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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.
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.)

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 Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 5, 2002

Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese
of Detroit, Michigan *

This week's readings **

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17

Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and proclaimed to them the Christ.  The multitudes listened with one accord to the things that were spoken by Philip, when they heard and saw the signs which he did.  For unclean spirits came out of many of those who had them.  They came out, crying with a loud voice.  Many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed.  There was great joy in that city.

Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for as yet he had fallen on none of them.  They had only been baptized in the name of Christ Jesus.  Then they laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

1 Peter 3:15-18

Beloved, sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, with humility and reverence: having a good conscience; that, while you are spoken against as evildoers, they may be disappointed who curse your good manner of life in Christ.  For it is better, if the will of God should so will, that you suffer for doing well than for doing evil.  Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring you to God; being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.

John 14:15-21

Jesus said to his disciples, "If you love me, keep my commandments.  I will pray to the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, that he may be with you forever,-- the Spirit of truth, whom the world can't receive; for it doesn't see him, neither knows him. You know him, for he lives with you, and will be in you.  I will not leave you orphans.  I will come to you.  Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more; but you will see me.  Because I live, you will live also.  In that day, you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.  One who has my commandments, and keeps them, that person is one who loves me. One who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will reveal myself to him."

* 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).


One of the churches where I confirmed yesterday morning, St. Andrew’s parish in Rochester, the young people, and there were maybe 200 or so, had made a huge banner that had a very prominent place in the church for everyone to see.  And the banner said, “Gifted to make a difference.”  I thought to myself, “That really sums it all up - gifted to make a difference.”
     These youngsters were really enthusiastic about being confirmed and being able to make a difference.  And I thought this would be a very appropriate description of what we need to reflect upon today as we listen to the lessons of this morning’s mass. 
     In the first lesson, Philip goes to Samaria, where the word of God had not been preached before, and he begins to proclaim the good news about Jesus.  The people respond.  They were baptized and confirmed, and they received the Holy Spirit.  Luke tells us that the town was bursting with joy and that a fever of joy came over everyone.  They were filled with the spirit.  It reminds us that we too have been baptized and confirmed. 
     In the second lesson today, Peter tells us how we must live as baptized and confirmed disciples of Jesus.
     And in the gospel lesson, Jesus tells us, “I will send you another, a paraclete.”  

     Paraclete is a strange word to us, but it’s very significant.  It means literally:  Called to the side of; someone who becomes your advocate along your side, all of the time.  Jesus is saying, “I will send you the spirit, the advocate, the paraclete, the one who will be with you, always at your side.” 

     Jesus goes on to say that it happens more deeply than that and that the spirit lives within us.  Jesus says, “I am in God and God is in me, and I am in you and you are in me
     So as we think about how that spirit of God was manifest, as described in the scriptures today, and how that spirit of God has come upon everyone of us, we must go on to think about how, for ourselves, gifted with the spirit of Jesus, we are to make a difference? 

     A very important question for each of us. 

     Those youngsters yesterday, I think, had a pretty good idea of how they wanted to make a difference, because the gospel lesson they chose was from the fourth chapter of Luke.  It’s the passage about Jesus going to the synagogue of Nazareth where he had grown up, and he’s unrolling the scroll of the book of the prophet Isaiah and reading a passage, “The spirit of God is upon me.  The spirit sends me to proclaim good news to the poor, to give the blind new sight, to heal the broken hearted, to set the downtrodden free, and to proclaim God’s year of favor.”  And in that passage, Jesus says, “This day, this scripture passage is fulfilled even as you listen.”

    So what those youngsters were saying about their understanding was just as Jesus said, “Look the spirit has come upon me.”  And it happened right there in that synagogue in Nazareth, because Jesus said, “This day, it is fulfilled as you listen.”  When the spirit came upon Jesus in an overpowering way, he knew he had to go and proclaim the good news to the poor and to tell people that God loves them; the good news that we’re all loved by God. 

     There’s no limit to that love.  We must go and reach out with love.  

     If we understand this, that we are loved by God and hear the good news, then we, also, must reach out to heal the broken hearted, and be filled with the spirit of compassion, love and generosity, and give the blind new sight.  We must allow people to understand who Jesus is by the way we live ourselves.  We must show that Jesus is manifest in us and let people see what they had not seen before - to work for justice and set the downtrodden free. 

    That’s how we can make a difference, isn’t it?  And each of us must figure out the way that, gifted with the spirit of Jesus, we can make a difference.  Just as Jesus knew what his work was to be, when he was filled with the Holy Spirit, so too we must discover the way in which each one of us can do the very same thing.
     “Gifted to make a difference.”
     Peter gives us another direction in our second lesson today when he tells us, “We can make a difference, if we’re able to give a reason for the hope that’s within us.”

     In a world, where so many people are perhaps despairing because all of the violence and suffering and the tragedy that goes on all of the time, those who follow Jesus are filled with hope and must be able to show the reason for that hope.  More than anything else, it’s because of what Jesus promised in the gospel lesson.  He was not going to leave us.  He would come back.  He would live as he lived in God.  He would live in us and we would live in him.  We would know that Jesus is our paraclete, called to be at our side, to be with us.  

     There are times when we really experience the power of the presence of Jesus.  One of those times happened to me last week.  At the time of my brother’s death, during the morning of the funeral, I had a powerful experience of Jesus being at my side.  It came, most of all, because of the outpouring of people, the outpouring of love, the outpouring of support.  And that’s how we discover Jesus living in our midst - because of people who believe and who support and love us. And we ought to be able to explain that and show people:  “Yes,” that’s what gives you hope, that’s what gives me hope, that’s the reason for my hope.  And so, even though, in one way, emotionally, I feel very down and drained in a way, deeper down, however, there’s hope.  I know Jesus is alive and Jesus is with us.
     And each of us, at times I’m sure, if we probe deeply into our spirit life and allow that spirit life to come alive even more, we will discover Jesus called to our side as our paraclete.  That’s the reason for our hope.  As Peter says, we must always be ready to share that, to let people know that’s how you make a difference - gifted by the spirit of Jesus. 
     And finally, one other way suggested by the gospel is where Jesus tells us that the spirit who is given to us is the spirit of truth - a spirit that will guide each of us and our whole Christian community, all the disciples of Jesus, and the church throughout the world, and will guide us into truth. 
     I have a sense that this is happening right now in a very extraordinary way when we, as a church, are facing and trying to deal with this terrible scandal that is going on and has gone on.  Yet, at the same time, I’ve been reading and hearing about and getting information from various people about how our whole church is being energized and that the spirit of truth is leading us in some different directions then we’ve gone before.  

     People who are members of the church and who have maybe been passive in the past are now saying, “No, we are the church and we must act as church.”  The spirit of truth is leading us.  

     I don’t know if you have seen the two billboards on I-94, but they are huge billboards saying our church must ordain women.  I really believe that it’s the spirit of truth working within our church to bring about a radical kind of change.  The spirit of truth is leading us and telling us that we must have a church, as I have mentioned before, a church where all of us participate and use our gifts.  Not just a church of bishops or hierarchy.  It’s a church where all of us are God’s people and are gifted by the spirit to make a difference.  And we will make a difference as we continue to pursue the truth and let that spirit of truth come alive within our church even more than ever before.  That will bring about the change we need to make our church purified of our failures and our sins, and a church that is alive with the spirit of Jesus in its fullness once more. 
     Each of us today, I hope, will reflect on the fact that we are baptized, confirmed disciples of Jesus, gifted with the spirit and gifted to make a difference.  And each of us must discover the way in which each of us will make that difference through the spirit of Jesus. 
     We are gifted to make a difference.

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

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