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.)
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 26, 2005

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

This week's readings **

2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16
Now there came a day when Elisha passed over to Shunem, where there was a prominent woman, and she persuaded him to eat food. And so it was, as often as he passed by, he turned in there to eat food. She said to her husband, "Behold now, I perceive that this is a holy man of God passing by us continually. Please, let us make a little walled upper chamber and let us set a bed for him there, and a table and a chair and a lampstand; and it shall be, when he comes to us, that he can turn in there." One day he came there and turned in to the upper chamber and rested. So he said, "What then is to be done for her?" And Gehazi answered, "Truly she has no son and her husband is old." he said, "Call her." When he had called her, she stood in the doorway. Then he said, "At this season next year you will embrace a son " And she said, "No, my lord, O man of God, do not lie to your maidservant."

Romans 6:3-4, 8-11
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over him. For the death that he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life that he lives, he lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 10:37-42
"He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.

* 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.

Our scriptures today continue what we began to reflect on last week, that is, what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, what it means to be called to carry out the work, the mission of Jesus and to transform our world into as close an image of the reign of God as possible. It's very challenging to be a disciple, to be one of those Jesus calls to carry on his works.

I thought for our reflection today, I might use as a framework part of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops' pastoral letter from 1983, which you may remember was called "The Challenge of Peace: God's Promise and Our Response." In the fourth section of that letter, which we called "The Pastoral Challenge and Response," there is a very clear description of what it means, or should mean at least, for any of us if we want to follow Jesus and be his disciple.

First of all, this passage reminds all of us who we are in the church. The church is not just an institution. It's not just a huge international organization. It's a community of people, a community of disciples. After describing the church this way the bishops say, "In the following pages we should like to spell out some of the implications of being a community of Jesus' disciples." Then they point out a special thing: "In a time when our nation is so heavily armed with nuclear weapons and is engaged in a continuing development of new weapons together with strategies for their use " So we're being asked to look at ourselves as disciples of Jesus at this moment in human history, as citizens of the United States, a nation heavily armed. The armaments of our nation get larger and larger all the time. What does it mean to be a disciple in that situation?

The bishops point out that things have changed in the world a bit. Christians are even more of a minority than we've ever been and especially when you consider how the world has globalized. It's one planet, one human family. We're connected with people all over this planet. But most of them, the great majority, over fourth-fifths of the people on this planet are not disciples of Jesus. We are a minority, which means we have to be even more clear in the way we live our lives so that we will be seen as disciples, followers of Jesus Christ in a world that, for the most part, does not know Jesus. We are a minority, as the letter points out, "even in nominally Christian and Catholic nations." The bishops ask: In these circumstances, what does it mean to be a disciple?

First of all to be a disciple of Jesus requires that we continually go beyond where we now are. In other words, we cannot simply stand still in our following of Jesus. We have to keep looking into our hearts, looking into the way we live and become more and more authentic as a follower of Jesus. You can't stay where you are. You have to keep on growing into Jesus. And there are different ways in which we have to move beyond where we are. Here, we can draw from the Gospel. In the last part of the Gospel, Jesus says to the disciples, "If anyone gives you a cup of water that person is going to be blessed." Well, of course, but think of the implications. These are disciples who don't have very much. Earlier in this discourse on being a disciple, of carrying out the mission of Jesus, Jesus tells them, "You must be poor. Live your life with simplicity and moderation. Don't have extra cloaks. Carry only a staff and walking sandals. Don't have extra shoes and so on. Only have what you need, if you really want to be my disciple." And so you won't have a supply of everything that you need. You'll depend upon others. So anyone who gives you a cup of water will be blessed.

When we think about our church now and all of us as a community of disciples, I think there's a lot of room where we could move beyond where we are. I'm thinking here of our own church of Detroit. Last week, I'm sure you're aware, Cardinal Maida had a very expensive dinner at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. The dinner raised almost $900,000 for 68 students at Sacred Heart Seminary. The ironic thing, even I think a negative thing, was that speaker after speaker at the dinner said, "This is a commitment to the City of Detroit." Keeping Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit. Yet when you look at the facts, 68 people, all this money being raised for them so they can live in comfort, luxury almost, in the midst of a city that has a higher rate of child poverty than Mississippi, the state of Mississippi. Our children are poorer, more hungry, have less medical care than children in Mississippi, which has always been known as the poorest state in our union. This is supposed to be a sign? Disciples of Jesus living in what is almost a barricaded building, in luxury, while all around them are poor people? Remember what Oscar Romero did with his seminary in San Salvador when there were lots and lots of poor people? He opened up the grounds and he said, "Come and stay here." He took in all the refugees. That's what it means to be a church faithful to the mission of Jesus, and being disciples who follow the way of Jesus. We have to change our church, I think. Move beyond where we are.

