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 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.)
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 10, 2003

Thomas J. Gumbleton

Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese
of Detroit, Michigan *

This week's readings **

1 Kings 19:4-8

Elijah went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree and requested for himself that he might die, saying, "It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers." He lay down and slept under the juniper tree; and, behold, an angel touched him, and said to him, "Arise and eat."  He looked, and, behold, there was at his hearth a cake baked on the coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drink, and laid down again. The angel of Yahweh came again the second time, and touched him, and said, "Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you. He arose, and ate and drink, and then strengthened by that food, he waked forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the Mount of God.

Ephesians 4:30-5:2

Brothers and sisters: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, outcry, and slander, be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God also in Christ forgave you. Be therefore imitators of God, as beloved children. Walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling fragrance.

John 6:41-51

The Jews therefore murmured about Jesus, because he said, "I am the bread which came down out of heaven." They said, "Isn't this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How then does he say, 'I have come down out of heaven?'" Therefore Jesus answered them, "Don't murmur among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up in the last day. It is written in the prophets, 'They will all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who hears from the Father, and has learned, comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except he who is from God. He has seen the Father. Most assuredly, I tell you, he who believes in me has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down out of heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. Yes, the bread which I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."

* 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.

(Editor's note: Bishop Thomas Gumbleton was not in Detroit Sunday Aug. 10, so he did not celebrate Mass at St. Leo Parish. Consequently there was no homily for the Peace Pulpit. Instead, Bishop Gumbleton sent the following message.)

The Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance

On Sunday, August 10, 2003, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton joined The Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance in in Oak Ridge, Tenn., to protest nuclear weapons production.

In summer 2002, Bishop Gumbleton urged Catholics to protest against these weapons during Hiroshima Week, August 6 - 11, 2003 when people from around the world gathered to pray, fast, march, and resist through nonviolent direct action against the building of nuclear bombs.

The Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., is the nuclear weapons facility where two new types of nuclear weapons, the so-called "mini-nukes" and the "robust nuclear earth penetrator" (RNEP) are slated to be developed. It is also where the core components were made for the "Little Boy" bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. The demonstration and action took place on Sunday, August 10.

"When so many people are hungry, when so many families suffer from destitution...every armaments race becomes an intolerable scandal. We are conscious of our duty to denounce it."
--Pope Paul VI

"To remember the past is to commit oneself to the future. To remember Hiroshima is to abhor nuclear war. ...In the face of the ... calamity that every war is, one must affirm and reaffirm, again and again, that the waging of war is not inevitable or unchangeable. Humanity is not destined to self-destruction."

-- Pope John Paul II
Joining the fasting, demonstrations, and public protest at Oak Ridge were the Catholic Bishops of Japan who observe what they call "An Annual Peace Period" from August 5 - August 15. At one of the public sessions, Bishop Gumbleton shared with the people gathered there the statement prepared by the Japanese bishops for this year's "Peace Period." The text of their statement follows:

Episcopal Commission for Social Issues

Are We Following the Right Path?
On the Occasion of the Peace Period 2003

In his 1981 visit to Hiroshima, Pope John Paul II called for world peace and proclaimed, "War is the work of man!" In response to this the Bishops of Japan set aside a ten-day period from August 6 to the 15 as the so-called "peace period." For the past 22 years, the Church of Japan has prayed and worked for peace. The Cold War ended and, as we entered the 21st century, mankind's hope for peace grew. But the September 11 terror attack brought about a tremendous change. And in Japan movement away from our pace constitution has accelerated. As citizens and as members of the church standing at the crossroads of momentous change we ask, "Do we want to continue to push on in this direction?" Are we following the road of "love and peace" which Jesus Christ pointed out to us at the cost of his life? As we approach this year's "peace period" we turn to the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ and ask again in our prayers: "Lord, show us the road to true peace."

Now, right now, we have to discern "the signs of our time."

The Japanese government is clearly making an abrupt change of policy.

Turning its back on peace, the government would like to change the Self-Defense Forces into a standing army which can be dispatched abroad. This is a policy directly opposed to what the postwar peace constitution called for and to the policy that has been followed until now. At this very moment we are being pressed to decide whether we will maintain our peace constitution or throw it away.

