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The Peace Pulpit
Homilies by Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton

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By special arrangement, The National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company is able to make available Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton's weekly Sunday homilies given at Saint Leo Church, Detroit, MI.  Each homily is transcribed from a tape recording of the actual delivery and made available to you as an NCR Web site exclusive.  You may register for a weekly e-mail reminder that will be sent to you when each new homily is posted.  From time to time, Bishop Gumbleton is traveling and unable to provide us with the homily for the week.
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Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 19, 2003

Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese
of Detroit, Michigan *

This week's readings **

1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19

Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD where the ark of God was. The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, "Here I am." Samuel ran to Eli and said, "Here I am. You called me." "I did not call you," Eli said. "Go back to sleep." So he went back to sleep.
Again the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli. "Here I am," he said. "You called me." But Eli answered, "I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep."

At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD, because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet. The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time. Getting up and going to Eli, he said, "Here I am. You called me." Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth. So he said to Samuel, "Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening." When Samuel went to sleep in his place, the LORD came and revealed his presence, calling out as before, "Samuel, Samuel!"
Samuel answered, "Speak, for your servant is listening."

Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.

1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20

Brothers and sisters: The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body;
God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one Spirit with him. Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.

John 1:35-42

John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, "Behold, the Lamb of God." The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi" -- which translated means Teacher,-- "where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come, and you will see."
So they went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, "We have found the Messiah" --which is translated Christ --. Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas"--which is translated Peter.

* A longtime national and international activist in the peace movement, Bishop Gumbleton is a founding member of Pax Christi USA and an outspoken critic of the sanctions against Iraq.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television programs, and has published numerous articles and reports.

* Scripture texts in this work are in modified form from the American Standard Version of the Bible and are available as part of the public domain.

For your convenience, the Scripture texts, as they appear in the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 1998, 1997, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C., may be found at the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCC).

** The Web link to Pax Christi is provided as a service to our readers.

Today’s gospel lesson is clearly about the Call of God to various people.  So, as we reflect on these lessons, we must reflect on our own calling from God through Jesus and our response to that call.  But I think it is really significant that the opening prayer today sets the context in which we can respond to this call of God.

     The prayer assigned for today was, “God, listen to us.  Hear our prayer.  Show us the way to peace in the world.”  This is the prayer that we so desperately need to have realized…peace in the world.  And yet, as we pray almost every Sunday in the Eucharistic prayer, God has shown us the way.  Remember these words.  “You sent Jesus into this world because people had turned away from you and no longer loved one another.  But Jesus opened our eyes and our hearts to understand we are brothers and sisters.  You are the one God of us all.”   

     Jesus brought us the Good News about life and the reign of God.  And He showed us the way to that life…the only way…the way of love.  And Jesus has gone that way before us.  

     We pray those words Sunday after Sunday.  Jesus has shown us the way to the reign of God…to peace in our world.  But Jesus does depend upon us to accept his call to be his disciples to make that happen.  And so it is really up to us.  If we are willing to live according to the way of God, the way of Jesus, peace can happen.  It will happen.  And so we need to reflect deeply on this call that God gives to us.  

     Try to understand it as it is presented in God’s lessons today.  In the first lesson, Samuel is so quick to respond when he hears God call and he says, “Speak, Yahweh.  Speak God.  Your servant is listening.”

     The first thing we must do is try to listen deeply in our hearts to God speaking to us.  In the Gospel lesson, it seems even clearer how the call of God happens.  Jesus is pointed out to the two disciples, Andrew and John: “Here is the Lamb of God, the one who has come to destroy sin and bring peace.”  So they begin to follow him.

     And Jesus asks them a very simple question.  When we listen to John’s Gospel, we must recognize that there is always a deeper meaning than the words might at first seem to say.  

     Jesus turns when he sees them following him and says, “What do you want?”  In a very superficial, surface level, it might just seem like an ordinary question:  “What do you want?  Why are you bothering me?”  But it is much deeper than that.  “What do you want, really, in your lives?  What do you want more than anything else?  What do you want with your whole life?”

