30th Sunday in Ordinary Time | October 27, 2019
Teachers do not have favorites.
It is a line I have used again and again over my educational career.
Despite the fact that students never tire of asking.
Nor do they stop looking for evidence that confirms their belief in their own status as the favorite.
And yet, I must admit, I’m not exactly sure that this line is entirely true.
See, I do love every student I have ever taught or worked with. Definitely true.
But some of those students have needed a lot more of my love than others.
A lesson that I learned in my first few weeks student teaching.
See there was a student Szymon who was your classic tough guy.
Resistant to authority
And of course, he possessed a flair for disrupting class.
And yet, we really clicked.
I would watch his guard gently drop. We would laugh. And engage in discussion.
He even came and spent a day volunteering at the Special Olympics tournament, bringing me to tears as he tenderly embraced these athletes who viewed him as a rock star.
So imagine my shock when I hear the next week that Szymon has a discipline meeting to decide whether or not he should be allowed to remain a student.
The offense: Skipping the school’s retreat day.
I was genuinely baffled by the thought that we would expel a kid for that. But as it was a Catholic school, I figured mercy would be in abundance.
So I scheduled a meeting to plead Szymon’s case.
And was told, by the President, why do you care so much about this kid. He’s going to be dead or in jail in five years anyway.
I was flabbergasted.
And then I became angry.
Now, I probably should have thought of the consequences. Like the fact that student teachers have no rights. Like the fact that the President could toss me out of the school without a second glance. Like the fact that I would then fail my student teaching and not graduate from college.
But all I could think about was Szymon.
I fired right back, “Well, of course he will with that attitude. I don’t know. Maybe we should actually fight for the ones who are difficult. That seems like our job.
If you don’t want the burden, I’ll do it.”
There was an incredibly awkward silence. And then he goes, “Okay. He’s your problem now.”
And so Szymon became one of my first favorites.
One of the first who needed more than the average student.
And he received it.
Because that is what we are called to do. Regardless of the cost, we must love as God loves, especially for those who most need that love.
So when we hear this 1st reading about God’s favorites, I cannot help but think of my experience with Szymon.
See, I am convinced that God does not care more for some of us than others.
No, God simply recognizes that there will always be people who need more of his love in any given moment.
And frequently, those most in need of God’s love are the ones who so often do not experience this unconditional love from the world around them.
My friends, like the tax collector of the Gospels, we have all had our moments and seasons in which we have needed to be reminded of our favored status. Of the fact that we are unconditionally loved.
When we are insecure or doubt ourselves. When we’ve failed or screwed up. When we feel broken or shattered by loss or depression or our inability to manage it all.
When we look in the mirror and cannot love what we see, God gently stands behind us, wraps Her arms around us, and whispers, “My beautiful, beloved child. I love you.”
But then in turn, assured of our own status, we must go forth and seek out those who need to hear this same message.
The neighbor who lives alone.
The student who pushes every one of our buttons.
The aunt who has a drinking problem.
The child defining their gender and sexuality.
The gentlemen sleeping under the overpass.
The undocumented immigrant landscaping our yards.
The troll who spews forth venom on social media day in and day out.
Reminding them of their worth. Reminding them of their status.
Until all of us can bask in the truth of who we are. God’s favorites. God’s beloved.
May God be Praised.