The Peace Pulpit:  Homilies by Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton

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. NOTE: The homilies are available here five days after they are given, always on Friday. By signing up for our weekly e-mail, you will be notifed as soon as each is available. (See the upper right corner of this screen.)
Easter Sunday The Resurrection of the Lord
March 27, 2005

Thomas J. Gumbleton
Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese
of Detroit, Michigan *

This week's readings **

Acts 10:34, 37- 43
g his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality.” “You yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins."

Colossians 3:1-4
Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.


1 Corinthians 5:6-8
Your boasting is not good do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Luke 24:13-35
And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. And He said to them, "What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?" And they stood still, looking sad. One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, "Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?" And He said to them, "What things?" And they said to Him, "The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see." And He said to them, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He were going farther. But they urged Him, saying, "Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over." So He went in to stay with them. When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. They said to one another, "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?" And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, saying, "The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon." They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread.

* 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.

On Friday of this week, Good Friday when we celebrated the crucifixion and death of Jesus, I suggested during our reflection on the scriptures that it might be important for us not to focus just on the terrible suffering, the torturing underwent and the horrible death on the cross, not to focus on something that happened 2000 years ago and that sometimes people think is the Christ that God demanded in order to buy us back which is a very cruel way of thinking about God and obviously not a true picture of God who is love.  And so I suggested that what we need to do is remember that it wasn’t just 2000 years ago that Jesus died, was crucified, but that Jesus is crucified again and again and again.  Because Jesus says, “When I was hungry you gave me to eat.  When I was thirsty you gave me to drink.  When I was naked you clothed me and so on.”  We know that passage so well.  Jesus lives on and suffers and dies, is crucified again and again.  In fact I had a page from a secular paper which across the top of the page in great big headlined letters it says, “I thirst.”, the very words Jesus cried out from the cross.  “I thirst.”  But that page was about people thirsting now.  1.1 Billion people, over a billion people in the world without adequate drinking water and so they suffer and die.  Jesus thirsts in them.  And that’s what we have to remember that this is happening to Jesus again and again.

But then I thought for today when we celebrate the fact that Jesus transformed that hateful, violent situation into a situation of love  when he reached out and forgave and loved.  And then on this day was raised from the dead, transformed death into new life.  I thought, well, perhaps there’s a way in which you don’t think of that as something that happened 2000 years ago, but that Jesus does rise again in our world in different times, in different places, in different circumstances.   That Jesus is alive and with us.  You know in the first lesson today Peter spoke about how the disciples saw Jesus.  He says, “God let Jesus be seen.  Not by all the people, but by the witnesses that were chosen before hand by God, by us who ate and drink with him after his resurrection from death.”  And so those first disciples obviously had a very special kind of experience of the risen Christ. They saw Jesus not just in a resuscitated body but in a transformed way, a whole different way of being.  They experienced it deeply.  Now that is not going to be our experience and yet sometimes in the quiet of our prayer if we really center ourselves, go deeply within our own spirit, we experience Jesus alive within us so that he rises from the dead within our own hearts. 

But then also if we go beyond that, I think, where there are events, situations, things that happen that really are like a rising to new life and they can be a sign for us that Jesus is alive, that Jesus continues to rise from the dead.  And I have a couple of examples that I thought help us to see how resurrection continues to happen and that it can give us hope and joy.  Many times over the past few years I’ve spoken about the war in Iraq, not just here but many, many places in our country, and one of the things that I’ve always tried to get across to people is the reality of the terrible suffering of the people of Iraq.  For them it’s been almost 25 years of constant violence, warfare, suffering and death and the country is shattered.  And one of the individual people that I would also speak about is a young boy, 12 years old, his name is Ali Abbas, and during the second Persian Gulf war just a couple of years ago his home was struck directly by a missile.  His mother, who was pregnant, was killed.  His father was killed.  Six of his siblings were also killed.  Ali was the only one who survived, but he was horribly burned almost beyond recognition.   And both of his arms were torn off above the elbow.  After it happened he was totally despondent, wanted only to die, could not foresee his life as an orphan, as armless, and ever recovering from his terrible burns.  But just this week I got a press release about Ali written by a reporter, Alexandra Williams who says:

“War orphan Ali Abbas looked on in helpless bewilderment as his new arms were fitted for the first time- then he slowly broke into a captivating smile. 


