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 notified as soon as each is available. (See the upper right corner of this screen.)
Third Sunday of Easter
April 30, 2006

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

This week's readings **

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
"The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses."
"And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; ..."

1 John 2:1-5
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected, by this we know that we are in Him ...

Luke 24:35-48
They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread. While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be to you." But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. And He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them. Now He said to them, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. "You are witnesses of these things."

* 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.

In order to reflect on the lessons today we must remind ourselves of what happened just before our first lesson and our third lesson in the passages that we have presented for us. In the first lesson, we find something that happens quite often in the Gospel; we have Jesus performing what we used to call a miracle, but really it’s a great sign. For example, in the ninth chapter of John’s Gospel there’s the long story of the man born blind. Never in his whole life had he been able to see, and then suddenly Jesus meets him. When the man says, “Grant that I may see,” Jesus cures his blindness. The event, as John recounts it, is really a sign. He’s reminding us that all of us are born blind and are blind until we begin to see with the light of faith. Then we really can see, but it’s only with faith that we see fully.

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Well, in today’s lesson, Peter and John are on their way to the temple. This would have been a few weeks, maybe a couple months after Pentecost, and they had begun to gather as a community of disciples and pray, and they would regularly go to the temple for their prayers. There, they meet this lame person, a beggar, who wants alms from them. Peter and John say, “Gold or silver, we have none of that, but what we have we can give you. In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, get up and walk!” The person who had been lame his whole life, Luke makes a point to say that, not only did he get up and walk but he jumped and kept leaping up and down, he was so filled with joy.

After this, Peter begins to instruct all the people who had gathered. They saw this marvelous thing happening, so a whole group of people gather and Peter takes advantage of that. Peter tells them, “Look it wasn’t we who did anything great.” See they’re thinking Peter and John are the wonder workers. “No, no. It’s not we. It was in the name of Jesus that this lame person was able to walk. It’s because of Jesus, the one you put to death but who has risen and who is still active in the world. It’s in his name this happened.” Peter goes on to instruct them about what they have to do. They have to repent, admit their complicity in what happened to Jesus. They have to begin to know Jesus not only as the son of Mary but as the son of God, the son of God in glory.

That whole event, then, is intended by Luke as he writes it, to be a sign for us. Just like I mentioned before -- we’re born blind until we see the light of faith. This is especially true in Luke’s Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles where the way of Jesus is called “the way” that we have to follow. We walk along “the way.” All of us are lame, we are born lame until we begin to recognize Jesus fully. Then we can be healed. Once we repent of our sins like the first people in Jerusalem, once we change our lives, then we can be healed and we can walk to follow Jesus, follow “the way.”

We know some of this because of the way it was described, actually, in the book of the prophet Isaiah. See, the same word that Luke uses for the man who’s lame jumping up and leaping is the same word that’s used when Isaiah is telling the exiles, “See your God comes; then will the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf unsealed, then will the lame leap like a deer and the tongue of the mute sing and shout. Then water will break out in the wilderness and streams gush forth in the desert.” That’s the very passage that Jesus cited when the disciples of John the Baptist came and said, “Well, are you the one to come or do we look to another?” Jesus said, “Remember what was spoken by the prophets,” and he cited this passage that in his presence the blind see and the lame can walk, the mute can speak, the deaf can hear. Everything changes with Jesus and through Jesus but only when we begin to recognize Jesus.

And that’s where the Gospel is so important today. See, those first disciples were unable to know Jesus immediately. The two disciples who had left Jerusalem after Friday, after the crucifixion and they were so discouraged and walking along talking about, “He had such great hopes. They’re all gone now.” Jesus walks along with them and it gets to be evening and he’s ready to go on and they’re going stop at an inn. They say, “Why don’t you come in with us?” And so he does. He had been instructing them in the scriptures on the way, but now when he sits down, he breaks bread. The same thing he had done at the last supper. And in the breaking of the bread they recognize Jesus, and it changes everything for them. Once they recognize Jesus, they go back. The disciples are gathered there in the upper room in fear and trembling, afraid and also feeling very guilty, because they had all run away, they had abandoned Jesus and betrayed Jesus, denied Jesus. Suddenly he comes into their midst, and they can’t believe that it’s really Jesus. So he says, “Please touch my hands and my feet. A ghost doesn’t have bones and flesh.” And they still couldn’t believe. He said, “Well, give me something to eat.” A ghost doesn’t eat food. So it’s really Jesus. And they begin to know this.

