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

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

This week's readings **

Acts 2:14, 22-23
But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: "Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know -- this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

1 Peter 1:17-21
If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

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 that 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.

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,
When I become a better and loyal member of the Catholic church I will try to love my enemy with all of my heart. I will continue to come and pray in church.
Another youngster says:
Dear God,
Please help me to be more of a forgiver like Jesus was. I will try to love my enemies as well as my friends and family as Jesus did. Dear God, help me to be kind to others. Please let me enjoy my gift from you and let it blossom. I would like to be like Jesus in the way that he forgives.
Another one:
Dear God,
I hope to follow in your footsteps in every single way. I want to love you with all my heart and love my enemies just the same. I hope to forgive others and renounce revenge in the future. Please help me."
"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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