     Then they ask, “Where are you staying?”  But again, in John’s Gospel, it’s more than just where’s your residence.  It’s more like, “What is your woundedness?  Who are you really?”  

     Then Jesus says, “Come and see.”  With John again, seeing doesn’t mean just with your eyes.  It means with faith.  It means seeing beyond the surface of reality.  “Come and see who I really am.”  And so the disciples begin to spend time with Jesus.  He begins to enlighten them and then they bring others and the community of disciples is beginning to be formed.  

     But that call of Jesus didn’t end with those first disciples.  Jesus continues to call at every time, every age, every place…calling people to come and follow him, to see who he really is, what he teaches, how he shows us the way to God…the way to love…the way to peace.  “Come and see!”  And so we must begin to look with eyes of faith at who Jesus is and what he asks of us, if we are to respond to his call.

     And I suppose it might seem easy enough to say, “Yes, I’ll follow Jesus! What’s so hard about that?”  But it isn’t really very easy.  First of all, if you just go on with this second chapter of John’s gospel, which is where today’s lesson comes from, very shortly after that incident where the first disciples began to gather around Jesus, John says, and it’s just a couple days later, “Jesus was invited with his disciples and friends to a wedding at Cana in Galilee.”  Now this is the part of the Gospel we are very familiar with, I’m sure.  We’ve hear it at weddings   It is a passage that sticks in our minds because Jesus worked such an extraordinary miracle at that wedding where he took the six huge jars of water and made them into the best wine anyone could possibly serve.  

     There is a very deep meaning in that incident at Cana in Galilee.  There is something else that happens there and I think most of us remember this.  It was Mary, the mother of Jesus, who noticed they were running out of wine.  So out of concern and sympathy for the host and hostess, she wanted to make sure they were not embarrassed and so she just tells Jesus they have no wine.  Remember how Jesus answers.  It seems very harsh.  “Woman, what’s that to do with us?”  It’s like he’s rejecting her.  

     What is happening there and what helps us to understand what it means to be a disciple is that Jesus is trying to make very clear that the relationship to him as a disciple is something that has to go beyond family relationships.  The fact that Mary is his mother isn’t enough to warrant his intervening.  He wants them or her to see and all of us to see that the most important relationship is not simply a relationship of blood.  It is a relationship of faith to Jesus and in Jesus that makes us a community of disciples, separates us from our other ordinary activities and makes us a very special group of those who believe in Jesus and become a very special community.

     Later on in the gospel, there is another incident that reinforces this, where Jesus and his mother are being praised, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you.”  And he said, “No, rather blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.”  Again, being a disciple of Jesus means that nothing is more important than listening to the Word of God and keeping it.  That’s how we become disciples of Jesus.  

     One other time Jesus said, “Look, if you don’t love me more than father or mother, you are not worthy of me.”  Again he is trying to emphasize not that we would not love our mother and father but that the most important relationship we have is this relationship of being part of the community of disciples.  It has to come before everything else.  

     It isn’t very easy sometimes to understand that my being a disciple of Jesus must come before anything else in my life.  And yet, that’s what Jesus really wants us to do…to follow Him with such consistency, such sincerity, and such determination that Jesus really is first in our lives, that our bond to him as his disciple is greater and more important than any other bond.

     That may seem very hard, but it doesn’t mean we have to reject our other relationships with family and friends.  It’s just that what is most important is our relationship to Jesus.  

     But also in that second chapter of John’s gospel, very quickly after the wedding feast of Cana, there is something else that happens that shows us how difficult it can be at times to be a disciple of Jesus and why we should just never say very readily, “Oh, I’ll follow Jesus”. 

