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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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 Easter Sunday
March 31, 2002

Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese
of Detroit, Michigan *

This week's readings **

Acts 10:34a, 37-43

Peter opened his mouth and said, "You know waht was proclaimed throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses of everything he did both in the country of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they also killed, hanging him on a tree. God raised him up the third day, and gave him to be revealed, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen before by God, to us, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He charged us to preach to the people and to testify that this is he who is appointed by God as the Judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him, that through his name everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins." 

Colossians 3:1-4

If then you were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, our life, is revealed, then you will also be revealed with him in glory.

John 20:1-9

Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene went early, while it was still dark, to the tomb, and saw the stone taken away from the tomb. So she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have laid him!"  So Peter and the other disciple went out, and they went toward the tomb. They both ran together. The other disciple outran Peter, and came to the tomb first. Stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths lying, yet he didn't enter in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and entered into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying, and the cloth that had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but rolled up in a place by itself. So then the other disciple who came first to the tomb also entered in, and he saw and believed. For as yet they didn't know the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 

* 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).


I donít know how many of us have ever taken the time to read the accounts of the resurrection in the four different gospels and then tried to compare them with one another. If youíve ever done that, youíve discovered that thereís a great deal of confusion about what happened that Easter Sunday morning.  In one gospel, you hear one thing.  In another gospel, itís another.  Sometimes, people have a hard time with that thinking, and that maybe the gospel writers contradicted one another.  But if the gospel is suppose to be the true story about Jesus, how do you explain all these contradictions?  It becomes very clear to us, if we understand how these gospels came to be written

     It wasnít until about maybe 40 to 50 years after Jesus had been tortured, crucified, buried, and then rose from the dead that anybody began to sit down and write what they remembered of that experience.  So as the different disciples were looking back and remembering what had happened on that first Easter morning, one disciple would remember it one way and another disciple would remember it  another way; as anyone of us would do if we experienced something as extraordinary as someone being raised from the dead. 

     But not only was it what they remembered that they were trying to share, but also how this affected them and how they reacted to what had happened.  They were trying to let us know that it was totally extraordinary, beyond anything in their human experience. 

     One disciple wrote that it happened at dawn as the sun began to rise; a new day.  This is a very beautiful symbol of what happened; Jesus is raised from the dead.  Itís a new time, a new day.

     But another disciple remembers that it was in darkness.  That also becomes a very powerful symbol of what really took place that day.  Jesus is the light of the world; he destroys darkness and brings forth light and life.  Our Easter candle is a symbol of that reality that Jesus is our light and the light for the whole world to guide us, to show us how to live and how to reach fulfillment in this world and in heaven.

     One of the disciples describes an earthquake happening; nobody else mentions that.  But in the scriptures thatís a very typical symbol of God acting with power. 

     So they wanted us to realize how powerful this God is who raises Jesus from the dead.  It exceeds any kind of human power, obviously.  And so you have, throughout the different accounts of the resurrection, all these varieties of symbols and remembrances. 

     One of the most beautiful accounts of the resurrection is what we just heard in todayís gospel about Mary Magdalene.  She remembers how Jesus is alive.  Even more important, he is still her friend.  Mary Magdalene had been a very special friend of Jesus when he was walking the earth.  Sometimes, you might think that death ends a friendship, but it doesnít.  And thatís what Mary Magdalene is getting across to us.  She was really upset because she couldnít find the body of Jesus.  But then, suddenly, she experiences Jesus present to her in that special way of a close friend, someone who really loves her and who allowed her to love him in a very human way.  They were friends in the deepest sense of that word. 

     This helps us to remember that those who have gone before us into everlasting life are still our friends. We loved them in this world and still love them, and our friendships will endure forever. We canít break those bonds of friendship, even by death. 

     The one thing that is common in all of the gospel accounts of the resurrection is that the disciples are trying to share with us the fundamental truth, regardless of how they experienced it, that Jesus is alive and present in this world.  They knew, in a very deep way, deep in their hearts and in their spirits, and experienced Jesus present to them. 

     Thatís what each of us, too, has to try to do this Easter Sunday.  In the quiet of our own hearts, in our prayers, through our singing, through this whole celebration, through the faith that we share with one another, we must come to a deeper realization that Jesus is alive and is with us and has never really left this world.  Heís among us. 

     As we begin to experience that in our own heart and spirit, then we can also think about those from our family and those of our friends who have died - those who were very close to us in life Ė that they are still alive.  Thatís what the resurrection of Jesus means for every person; that we never really die and that those who have gone before us into everlasting life are alive. 

     So we can think about maybe my mother or my father, brother or sister, or a very close friend, a husband, a wife, or a child, whoís gone from this world but is alive.  We can connect with them through Jesus whose life each of us shares. 

     And so the resurrection of Jesus is something that gives each of us a very special spirit of joy and of hope.  We know Jesus is alive and that all of those who have died in Jesus are also alive and with us.

     Thereís one final thing that we can reflect on in the time of the resurrection.  We remember on the cross that Jesusí body was torn, crushed, and that he had been tortured in a very terrible way.  His body was a wreck in a sense.  But then, suddenly, when the disciples experienced Jesus - and it really was Jesus - he was transformed; a whole new way of living, still Jesus - fully human and also divine - but transformed.  And thatís the gift that will happen to every one of us.  No matter how much we must suffer or what happens to us in this life, or whatever happens to those who are close to us, we can know that we will be transformed into a new life, a new way of being.

     A very dramatic way of trying to understand this and to share with you is something that I read about from Elie Wiesel.  As you may remember, heís a famous Jewish novelist whose whole family was destroyed in the Holocaust.  He was the only one that was not put to death; he was just a child at the time.  He tells a story about a time in one of those concentration camps when a prisoner had escaped.  The guards at the camp, so as to teach a lesson, took and hung a child and made everybody in the camp look upon this as it was happening - this tiny child being hanged, being put to death.  And one prisoner cried out with great bitterness, ďWhere is God, where is God?Ē  And then another prisoner said, ďThere is God, hanging.Ē 

     The truth that comes through this is that God is with us in our worst moments.  In the most terrible things that can happen to us, God is there experiencing that in Jesus. Yes, there is God in the worst suffering and in the worst tragedy. God was in the World Trade towers back in September and God is in those terrible incidents that are happening in the Middle East.  God is suffering with people everywhere. 

     But, also, because Jesus is raised from the dead, every one of those people will be transformed.  That little child is now transformed, living with God in heaven because of Jesus.  All those people in the World Trade towers have risen to new life in Jesus.  Theyíre transformed.  No matter what happens to any one of us throughout our lives, no matter how difficult it becomes at times, no matter what we suffer, God is there with us in Jesus and God will be there to transform that moment of suffering, of pain, of ridicule, of even death, and transform it into new life.  We will live that life - transformed life - forever.

     Thatís the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus that the first disciples kept struggling to express.  Each of us, as well, has to keep on struggling to express it, to experience it and know what it means; to know that God has entered into the fullness of human life in Jesus; that God has experienced suffering and death and that God has transformed it into new life.  Thatís the hope we carry with us today.  Thatís what we celebrate and thatís what we will continue to celebrate as we leave this church and proclaim the good news, just as those first disciples - that Jesus is risen from the dead and that all of us in Jesus are raised to new life. What greater joy could we have than to celebrate this truth that Jesus is risen today and we are risen in him.

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

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