Then Jesus -- as he does in John’s Gospel that we heard last Sunday -- the first thing he says to them is “Peace be with you.” He forgives them for all that they had, for all their failures, their abandonment, their betrayal, their denials, all of that. He forgives them. He says, “Peace.” But then, what’s very important for us especially, he tells them and he’s telling us in this Gospel, “You are witnesses to all of this. Once you come to know Jesus, once you experience his presence then your eyes can be opened. You can be healed of your lameness so you can leap and run and walk. You can learn to speak, be able to hear because of Jesus. And so once you have experienced that, his forgiveness and his gift of peace, then you have to be witnesses wherever you go. But that will only happen if we are willing to give up our sinful ways. That’s what Peter said to those first people in Jerusalem, “Repent.” Jesus is offering his disciples forgiveness but they have to acknowledge their sinfulness.

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And isn’t it really important for us to continue to try to grapple with how we have to change our lives, if we’re going to repent. As I was thinking about this I said, “Well, what sins?” Obviously we all have our individual sins. We have to repent of that. We have to keep trying to change our everyday lives so that we are more and more consistent in following Jesus the way that John says in the second lesson today, “To know Jesus keep this commandment: Love one another, love God.” But then also besides that, as a society or as a nation there are sins we have to repent of, and I thought of Dr. King’s extraordinary sermon that he preached in Riverside Church in New York the year before he was killed; he identified what he called the three sins, “the triplets” he called them, that our nation is guilty of -- racism, materialism and militarism. That was on April 4, 1967. Dr. King had identified the right things, but here it is 2006 many years later and isn’t it true we still have a society that is overwhelmed with materialism. Our whole culture keeps telling us, “Get richer. Have more. Accumulate material goods.” Racism, not as blatant through Jim Crow laws but still present in our society in many, many different ways. And most of all militarism. Five hundred billion dollars of our national wealth that goes to arms to wage wars, kill people, to try to be an empire. We’re at war right now. We’re threatening another war. Militarism clearly seems to be very present in our midst as a nation.

So if we’re going to hear the passages of the lessons today deeply, if we’re going to be healed of our blindness, of our lameness, then we really have to try to discover the presence of Jesus in our midst and hear Jesus tell us as he does to Peter, “Repent. Change your lives.” Then we can experience the presence of Jesus the same way those first disciples did. The two disciples on the way to Emmaus, Jesus began to tell them about the word, the scriptures. He was present in that word. When he’s with the disciples in that upper room on Easter Sunday night he reviewed the word of God with them. Again he was present in that word. When we take the time to listen to the word of God, Jesus becomes present to us. Also in the ceremony that we gather for every Sunday, the breaking of the bread, Jesus is present. And not just in the Eucharist that we consecrate at the altar, but the breaking of the bread is the whole experience and Jesus is present, first of all, just in our coming together. “Where two or three are gathered in my name there I am in the midst of them.” That’s why it’s so important to come together and to really share with one another as we do during this liturgy, share with our voices, share with our greetings to one another, share in every friendly way that we can, to become a community of God’s people and Jesus is present there in our midst. Then present in the word. Then present in the Eucharist. If we come together and try to experience this every week, we will come to know Jesus deeply and Jesus will invite us to repent of our sins, show us the way to do that, give us the strength and the courage to do it, and then he will again tell us, “Go and be witnesses. Spread this message. Carry my life and my vision wherever you go, so that we can rid our world of sin and evil and transform it into the reign of God.”

This morning, then, as we gather here try to come to know the presence of Jesus in one another. Know the presence of Jesus in this word. Know the presence of Jesus in the breaking of the bread, and hear Jesus call us to repentance and give us his peace so that we can then go forth and be his witnesses in our world.

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

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