     Right here at the beginning of his public life, Jesus goes into the temple and challenges the authorities--these would be the civil authorities and the religious authorities.  Remember the incident that is so vivid that none of us would forget it?  And it is repeated in the other three gospels:  Jesus goes into that temple and he knocks over the tables of those who were buying and selling and exploiting the poor and he drives them out and says:  “You must not exploit other people.  You cannot make God’s house a den of thieves for people who exploit the poor and oppressed.  Jesus acts in a very strong way to show that there must be justice and that out of justice will come the peace of God’s reign.

     So as we challenge ourselves today; as we hear Jesus in our own hearts saying, “Follow me”, we must pray and think through.  Am I really ready to be a disciple of Jesus?  What might that mean for me now?  I think obviously one of the most important things it means for us, if we really put the reign of God first and being a disciple of Jesus first, it means perhaps that we must stand up against those who want to go to war.  

     There are still the majority of people in this county, evidently.  We have to separate ourselves.  And that may not be easy when it comes to neighbors and other members of our family, but if the reign of God comes first and being a disciple of Jesus comes first, we at least have to accept that as a challenge and maybe that is what we have to do.  But even more importantly than that, it seems to me we have to imitate Jesus, not just about fearing that we alienate some of our family and friends but challenge the authorities, like Jesus who risked his life. In some of the other Gospels it is very clear that this was the turning point where they decided they had to kill him because he was threatening the temple authorities.   We too, it seems to me, if we are genuine disciples of Jesus, must challenge our government.  Say no to the authorities that are trying to lead us into war.  

     I had a very powerful experience when I was in Iraq that made me realize how wrong it is what our government is trying to do and how right the way of Jesus would be.  As I said at the beginning from our Eucharistic prayer, we are brothers and sisters.  God is the God of us all.  Jesus showed us the way…the way of love.  

     As you may know, I traveled to Iraq with people from an organization called Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.  These were families who have lost a family member on September 11.  There were four of them with us.  Two had lost sisters, one had lost a brother, and the other had lost an uncle.  One of the most powerful things that happened to us was when we went to the city of Basrah in the south part of Iraq where there had just been a bombing about 10 days or two weeks before we got there.  Eight people were killed; twenty-seven were wounded; all innocent civilians…people just living their ordinary lives…a terrible tragedy.  

     We visited the home of the widow and the brothers of one of the men who had been killed.  He simply had been driving his car when the missile hit very close by and destroyed his car and killed him.  It seemed so clear.  We are brothers and sisters.  As the members of the families of Peace for Tomorrow sat and talked with the widow, with the sons and the brothers of the man who had been killed, they shared grief with one another and poured out their tears.  

     You couldn’t help but feel these are our brothers and sisters.  And God is the one God of us all.  How can we be deciding to kill one another?  To cause suffering and grief to one another?  Yet our government doesn’t want us to see that they are our brothers and sisters.  

     Every time the Families for Peaceful Tomorrows met with the press and with others they said, “We want our acts to be a symbol of what could happen if we saw a human face on every person in Iraq, to realize that every one of these people is a brother and sister to me, we couldn’t kill them.  We would reject that our government wants to go to war. We would understand as the people of Iraq understand (and you hear this from the taxi driver or a shopper in the market, or someone in your hotel, wherever you are, people will say), “It’s because we have oil, that’s why you’re threatening us!”  

     They know it.  And we should know that.  And we should say, “No”.  We cannot allow people to be killed because of oil.  They are our brothers and sisters; sons and daughters of the same God.  We must see everyone in Iraq in that way.  That is the way of Jesus and that is the way to peace in the world.

     It is not easy to be a disciple of Jesus.  It will take courage, wisdom and insight and love to follow his way.  But as God promised to Samuel in the first lesson today when Samuel was willing to follow God, God said, “I will be with you.”  

     And the same thing is true for us.  If we are open and willing to follow Jesus, God will be with us.  Especially in Jesus living within each of us.  God will be with us and enable us to show the way to peace in our world and to make it happen.

     During this liturgy then, we must pray, each of us, to hear the call of Jesus, to be ready to follow Him and to live according to His way so we can be the ones who help bring peace into our world.

     In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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