But it isn't only the church out there, as if we can talk about it apart from ourselves. We're all part of it, and so we have to look at our own lives too. Are we living in simplicity, austerity, having what we need but not more than we need? It's not easy to be a disciple of Jesus. That's the first thing that he asks of us. Live simply with moderation, then you'll be able to speak the word of Jesus clearly.

Then Jesus says -- and this can be very challenging -- "Anyone who loves their father or mother more than they love me isn't worthy of me. If you love your son or daughter more than me you're not worthy of me." What he's telling us is that for his disciples, Jesus has to come first. You know, in Luke's translation it even says you must "hate" your father or mother or you're not worthy. Well, that's really not correct. Matthew's translation is better: you must put Jesus first. When I think about this, especially in the context cited by the bishops in that pastoral letter -- here we are in a nation heavily armed with nuclear weapons and plans to develop more of them and plans to use them -- what have we put first? Do we really put Jesus first or do we love or nation, our fatherland, our motherland more than we love Jesus?

Think about the war we've been engaged in for, I would say, since 1991 because it has been all one violent attack against Iraq since January of 1991. Before this second Persian Gulf War the bishops of the United States, the pope in Rome, bishops in Europe, all said this war could not be just, can't be just if you preempt. You're not under attack. You choose to attack. What happens after the war starts? We don't hear that anymore. Now it's, "Get behind our troops. Get behind our government." Whom do we love more? Jesus? Or do we have an exaggerated sense of nationalism, loving our nation and our government more than we love Jesus?

This is a very challenging part of Jesus' call. We must put Jesus first -- his words, his teachings. Our president tells us we're going to wage a war against terrorism, and we're going to win that war, and it's going to go on indefinitely. Can we continue to follow that leadership when Jesus says so clearly if you want peace work for justice. "If you want peace," John Paul II said, "it has to be built on the pillars of justice and love." Not on violence and killing. Who are we going to follow? Are we going to listen to Jesus and be faithful disciples or do we love our nation and our government more and follow them?

Then Jesus tells us, "If you want to be my disciple you must take up your cross and follow me." And in the pastoral letter the bishop say, "To set out on the road to discipleship is to dispose one's self for a share in the cross, and we must regard as normal even the path of persecution and the possibility of martyrdom." Imagine! To be a disciple of Jesus you must set out on the path of Jesus picking up your cross and accept as normal the path of persecution and the possibility of martyrdom. Does that really happen?

Well, I remind you of a woman in Brazil, who on Feb. 12 this year was shot to death. Do you know why? Because she was proclaiming God's word and as the pastoral says, "to become true disciples we have to be doers of the words as well as proclaimers of the words." And that's what she was. Sr. Dorothy Stang was her name. She was working in one of the poorest parts of Brazil. She was helping people to get titles for their land. She was helping them to form cooperatives. She was helping them to do farming that enhances the environment rather than destroy it. But there were people who were opposed to her. They were the loggers and the cattlemen. They wanted that land for themselves, a few people. She kept standing up to them, against them, so she was shot to death on Feb. 12. To be a disciple of Jesus, it's necessary to take up your cross, follow him, even if it means on the path of persecution and martyrdom. Probably not many of us are going to go that far on the path, but we have to really be committed to proclaiming the word of Jesus, living the word of Jesus, doing the word of Jesus no matter what the cost. That's what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

So this morning as we reflect on this missionary discourse of Jesus, I hope -- and the pastoral letter of the bishops suggests this too -- that the call of Jesus is something very personal. You hear Jesus say, deep in your own heart, "Follow me." It has to be a personal call from Jesus. We have to open our hearts and our spirit to hear that call from Jesus and I'm sure each of us will hear it, if we open ourselves in prayer and listen. You will hear Jesus saying, "Follow me." But then I hope also that we will have the courage and conviction to say, "Yes, I will follow Jesus whatever the cost. I will carry on his work to change our world into the reign of God."

In the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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