The Independent Newsweekly
|?Signup Here For Weekly E-mail|
|The Peace Pulpit: Homilies by Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton|
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.)
From our earliest years, we were taught that God is everywhere. There is no place where God is not. We have come to understand that this is true because God is. God is … is simply being, and where ever there is being, God is the ground of that being. So God is everywhere. Yet certain places are sacred, because in those places, we attend more carefully to God's presence. In this church, for example, we have experienced God's presence. We're used to being here and being attentive, so we say, "God is here."
Well that's the way it was with Jerusalem and the temple for the chosen people. These were very special places where they were accustomed to being aware of God's presence and blessings. That is why they said, "We rejoice in the presence of God." That is why what Isaiah proclaimed in our first lesson was so important for the people: "Rejoice for Jerusalem. Be glad for her, all you who love her. Be glad with her. Rejoice with her, all you who were in grief over her." Isaiah also told the people how God nurtures them at Jerusalem, using that very beautiful image that Jerusalem is like a mother. Then that image fades into God is the mother to them. At Jerusalem. In the temple.
When Isaiah proclaimed those words, however, there was no temple. It had been destroyed. Jerusalem was in ruins. Yet Isaiah had this marvelous vision, a dream of what could be and would be again because God had promised them. "Be glad forever and rejoice in what I create, for I create Jerusalem to be a joy. It's people to be a delight." That was God's promise, that God would be with them again, that God would bring Jerusalem into a fullness of being and life again, and that the temple will be restored.
Because God is like a mother, whose love is without limit and condition, they were confident that it would happen. As they returned from exile, they heard the call to enter into God's work and rebuild the temple, rebuild Jerusalem. The people rejoiced, because they were close to God again and God was close to them in that special place.
That dream that Isaiah proclaimed so beautifully about Jerusalem, about God's presence, especially that presence of love, did happen. But as we think about our world today, popping into our minds are images of the many places were there are disasters, violence and destruction, where people have died in huge numbers.
Think of Gaza, a city in Palestine, the very place Isaiah talked about so many thousands of years ago. There people are killed and cities and homes are destroyed. Think of Afghanistan or Iraq. Think of Sudan where over a million people have been forced to flee their homes and tens of thousands have been killed. Is there a dream for them? A vision of what could be?
Well, that's really what our Gospel lesson is about today. When Jesus sends out the 72, this is Luke's way of telling us that Jesus' followers are to go out into the whole world. Seventy-two is not just an arbitrary number. Luke picked that number deliberately. In the book of Genesis, Chapter 10, after Noah was saved, his descendants began to scatter through the earth and founded 72 nations. So this is the whole world.
Jesus sends his disciples to proclaim the good news, to say that God will create not just a new Jerusalem, but a new Gaza, a new Iraq, a new Afghanistan, a new Sudan. God will create, Jesus said, a place where people can experience the reign of God. Jesus said: "Go and tell everyone the reign of God is at hand." That is the vision. That is the dream.
And God is making it happen, there's no question about that. That's what Jesus meant when he said, "The harvest is full." But he also said, "The workers are few." There are not enough believers ready to do the work of God, which is to transform places of violence, death and suffering into places of joy and life. There are not enough believers to take God's work to the people of Gaza or Afghanistan or Iraq or Sudan. Or the city of Detroit. Jesus sends his disciples to every town and place, to the whole world, to make this happen.
If you listen to Jesus' instructs to his disciples, you discover the reign of God is brought about in a special why. It is not done through violence, war or killing. It is not done by one group triumphing over another. Look at how Jesus instructed his disciples: "Take no walking stick. No sandals. No extra bag." That would be impossible in Palestine, where Jesus lived, to travel without a stick to defend yourself and without a bag with extra food in it or change of clothing. It would be impossible to walk without sandals on the rocky paths of Palestine. So why did Jesus say this?
For one thing, if they followed Jesus' instructions, they would draw attention. And that's what prophets often do; they draw attention to themselves so people will listen as they proclaim God's word. So that is one thing.
But also, very clearly, Jesus also wanted them to go totally dependant upon God. Without a walking stick to use violence to defend yourself, without extra food and clothing, you have to depend upon God. And that is God's work. With your dependence on God, you enter into God's work, and God's work is a work of love. It can only be accomplished through love. That's the message that the disciples are to take. "Wherever you go say, 'Peace to this house.' " The peace of God will come upon that house if you come in the spirit of Jesus.
The vision can be accomplished for Gaza, for Sudan, for Afghanistan, for Iraq, not by sending armies, not by using violence, but by going there with love.
Pope John Paul expressed this message when he invited young people to be "artisans of peace." He told youth to bring "the fascinating power of love" to bear wherever they go. Have that dream of what could be, of what God is making happen, John Paul said. You can enter the dream by bringing the fascinating power of love. The message from St. Paul today is the same. He said, "I boast only in the cross of Jesus." He saw the cross as the symbol of God's unlimited, unconditional love for all of us. Jesus transformed a tool of execution, a tool of violence into a sign of love.
The way of Jesus is always the way of love.
Many hundreds of years ago, the great St. Francis of Assisi visited the Middle East during a time of violence and war. Christians thought they could bring peace to Jerusalem by invading and killing. Francis rejected that. Though he was close to death he traveled from Assisi to Palestine and walked unarmed into the camp of the sultan, the leader of the Muslim armies. Francis began to talk, dialog and understand. His visit brokered an opportunity for peace, but the Christian armies refused. They lost that chance to show that the way of Jesus could bring true peace into that area.
Today Jesus calls us to be those 72, to go out into every town and village -- to go out into our own city streets like members of our parish family are doing every week now -- to take the word of God and the peace of Jesus into every home and place. Jesus' call is also to go beyond our own city streets. We have to try to influence the way our country intervenes in other countries. We have to go to Sudan not with an army but with food and help. We have to help stop the violence in Iraq, not by more killing but by drawing people together, perhaps by as the provisional government has proposed an amnesty.
The vision is clear. Jesus wants all of us to carry his message into our world. A long time ago, when Isaiah promised what could happen for Jerusalem, the people followed the way of God and Jerusalem was rebuilt, the nation was restored, and there was peace. The same thing could happen now. The vision of peace, the reign of God breaking forth in all of those violent places on our planet could happen if every one of us who is a follower of Jesus took our responsibilities seriously and tried to live according to the way of Jesus. We would trust in God and in God's love, and we would bring the fascinating power of love to bear wherever we go -- as individuals and as a nation. Then, the vision of God's reign would be realized. Peace would happen.
As we continue to reflect on these scriptures of today we must pray, every one of us, that we can listen deeply and in our hearts hear God calling. God calls each of us: "The harvest is ready. The laborers are few." God is asking us to be those laborers. Will we respond? Will we enter into God's work? Will we make the reign of God happen? It is a tremendous challenge that God offers to us, but if we trust in God there is no doubt that vision will be realized. Then peace will come even in the most violent areas of our world.
In the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
|Copyright © 2004 The National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64111 TEL: 1-816-531-0538 FAX: 1-816-968-2280|