The Episcopal Commission for Social issues, at the time of the Pope's visit to Japan, published a message: "Peace and the Present Catholic Church of Japan" [hereafter the Message] declaring on page 12 that "Article 9 of the constitution is a sign of our times." We would like to be reassured that Article 9 is still the core principle of our peace constitution and that it remains a "sign of our times" despite the frequency of recent legislation which deviates from that core; for example, the Emergency Measures Law and Special Aid for the Rehabilitation of Iraq.

A sign of our times: "the way of compensation and reconciliation"

A most obvious sign of our times is "the way of compensation and reconciliation."

Looking back at the series of wars during the fifteen-year period between the Sino-Japanese War and the Pacific War, one realizes that Japan is responsible for a tremendous number of war victims in the Asia-Pacific Region. It was just and right that Japan made reparations after the war, but as compensation for its victims it must continue its pledge never to wage war again and to strive to bring peace. The Message puts it this way, "A careful reading of the preamble of the Japanese constitution convinces us that this constitution is a very precious treasure of the war and the only way to offer compensation to the countless victims deprived of lives abroad and at home during the recent World War; it is the only means whereby by assuming responsibility for the crime of war, we offer victims some compensation." (page 11) The cenotaph for the Hiroshima atomic bomb victims says, "Let all the souls here rest in peace, for we shall not repeat the evil." Although the U.S. is directly responsible for dropping the atomic bomb, which caused such horrible, indiscriminate and extensive slaughter, does not the declaration expressed by the phrase " we shall not repeat the evil" apply to us because we also stand guilty of having promoted and waged war? The realization that Jesus Christ by the sacrifice of the cross brought mankind forgiveness and reconciliation convinces us that Japan by renouncing war and by continuing to work for peace in Asia and the world is making compensation for its past and at the same time opening a path to bring about sincere and mutual reconciliation with those it has injured.

Another sign: "the road that leads to true peace"

The second sign of our times is the road that leads to true peace.

The political scientist Douglas Lummis has stated that in the 20th Century, those killed in wars fought under the banner of "the right of belligerency" number over 150 million, more than half the victims being the belligerent state's own citizens. Thus we cannot say that, just because a state is armed and has the right to go to war, it will always be safe. Nor did Japan abandon protection of itself when it adopted Article 9 of the constitution. By not having military power (an army) and by the pledge it made to work for the solution of international disputes without arms, Japan was protecting itself. As the Message states (page 12), "For a country, even a small country, to renounce war, to give up arms, is a contribution to peace in the world, to constructing world peace, and this may be of incalculable value."

Now the major nations of the world hope to bring about peace by military power. And without realizing it, Japan is being drawn into this current. But does military strength really bring about peace among nations? The countries of Asia are wary of Japan's modern militarization; they harbor distrust. And this distrust breeds strife. Jesus said, "put away your sword. Those who live by the sword will be destroyed by the sword." (Mt. 26:52) We should cherish these words. The path to peace which the Gospel urgently urges us to follow is not the way of the sword but rather the path which leads to a way whereby an atmosphere of mutual trust evolves.

It has been reported that when a private-sector medical group of a foreign country went to Iraq, the citizens of Iraq went out of their way to protect them. But just before the U.S. attacked Iraq, Japan endorsed the attack. And now Japan plans to carry out its commitment to send arms-carrying uniformed Self-Defense forces there as well. Here we see two different approaches. The two groups both use the words "peace-international contribution." But each group's action symbolizes a different "way." Should not Japan be following the "way" of that private-sector medical group?

As we approach the year's peace period, let us turn to our lord and pray from the bottom of our hearts once again that our Lord will point out the path we are to follow and that we will be granted the conviction needed to carry out our mission of peace.

July 25, 2003

Catholic Bishops' Council of Japan
Episcopal Commission for Social Issues
President: Archbishop Okada Takeo
Bishop Tani Dajji
Bishop Nomura Junichi
Archbishop Ikenaga Jun
Bishop Matsuura Gorou
Bishop Miyahara Ryoji

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