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.)
Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 14, 2006

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

This week's readings **

Acts 9:26-31
When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. And he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord. And he was talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews; but they were attempting to put him to death. But when the brethren learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus. So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.

1 John 3:18-24
Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight. This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

John 15:1-8
"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples."

* 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.

I think we should proclaim again, “God is good all the time.” (Congregation repeats in unison, “God is good all the time.”) And we know that, if we listen carefully to the scriptures today. This is part of the conversation Jesus had at the Last Supper. He deeply loved the community that was gathered there together with him, and in John’s Gospel there’s recorded a long conversation that Jesus had with them where he’s pouring forth his heart, trying to draw them to respond with love also.

Dear Reader of Peace Pulpit,

We need your help. We are pleased to make available -- at no charge -- Peace Pulpit. But we cannot do all we need to do without your financial assistance.

Please take a moment to consider contributing to the Friends of NCR campaign. National Catholic Reporter is a nonprofit organization. Contributions are tax-deductible in the United States.

Contributions may be sent to:
National Catholic Reporter
115 E. Armour Blvd.
Kansas City, MO   64111

Make checks out to: NCR

If you wish, you may print a form for submitting your donation. You may also use this form for credit card donations.

Print a Contribution Form


Donate Now Online

In fact, to really get the full impact of the allegory that Jesus uses in the Gospel about being the vine and we the branches, it helps us to recall a couple of the things that he had said to the disciples. Earlier he had told them, “Do not be troubled. Trust in God. Trust in me. In God’s house there are many rooms, otherwise I would not have told you that I go to prepare a place for you. After I have gone and prepared a place I shall come again and take you to me so that where I am you also may be.” Jesus never wants to be separated from his disciples, his community. Wherever he is he wants us to be there also.

At another point he told them, “I have given them,” speaking here to God, “the glory you have given me that they may be one as we are one. I in them and you in me. Thus they shall reach fullness in unity. The world shall know that you have sent me and that I have loved them just as you loved me.”

Jesus’s heart is overflowing with love for his disciples, and so that’s why he tells this allegory about, “I am the vine you are the branches.” We’ve seen vines growing, and you know how intimately the vine, the root and the branches are connected. The same life flows through the whole vine. Jesus says, “I am that vine. You are the branches. You’re in me. I’m in you.” It’s such a beautiful image of how deeply Jesus wants us to be united with him.

And isn’t it marvelous that today we celebrate the first Holy Communion for three of our younger members of the parish family, because in Holy Communion we receive the very body and blood of Jesus; the living Jesus, becomes present within us. So when God looks upon us God sees Jesus, and when we look upon each other we see Jesus in one another, because Jesus has become our very food and drink. Whenever we come forward to receive his body and blood the real presence of Jesus is there, and the union between us and Jesus is deepened. We become closer to God in Jesus. And it’s a bond of love from God to us that cannot be broken. So we rejoice to know that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. We share the very life of Jesus.

But we also know there’s more to the Eucharist, Holy Communion as we call it, than simply receiving the presence of Jesus within us. We must always remember when we receive Holy Communion, when these youngsters receive it for the first time today, but when all of us come forward to receive Communion, remember when Jesus first declared, “This is my body and this is the cup of my blood.” It was on that night before he was put to death. So he says, “This is my body given up for you.” It’s an act of supreme, infinite love. God’s body given for us -- broken and given for us. “And the cup of my blood, the blood of the new covenant, which will be poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” The Eucharist is not just, as marvelous as it is, the presence of Jesus. It is Jesus acting for us, giving his body, pouring forth his blood out of love, no other reason, simply to show God’s love for every one of us.

And, of course, what do we say? You should think about this. When you come forward to receive Holy Communion, Conor and Drew and Sonia will do this for the first time today. They accept the bread and drink from the cup. Each time they say, “Amen.” And we do the same. “Body of Christ.” “Amen.” “The blood of Christ.” “Amen.” What are we saying? We’re saying, “Yes.” That’s what amen means and we should be thinking about that. I’m saying, “Yes” to Jesus, “Yes” to Jesus pouring forth his love upon me and “Yes” to the commitment that I then make to live the way of Jesus. That’s what Holy Communion has to mean. Every time we come forward, we renew our commitment to follow Jesus.

