BY FR. BRIAN ZUMBRUM, OSFS
5th Sunday of Lent (Year C) | April 7, 2019
So the summer of my junior year of high school, I began working at Kohl’s Department store.
It was my first real job and was eager to prove myself.
So when this gentlemen came in the door, I was ready.
Good morning and welcome to Kohl’s. My name is Brian. How can I help you sir?
He looked at me and said, I need an Italian leather coin purse.
Now, in that moment, I was utterly perplexed.
I was almost positive we didn’t have anything that was Italian leather.
And I had no idea what a coin purse was.
But I was determined to help him.
So I spent a half hour searching the men’s department. Until, I discovered it. A coin purse. Buried under a mound of wallets. And it was on sale.
I was so excited. I waved the item at him. I found one sir. I found one.
And that’s when the stones started flying.
“You idiot. That’s not Italian leather.”
“God, this store must only hire the stupid ones who can’t get hired anywhere else.”
“Your generation really is the reason America is going to hell in a hand basket.”
I was so stunned by the barrage. I didn’t know what to do. But the longer I stood there, the angrier I got.
I wanted to respond in kind.
What kind of grown man comes into a store and belittles high school kids?
You wanna go, man? Let’s check those GPAs. I guarantee you I win.
And who searches for Italian leather in a discount department store? Really, who’s the idiot now?
But before I could say anything, my manager Dawn walked up and said I could head to the back.
As I sat down, I was so upset. I had utterly screwed up. And it was only my second week of work.
Then Dawn walked in and sat down across from me. She told me that she had politely informed the man that he was never welcome back in the store.
But then she continued.
I felt sorry for him. Obviously he’s a broken man. And he just keeps trying to break other people, as if that is how he will become whole again.
I never forget the interchange.
And in listening to this Gospel for the weekend, I couldn’t help but think that Jesus would agree with Dawn.
Because let’s be real. We all know what it is like to be that woman in our story. Only, there hasn’t been someone there to stop the rocks from flying.
We’ve been pelted with the gossip and scorn, judgment and hatred of both complete strangers and close friends and family.
We’ve been defined by our worst moments. Our poorest choices.
We’ve been labeled for things completely out of our control. For who we are. The circumstances of our birth. The color of our skin. The ones we choose to love.
And we bear the scars from all those projectiles.
Like that customer, we’ve been broken. And like the elders in our Gospel, there is a part of us that just wants to whip some stones back in return.
Some we aim back at those who have wounded us.
And others get flung at innocent bystanders who just happen to be in our way.
Hypocrite, we cry.
Bigot. Racist. Homophobe. We yell.
She’s a mess. He’s a jerk.
What were they thinking?
And so the cycle goes. Wounded people wounding one another.
Until we hear our God proclaim, “Let the one without sin cast the first stone.”
Shattering the cycle.
Naming the truth that sets us free.
We are all sinners. We are all broken.
And it is to us that our God proclaims, “Neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more.”
As we come to the end of our Lenten journey, my friends. Let us have the courage to drop the stones clenched in our fists and open our hearts to the healing embrace of a God who knows our wounds and loves us anyway.
May God be Praised