After glancing at his devoted uncle Mohammed for reassurance, he gazed down at his limbs and said to me: “I’m all here now.  My arms feel good.  I didn’t think they would look this good.  Now I want to hug my sisters and the rest of my family.  I also want to brush my teeth my myself and wash my face.” 

...the brave 12 year old embraced Mohammed for the first time since losing his arms in a missile strike on his home outside Baghdad six months ago.


Then, showing off all his new skills, he brushed my hair, joking: “I don’t think I’d make a very good hairdresser.”  Smiling happily, Mohammed, 37, handed his nephew a present of a watch, a simple gift but for Ali a sign that life was starting anew.  “It’s very nice to be able to wear it,” he said....”

And he smiled.  To me that’s a sign of resurrection.  Someone who was desperately suffering, very near to death, has risen in a sense to new life.  It’s a sign of how God can work through us to make the resurrection happen now.

The other example that I thought of is perhaps closer to home.  I’m sure all of us heard about the school closings that happened so suddenly a week and a half ago.  Our own school was closed.  And this was done without any warning.  It was done in a very cruel way, really.  The teachers, the principals, the staff, none had a clue it was going to happen.  All of a sudden they’re told their school is gone, like a death, a crucifixion.  But this past Thursday morning, on holy Thursday, students from Holy Redeemer High School, one of the schools that was closed , were down at the Cathedral when the Chrism Mass was being celebrated and one of their teachers wrote about this experience.  She says:

“There is little doubt that those of us committed to our city schools have finally reached Calvary.  What the closure of our schools portends for the city of Detroit, for the entire region, is hard to fathom.  The fallout from this decision is inestimable.  Yet, we are people of faith.  And vision.  And creativity.  And resolve.


The good news is we have students and we have teachers and we have a commitment to Christ’s command to go forth and teach.  We have the sacraments and we have the saints.  We have more than we know...

And marching on Thursday:

“Our students learned a valuable lesson as they stood outside the doors of the church in a way that they could never have learned in theology class, they recognized that they are the Church.  They learned that when the Spirit bids them to speak, they have voices that are strong and eloquent and authentic.  During this very holy week they have learned that one can pray on the street and hold school on the sidewalk.  They are a testament to the value of Catholic education.  They are a harbinger of hope.  During a time of crucifixion, their presence and protest is a sign of resurrection.”

Through them the crucified Jesus is alive among us.  And I think that’s really true that out of that crucifixion new life is coming.  These students show us that they have not given up.  They are determined that they are going to continue to struggle to be the kind of Christian disciples of Jesus they’re called to be.  Their experience of being church, their experience of being able to speak with God’s spirit speaking through them is a sign of resurrection, the crucified Jesus comes to new life in them. 

These are only two signs of how God continues to raise Jesus from the dead.  Each of us in our own lives, again, can enter deeply into ourselves and experience the risen Jesus but also we can look around us and we can find things that happen that show that God is alive, that God is bringing life where there was death.  That God is raising Jesus from the dead again and again and again.  The more we experience this, the more we will be filled with the joy of Easter.  But even more important as we experience Jesus being raised from the dead again and again we can fulfill our role as disciples of Jesus because it’s our task to proclaim the good news, to say that the reign of God is at hand, that Jesus is alive and lives among us.  And when enough of us proclaim that message, feel that message, live that message, we can bring hope and joy to a world that needs this message desperately. 

My prayer this morning as we celebrate this feast of Easter is that every one of us will come to know more deeply that Jesus is alive, that he is among us, and that he is raising this world, going through death and crucifixion to new life where we can be witnesses in a world that needs to hear the message of hope and joy.  In the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


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