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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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Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time 
February 9, 2003

Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese
of Detroit, Michigan *

This week's readings **

Job 7:1-4, 6-7

Job spoke, saying, "Isn't a man forced to labor on earth? Aren't his days like the days of a hired hand? As a servant who earnestly desires the shade, as a hireling who looks for his wages? So am I made to possess months of misery, wearisome nights are appointed to me. When I lie down, I say, 'When shall I arise, and the night be gone?' I toss and turn until the dawning of the day. My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and are spent without hope. Oh remember that my life is a breath. My eye shall no more see good.

1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23

Brothers and sisters, if I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to boast about; for necessity is laid on me; but woe is to me, if I don't preach the Gospel. For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward. But if not of my own will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. What then is my reward? That, when I preach the Gospel, I may present the Gospel of Christ without charge, so as not to abuse my authority in the Gospel. For though I was free from all, I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more. To the weak I became as weak, that I might gain the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. Now I do this for the Gospel's sake, that I may be a joint partaker of it. 

Mark 1:29-39

Immediately, when they had come out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's wife's mother lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. He came and took her by the hand, and raised her up. The fever left her, and she served them. At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to him all who were sick, and those who were possessed by demons. All the city was gathered together at the door. He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. He didn't allow the demons to speak, because they knew him.

Early in the night, he rose up and went out, and departed into a deserted place, and prayed there. Simon and those who were with him followed after him; and they found him, and told him, "Everyone is looking for you." He said to them, "Let's go elsewhere into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this reason I came forth." He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out demons.

* 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.

That short passage from the book of Job that was our first lesson today, reminds us of the whole story of Job.  This man who was good, very good, and who had a large family and seemed to be blessed in many ways by God, was suddenly forced to experience many afflictions and many sufferings. 

     It is a great mystery to Job.  He can't understand why this is happening.  His friends come and, instead of offering sympathy, they demand that he confess his sins.  After all, evil wouldn't be happening to him if he were not a sinner.  That was their idea about God.  If someone did something that was evil, God would punish that person.  So, if only Job would let go of his sins, everything would be okay again. 

     But Job doesn't experience it that way.  He is very sure of his own goodness.  And so we can understand more deeply how upset he is when he says, "Our life on earth is thankless.  Like slaves, we long for the shade of evening.  But I am allotted months of boredom, nights of grief and misery.  At night I say, 'When shall the day break? On rising, I think, when shall evening come? I toss restless until dawn.  My body is filled with worms and scabs; my sick skin festers.  My life is like a wind.  Oh God, never will I see happiness again.  The eye that saw evil will see me no more.  When you look for me, I shall have gone.'"

     It is really a very discouraging passage.  If we reflect on it, perhaps we can get a deeper sense of how hopeless everything seemed to Job. And what makes it even worse for Job and for the people like him at the time when Job lived is that they had no sense of an afterlife.  And so a life of agony and suffering and misery was all he could look forward to.  There was no sense or awareness of an afterlife. 

     When you realize that, you really begin to see how hopeless it all seemed and how terrible it was for his so-call friends to come and keep haranguing him.  “Confess your sins and it will be all right.”  But he wasn't a sinner and yet he was suffering.

     How different it is when we come to the Gospel?  Remember that just two weeks ago, when we began to read the Gospel of Mark, the first thing Jesus does when he starts his public life is say, "Proclaim the Good News!  The reign of God is at hand!" 

    Jesus comes to bring good news.  And as we say almost every Sunday in our Eucharistic prayer, Jesus brought us the good news of life to be lived forever with God; that the reign of God is at hand, that our world could be transformed and changed so that there would be justice and peace and love and joy for every person. 

     The reign of God is at hand.

     As we remind ourselves of this good news that Jesus came to preach, we also remind ourselves as we continue in the Eucharistic prayer to say, "He showed us the way to the reign of God.  He brought us the good news of life to be lived forever with God in heaven and he showed us the way to that life.”

     Remember the way, the way of love.  And he has gone that way before us. 

     Now, today, we live in a world where there is great evil, just as there was evil at the time of Job -- personal evil that we might suffer or evil that threatens our whole planet.  In fact, when Jesus came to preach the good News, Mark, in his Gospel, shows Jesus trying to confront evil.  That is the first thing Jesus does in Mark's Gospel - he goes into the synagogue and there he finds this man possessed by demons and he drives them out. 

     Mark and the people of his time personified evil as demons and Jesus came to destroy them, to drive them out.  And we know that evil has its roots, not in devils possessing us, but with sin that is in our hearts, sin like pride, arrogance, envy, greed, gluttony - those sins that we call the capital sins, the root sins that are in our hearts.  This is the evil that we must overcome. It is the root evil of the terrible things that go on in our world where there is hatred, where there is violence, where there is killing.

     And isn't it true that President Bush has so often put ourselves, our nation, in the role of destroying evil in the world.  He identified an axis of evil a year or so ago and we, the United States, had to destroy this axis of evil and he is leading us into war to do that.  But do you really believe that that is how evil is going to be destroyed?  By going to war and by using violence?  By teaching people how to hate other people so they can kill them?  That will never bring the reign of God.

     Jesus shows us the way, the way of love.  Unless we try to act in this way, evil will not be rooted out of our hearts or out of our world.  To try to confront evil with killing and hatred and to destroy it that way will only lead to greater evil. 

     It has been the history of our world to the point where the 20th century was the most violent century in all of human history; 127 million people killed in wars during that century.  Now we start a new century and continue the same thing, believing that somehow we are going to destroy evil by doing evil.  But it won't work. 

     Jesus proclaims the reign of God, invites us to enter into that reign of God, invites us to transform our world into as close an image of the reign of God as possible.  He showed us the way, the way of love.

     And so, I hope, today, as we reflect on the evil that Job experienced, we understand that evil comes from the roots of sin in our hearts and that we understand how evil can take over our world. Then we will really listen to what Jesus says:  "The reign of God is at hand.  Change your lives."

     That is what has to happen.  We must change our lives.  We must begin to follow His way and then we can hope for justice and peace, for the reign of God to happen.  And that is our only hope. 

     St. Paul was very intense about wanting to preach the Gospel.  One of the things he shows us, and it is brought out in today's lesson from the letter to the Church at Corinth, is when he says, "I made myself all things to all people in order to bring God's love by all possible means to as many as I could."

     What Paul is telling us is that he went out and he accommodated himself to others.  He tried to understand them.  He tried to be compassionate to them.  He tried to enter into their pain, their hurt, and their lives so that they could hear the message of the Good News.  And that is what we must do.  We must try to be as intent on proclaiming the Good News as Paul was.

     In fact, at the end of today's Gospel, the disciples who went looking for Jesus wanted him to stay right there where he was in Capernaum.  He had spent that whole night reaching out, and healing, and in love with one person after another.  He brought comfort and joy into their lives.  And the disciples would have been satisfied just to stay right there and do that.  But Jesus knew he had a different task.  He said, "We must go and proclaim the Good News everywhere.  We have to move on." 

     And that is what we are called to do today.  You and I, every one of us, has the task to proclaim the Good News - to move out into our world, not to bring violence and hatred and killing, but to bring the way of Jesus, the way of love.

     In a moment, we will baptize Liam Abraham Nolan, our newest member.  But as we baptize him, it is a good moment for every one of us to remind ourselves of our Baptism and the call that each of us has received and what that call is - to take the Good News of Jesus - the way of love into our world.  That is the way we can transform our lives and transform the world into as close an image of the reign of God as possible.

     In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  AMEN.


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