Choose Love

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time | February 23, 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

For most of my life, I could say with utter honesty that I didn’t hate anyone.

    That I didn’t hold grudges.

    That I could forgive easily.  

The blessings of a relatively charmed childhood and the safety that comes with having a network of friends and family that love you unconditionally.

But 2016 changed that for me.

For I buried two students that year, one of whom was Brandon Wingo, a 15 year-old graduate of Nativity Prep who was murdered on his way home from school.

And for the first time, I actually felt true hatred towards another. Hatred towards the men who had done this.

I was drowning in my desire for revenge, my anger, my hostility. Drowning in hostile waters I had never had to navigate before.

Ohh don’t worry.  I hid it well.

    Because that’s what I assumed I had to do.  I couldn’t imagine what people would think if        they knew what was really in my heart.

But I remember clearly reading these readings and going, for the first time, “It’s not possible.”

How can anyone not cling to anger or resentment in the face of such a loss?  How can someone not hate in the face of such evil? How can someone choose forgiveness over revenge?  It’s impossible.

I should have known by now that nothing is impossible for God.

But I had to learn that lesson from some of the women seated right here in this Church.

For at some point during that long week between the murder and the funeral, I was with Brandon’s mother as she vocalized what was already on my heart.

    I feel I’m drowning.  In hate. In anger. In a thirst for revenge.

    But then she went on.  And I don’t want to be.  I don’t want it.

As I stared in stunned silence, I watched as the circle of women she was wrapped around her and then one began praying.

    For justice.

    For God’s power and strength.

    For healing.  

    For lifting the weights of resentment and hatred that burdened our souls.

You know, I spent years in seminary studying and reading about this faith we profess. But I learned more from those holy women in that moment that in all those years of classroom instruction.

    For they helped me to see what these readings really ask of us.

    And how we can only do so with the power of God and our community of faith.

My friends, we all have been wounded and wronged.  No one gets through life without the scars.

For most of us, many of these wounds are the countless little moments that accumulate over a lifetime.

        The friend who gossips about us behind our back.

        The boyfriend who cheats on us.

        The parent who never seems satisfied.  Who doesn’t think we are enough.

        The child who in anger says she hates us.

The coworker who undermines us in the office or the boss who overlooks us for a promotion.

The vicious Facebook post that goes after who we are and what we believe.

    For some, these wounds are terribly deep.  Wounds that still make it hard to breathe.

        The marriage that falls apart.

        The violence or abuse at the hand of a parent, a spouse, a trusted mentor

The murder of a child.

        The overdose of one we loved.

When someone tells us we are not good enough because of the color of our skin, the money in our bank account, the language we speak or who we choose to love.

And yet, in the face of these crosses, small and large, our God still whispers.

Choose love.

For the weight of hate and anger.  The weight of our grudges and our resentment.  It is too heavy a load for any of us to bear.

Choose love.

Trusting that our broken, fragmented hearts are already in the hands of a loving God who sees every scar and gently wipes away every tear.

Choose love.

Knowing that the one who sits beside you.  Who holds your hand. Who wraps their arm around your shoulder.  Is the gentle reminder that we never walk alone. That each member of the Body of Christ is forever surrounded by countless sisters and brothers who lift us up, carrying us when we can no longer walk.  

Choose love, my friends.  Choose love.

May God be Praised.

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