Don't  miss a homily
      To receive an e-mail notice when The Peace Pulpit is posted every week, sign up here.
      Click on the link at the top right of this page to send the column to a friend or colleague.

The other lessons today help us to understand what it means to follow Jesus. Just before the passage that we heard from the letter of John, John tells us we “ought to give our life for our brothers and sisters.” Then he challenges us: “If you enjoy the riches of this world but close your heart when you see a brother or sister in need, how will the love of God remain in you?” When we receive Holy Communion, we’re committing our self to love as Jesus loved us, to share what we have in a very practical way.

It seems to me that we should be very alert tomorrow evening. The President is going speak to the whole nation about immigration. What approach will he take? Will it be a defensive approach -- build that barrier, keep everyone out -- or will we welcome our brothers and sisters and see that they are coming not because they want to flee their counties but because they must in order to survive? Did you ever ask yourself why so many people from Mexico and from Central America come north and are crossing our borders? No one likes to leave his or her home place, their native land. What caused the poverty down there, made it worse the last 10 or 15 years? It is the so-called free trade agreement that we have imposed upon Mexico through the North American Free Trade Act and the Central American Free Trade Act. It has caused millions of people to become poor. They can’t support themselves and so they come north. Well, are we going to welcome them as brothers and sisters and see in the face of every immigrant Jesus?

That’s what these lessons seem to compel us to do. So tomorrow night we should listen very carefully and determine how we’re going to react to what the President says. Perhaps we’ll be able to support him strongly. Perhaps we’ll have to challenge what he presents to the Congress. But what ever we do, we do it knowing that our actions are actions directed towards Jesus.

The other lesson: Paul is in trouble in Jerusalem and, you heard at the end of the lesson, he has to leave; they’re trying to kill him. It isn’t clear from what we heard today, but the reason behind this is that Paul is trying to break down barriers. In the Jerusalem community of Christians, there were those who were opposed to people joining the community without being Jewish converts first, and Paul thought that was wrong. You don’t have to make people jump through hoops of one kind or another in order to follow Jesus. They want to follow Jesus, they’re welcome and everyone is welcome. You exclude nobody, and Paul goes on further in his development of this idea. “In Jesus there is neither male nor female, slave or free, Greek or Jew, rich or poor. Everyone is one in Christ.” Break down all those barriers that we’ve set up. Welcome everybody into our community. And we have to keep on doing that in order to be faithful to Jesus.

There’s one other point that I think we might draw from today’s lesson that’s also very important. When we think of God loving us, we sometimes wonder, “Well,” and we all ask this question, “how can bad things happen to good people? Where is the love of God?” Well, if we listen to the Gospel, Jesus says, “God loves us so much that God will prune this vine that we are.” You might think as I did until I read it very carefully -- and I’m not much of a gardener so I wouldn’t know better but a gardener would know -- I thought you always prune away just the dead branches. No, you prune living branches in order to thin them out so that greater fruit will grow, more fruit will be produced. Well, that’s what God does to us sometimes. I have some friends whose 10-year-old daughter was recently diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. What a terrible thing! You wonder how God’s love could be in that. This beautiful young girl suddenly incapacitated in a wheel chair and the prognosis is she will die. Well, God is pruning that family, helping them to bear even more fruit. God does that to us at various times. Different things happen to us that we might find hard to accept, but if we look deeply, we will know that God’s love is at work in whatever God asks us to accept. God prunes us because God loves us, to help us to bear more fruit, to become more like Jesus who poured forth his life in love for us.

As we celebrate now, continue to celebrate our Eucharist and come forward to receive Holy Communion, I hope we will let these ideas go through our minds. Our Holy Communion is Jesus loving us, giving himself out of love for us and we say, “Amen. Yes to Jesus.” Yes to everything Jesus asks of us. Yes to loving everyone as Jesus loves them. Yes to the full way of Jesus. Amen. Yes. This is what we must say as we celebrate our Eucharist today, and we do it for the first time with these three young people but all of us are invited to come forward to be filled once more with the love of God in Jesus through the Holy Eucharist when each of us say, “Amen, yes Jesus.”

Top of Page   | Home 
Copyright© 2006 The National Catholic Reporter Publishing  Company, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64111  TEL: 1-816-531-0538   FAX:  1-816-968-2280