Grief + Grace

BY FR. BRIAN ZUMBRUM, OSFS

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time | January 27, 2019

See today’s readings here. This homily focuses on the second readings. The archive of all of Fr. Brian’s homilies can be found hereSalesian Sermons

I have always loved this second reading.

For in it, I have always been reminded of the call I have received to be an educator.

Teaching truly is the one thing I have always been sure of.

I have doubted God, the Church and myself more times than I can count.

But I have always known that teaching is where I am supposed to be.

And as I was reflecting on these readings for this week, my mind was going in all these directions about how life-giving this call is for me.  I began thinking of all of these wonderful moments that I have had as a teacher.

The moments of immense pride watching kids graduate and head onto college.

Experiencing healing, conversion, transformation with students in retreats.

Exploring far off lands and watching students be forever changed by our travels.

Soaking in the daily moments of laughter, joy, gratitude. Wrapping a kid in your arms and assuring them that you’ve got them. That they are loved.

But then Thursday night occured. And I was staring at my phone reading the worst text I have ever received.

Dametrius was killed. Heading to the hospital.

No, no, no.  This can’t be possible. Dametrius is finishing high school this year.  He’s got a job. He’s heading to his apprenticeship in the fall.  

He can’t be gone.  He’s my boy. One of the first Nativity students I ever really clicked with. And we’ve already been through this. We already buried his cousin. I can’t do this again.

Somehow I don’t remember signing up for this part of my call.

This wasn’t what I bargained for.

And as I pulsed with rage and grief and confusion and pain, I found myself watching a Varsity basketball game.

Where a friend approached to share his condolences.  And then he looked at me and said, “You certainly have a special call, don’t you. Helping kids grieve. I wish you didn’t have to, but I’m glad you’re there.”

And in his comments, I suddenly gained a whole new appreciation for these readings.

For my idealistic approach to the second reading completely failed to appreciate that each of our calls is supposed to be modeled off of the Christ of the Gospel.

The Christ who took on his own call in all of its beauty and all of its difficulty.

To open the eyes of the blind.

And to set the prisoner free.

To liberate the oppressed.

And proclaim good news to the poor.

Knowing that in so doing, he would also be accepting the call to challenge the oppressor, the powerful, the wealthy. Knowing that in so doing, he would be disruptive, making people uncomfortable, exposing hypocrisy, and shattering the status quo. And ultimately, knowing that his call included the cross.

And in his life, we find the model for our own.  For each of us possesses a call. A specific mission that will help build the kingdom.

It may be as a mother or as a bank teller or as a social worker.

It may be as a nurse or a caregiver or a shut-in.

It may be as a spouse or a student or a volunteer.

But no matter where you are planted, you will experience both grief and grace, beauty and brokenness, the cross and resurrection.

And that is what it truly means to be part of this body that we call the Body of Christ.

That we share in each other’s missions, each other’s calls, each other’s crosses. Until the word is fulfilled in our hearing. Until the kingdom of God reigns anew.

May God be Praised.


My friends, this is what you all have been doing for me over these past six years that I have worked at Nativity Prep.

I have come to you overflowing with joy and pride in the accomplishments of my boys at Nativity.  I have come to you chagrined by my own failures and frustrations that come with working in urban education.

And I have come to you utterly broken by loss, unable to afford to bury a student’s mother or completely drained after saying goodbye to Brandon.

And you have been there.  Reminding me of my place in the body. Reminding me that I am not alone.

And so today, I thank you once again for your generosity to Nativity.  For the prayers and love and support, and yes for the cash and checks that will continue to allow our mission to happen.  So that we can continue to live out our call to serve these boys from Wilmington and give them the opportunity to become who God calls them to be.

Thank you. Thank you Thank you.

Love you all.

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