|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.)
|Third Sunday in Easter||
April 10, 2005
My guess is that as we listen to today's Gospel most of us wonder how those two disciples could be so dull, as Jesus called them, so unaware. How could they not have recognized him? I'm sure any one of us would say, "Oh, I'm sure I would have recognized him right away. I would have been rejoicing"
But these two disciples did not recognize Jesus. And it wasn't only that they didn't recognize Jesus as risen from the dead, but even more importantly -- and this is what Luke is really speaking of -- they didn't understand the kind of messiah that Jesus is. That's what they didn't recognize more than anything else; they did not recognize the truth about Jesus and maybe that's why they were so sad. "We had been hoping," they said, "that this was the one." They hoped that Jesus was the one who would be the messiah, the anointed one, who would free Israel, overthrow the Romans, and end the domination and occupation of their land. They hoped that Jesus would be the one who would lead a revolution.
They where like so many of those disciples who had followed Jesus because they thought he was the one who was going to liberate Israel. Well, he was -- but not in the way that they thought, and that is why they couldn't understand his crucifixion. They thought that he would be like Moses who had freed the people from Egypt, who had led them into the desert and destroyed the Egyptians. They thought he would be like a warrior-God, a God who so often is described in the Hebrew scriptures, that Jesus would be like Jacob, the one who had united both kingdoms from Israel and Judea or Judah and made them one. The great warrior king David, that's what they expected Jesus to be.
Because of those followers' expectations Jesus had to take his time. What we also have to do too is to perceive those scriptures more carefully and see that God is being revealed as a God who is love and that the messiah who is to come is probably most clearly described in those four servant songs of Isaiah, where it is clear that the one sent by God is going to suffer and die, be killed. That the one sent will never return hate for hate of violence for violence. That the one sent would accept suffering rather than inflict it. That the one would be willing to be killed rather than kill. That is what is so clear as you read deeply into the prophets, especially as you come closer and closer to the time of Jesus. That's what Jesus had to explained to them, that he had to suffer and die that way in order to bring a whole new way of ending domination, a whole new way to respond to violence and hatred and killing. Jesus had to suffer and die and then be affirmed in his choice by the God who raised him from the dead.
Jesus explained all of this to those disciples, but they still didn't really understand it until they went into that inn and broke bread with him. Of course, what he was doing was repeating what happened at the last supper when Jesus said to his first disciples, "This is my body," holding up the bread, "which was given for you. And this is the cup of the new covenant shed for you and for all so that sin may be forgiven." Jesus was showing them through the celebration of the Eucharist, at the last supper, that a new covenant had been established between God and all people, not just between God and the chosen people but all people. A new covenant.
Jesus said, "A new covenant in my blood." See, the first covenant had been established when the people at Sinai, under the leadership of Moses, had established the covenant by being sprinkled with blood, the blood of the sacrifice, and they had pledged themselves to be God's people and God would be their God. That was the old covenant. Now, the new covenant is the blood of Jesus. The covenant is made when Jesus makes a personal choice to follow the ways of God who died with him. To give himself for all of us, in that dramatic way of forgiveness and love. It's a whole new way, a whole new story about God that Jesus is trying to explain to them
And explain to us. I would guess that if asked, most of us would say "Oh yes, we believe that Jesus rose from the dead. We know that we share his risen life." But do we also truly chose to enter into his new covenant? That is what we have to understand about Jesus. It is a new covenant that he has established. He chose to give himself over to death in order to rise to new life. He chose to give himself in love even for his enemies. He chose to give himself in forgiveness of others, even though those putting him to death. That's the new covenant.
When we say we recognize Jesus we have to also accept this new covenant and try to live this way as Jesus guides us. And that is very difficult at times. You know it is. I'm pretty sure that it took time for those first disciples to really understand this and begin to live it. Luke makes it sound like they got it all right away. What we have to remember is that this Gospel was written about three or four decades after the resurrection of Jesus and the church had had time to really penetrate into the teachings of Jesus. They had time to really reflect on his life, death, and resurrection. They had time to really grow into his way. We need that time too, but we have to begin to pray that we might truly know Jesus for the messiah that he is not just as the messiah that we might want him to be.
What gives us hope, I think, is the fact that there are those among us who make this choice, who understand Jesus for who he really is. The one outstanding example, I think, is a young man who visited here in Detroit a few weeks ago, Camilo Mejia. He was a soldier in Iraq and he came to understand during that experience that he should not kill and that he had to stop participating in that war. So he refused and he was put on trial and convicted and put in jail. But here's what he said that night he was here in Detroit, he said: "Well, I turned myself in. I did it for the people of Iraq, even for those who fired upon me." Those who tried to kill him. "They were just on the other side of a battleground where war itself was the only enemy. I did it for the Iraqi children who are victims of mines and depleted uranium. I did it for the thousands of unknown civilians killed in war. My time in prison was a small price compared to the price Iraqis have paid with their lives."
He told me that while he was in jail he spent most of his time reading the bible and studying so he could prepare to be confirmed. He hasn't been confirmed. So now he's waiting for the sacrament of confirmation so that he can make a public commitment to continue to live the way of Jesus.
I have another example from an event that occurred this past week, something that I find especially impressive and inspiring. You may remember that when Pope John Paul II went on those trips around the world, he would have special meetings with young people. At these meetings, among other things, he would challenge them to do what he did -- give up violence. He was very direct and powerful in that request, in that plea to young people. Well, at the confirmation during the past week at St. Philomena's parish, in the booklet that they distributed, they had excerpts of letters that the young people wrote to God and to Jesus. Here are a couple of examples:
Dear God,Another youngster says:
Dear God,Another one:
Dear God,"Amen," he says. Finally, says one youngster:
"I'm going to do many things to walk in your footsteps. I'm going to help people less fortunate than me. I'm going to befriend people that I don't talk to and I'm also going to forgive my enemies. Yours Truly,..."
To me those are inspiring examples that maybe in our world, within our church especially, young people are beginning to get the message. They can inspire us also. John Paul II said to young people: You are the young people of the 21st century. You have a chance to transform the world according to the way of Jesus. We have been given the same message. If we really come to know Jesus and recognize him as he is, as our messiah, but a messiah who is very different from the liberator Moses or the warrior David, a messiah who transforms through love, if we recognize that Jesus and follow him we can change our world.
In the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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