an addict or unemployed.
But we can choose to become one with them.
To stand beside them. And listen to their voices crying out in our wilderness.
And in so doing, we may just encounter the Christ child that we seek.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
May God be Praised