Trust Falls and Following Christ

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time | January 26, 2020

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


Every summer, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales host a summer program for high school seniors to teach them about Salesian Spirituality, leadership, and discipleship.

One of the key moments of the experience is a low ropes course where kids learn team building through a series of obstacles.

And at the center of the experience is a trust fall from about 10 feet in the air.

You stand on a small platform with your arms crossed and then fall backwards into the arms of everyone waiting below.

No big deal.  You just have to trust this group of random strangers waiting below not to drop you.

Or at least that’s what I told the kids.

No big deal.  You’ll be fine.  You’ve got this. Trust us.

Until one of them said, “Okay, well why don’t you do it.”

“Fine.” I step on the platform. And then begin to question all my life choices.

These kids are going to drop me.  I’m going to break my neck. 

What was I thinking?!

Then one of the kids goes, “Don’t worry. Trust us. We won’t drop you. We promise.”

Then the other kid goes., “Well, we will try not to drop you.”

So with that ringing endorsement, I fall back.

And it was terrifying.  For what feels like an eternity, you plunge down with nothing but the sky above you.  And then, you smack into all these arms and you feel them about to give.

But they don’t.  And gently I am set back on my feet.

I thought a lot about that trust fall when I heard this gospel for this weekend.

Because when we hear Jesus say, “Come and follow me,” I have come to believe that call feels more like a trust fall than anything else.

When you hold your infant and realize that this child is now entrusted to your care, or you sit outside your teenagers room trying to figure out how to get through to him.

When you get up the courage to tell someone that you love them or that you are gay.  When we turn the key in the lock on the new apartment and realize that we are on our own.

When you are preparing to graduate and figure out where your gifts and talents will best serve a world in need or you work each day trying to both follow the gospel and navigate 21st century capitalist American society.

When you are aging or ill and the days no longer get taken for granted.  Or when the losses and failures mount as you strive to live out your call.

There is no map.  No guarantees. No forecasting that assures you that you are doing right.

And like the early disciples, we don’t get to bring our nets with us.

Our money.  Our status. Our contacts.  

Our popularity.  Our power. Our privilege. 

We can’t ensure that we won’t get hurt. We can’t ensure that we will be safe. We can’t get an ironclad guarantee that everything turns out okay.

All we are promised is that we do not fall alone.  We do not follow alone.

We do it together.  As members of the body of Christ.  Strangers though we may be, we extend our arms and catch one another as we follow Christ into the horizons prepared for us.

Maybe that is why making an appeal for the kids at Nativity with this gospel just seems a perfect fit.

Because honestly, these young men don’t have any safety nets. No illusions that their world is safe. No resources to shield themselves from the storm.

What they have is the arms that keep reaching out as they fall from higher and higher heights as they keep pushing forward to be who God calls them to be, catching them gently, setting them down and helping them climb again.

What they have is you and me, giving of ourselves . . . Our time, our money, our hearts.  These kids are my world, but I can’t catch them alone.

So thank you friends.  For your years of generosity in the past.  And your continued generosity today.

May we all fall on my friends.  Leave the nets behind and follow the one who is making all things new.

May God be praised.

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