BY FR. BRIAN ZUMBRUM, OSFS
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time | February 3, 2019
Love your students. If you do that, everything else will work itself out.
This was the one piece of advice that always stuck with me when I first started working at Nativity.
And trust me, it has guided me well.
But I feel that after the last few years I need to amend this statement. Because I’ve come to realize it is not enough for me to love my students.
I have come to realize that I need my students to love themselves.
And trust me, this work is getting harder and harder.
This past weekend alone, I had the opportunity to take 25 students on retreat. 25 amazing kids. Star athletes. Gifted musicians. 4.0 GPAs. Compassionate, generous, humorous, young men.
And yet, I probably had a variation of this conversation 15 times or more.
“Buddy, you know what breaks my heart? I don’t think you see just how awesome you are. Just how deeply you are loved.”
” I know, Fr. Brian. I just can’t see it. I’m just too hard on myself I guess.”
And then the tears would start to fall.
But if the second reading teaches us anything, it is that without love, nothing else matters.
All of the work, all of the accomplishments, all of the responsibilities. None of it matters, if we don’t have love.
If we don’t believe that we are loved.
In some ways, it would be easier if this were just a teenage phase. As if crippling self-doubt, low self-esteem and the inability to accept that we are loved was a passing fad.
And yet, I know these kids are not alone.
I think so many of us struggle to accept that we are truly loved.
We still think love is something that can be earned.
If I only get this promotion.
If I earn this scholarship.
If I make this team.
If I somehow do it all.
If I am the perfect spouse or child, parent or friend, colleague or disciple.
Or we believe that the sins we’ve committed or the failures we’ve experienced disqualify us from being loved.
Or worst of all, we’re convinced that something about us is broken. And somehow, we can’t be loved until we are whole once again
We’re not smart enough. Athletic enough. Manly enough. Good enough. Holy enough. Perfect enough.
And so like my students, we struggle to hear the truth about who we are.
We doubt ourselves. We beat ourselves up. We smother ourselves with shame and guilt and regret.
But none of this is of God.
For when we look at the Christ of the Gospels we see a man who knew exactly who he was.
A beloved son. Cherished. Loved. Unconditionally.
And with that truth, he was able to withstand the barrage of insults, anger and hate from those who refused to love him for who he was.
He was not afraid of their vitriol.
He did not let the accusations sink into his soul.
For he knew who he was. Whose he was.
And that love allowed him to bear all things, endure all things. For love never fails.
My friends, tonight, we too are called to accept the truth of who we are.
That we too are a beloved daughter. A cherished son. That we too are loved. Unconditionally. Always have been, always will be.
So that we too can resist the voices in the crowd that aim to cut us down.
So that we too can be forces of love in the midst of the rage and the fear and the division that swirls around us.
You are loved my friends. And so am I. Let us rejoice and be glad.
May God be Praised.