A New Heaven, A New Earth

BY FR. BRIAN ZUMBRUM, OSFS

5th Sunday of Easter | May 19, 2019

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

There are certain readings that have always been such a source of comfort for me.

And this second reading is one of them.

I used to picture God bending down and wiping the tears from my eyes.  This kind, gentle old man serenely looking at me, assuring me that everything would be okay.

Those days when I hid myself on the playground so no one would see the tears after I was excluded.

Or the nights when I sat crying over textbooks, stressed to the max.

The funerals in which I said goodbye to my grandmother or my pastor.

Or quiet moments in a chapel, feeling so inadequate for this life.

But Brandon’s death changed everything for me.

For I was suddenly faced with a loss that didn’t make sense.  And I just couldn’t picture God in that moment.

I sat in the school’s library, crying out into the darkness. Wailing and in pain. Alone.  

But no one stooped down and wiped every tear from my eyes.

And so I stopped.  Telling myself that I had to be strong. That I had to figure this out. That I best wipe away my own tears.

But then several days later, we were all in the cemetery. And here I thought I had no more tears to cry. But man, was I wrong.  

I remember walking away from the grave and falling into the arms of a dear friend. Tears freely flowing down my face.

And in her embrace, I understood this reading in a whole new light.

For when I looked into her face, I saw tears in her own eyes.  Even as she gently helped wipe mine away.

This was not her loss, but she chose to make it her own.  She chose to bear that grief with me and for me.  And only then did she help wipe the tears from my eyes.

And in her compassion, I came to understand God in a whole new light.

Not as the serene, detached observer.

Not as the wizard who waved a magic wand and makes everything okay.

But as one who chooses to suffer with. Who bears our grief. Who weeps beside us.  

The one who gently makes all things new. Who steadfastly builds the kingdom, mending one heart, reconciling one relationship, drying one tear at a time.

My friends, this is the lesson that has been handed on to us.  This is the model we have been given of what love looks like.

A model that comes with quite a cost.

For if we are going to help usher in the new heaven and the new earth, we too are going to need to bear the grief of the other.  We too are going to shed our tears. Even as we gently wipe away the tears of our sister or brother.

Sitting quietly at the dining room table of our best friend as she holds our hand and tearfully asks why she can’t have a child.

Holding our child close as he cries over the monsters in his closet, the bullies in his classroom, or the broken heart that comes with an ended romance.

Clutching the shoulder of our loved one as we gently lower our parent or our child, our spouse or our friend into the grave.

Nursing a cup of coffee and listening to anguished questions that have no easy answers.

What did I do wrong?

Why me?

What do I do now?

Reading the latest article and weeping tears over children that we will never meet.

Children maimed by our missiles and children struggling to find their next meal.

Children abused at the hands of those in power and children discarded as a burden.

Children lost to the scourge of heroin and children cut down by a bullet.

This is how we will be known my friends.  By how we bear one another’s grief. By how we choose to suffer with those who suffer.

By how we love.

Love one another as I have loved you.

May God be Praised.


Artwork by Maximino Cerezo Barredo via source

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