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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.)
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 17, 2003

Thomas J. Gumbleton

Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese
of Detroit, Michigan *

This week's readings **

Proverbs 9:1-6

Wisdom has built her house. She has carved out her seven pillars. She has prepared her meat. She has mixed her wine. She has also set her table. She has sent out her maidens. She cries from the highest places of the city, "Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!" As for him who is void of understanding, she says to him, "Come, eat some of my bread, drink some of the wine which I have mixed! Leave your foolish ways, and live. Walk in the way of understanding."

Ephesians 5:15-20

Brothers and sisters, watch carefully how you live, not as unwise, but as wise; making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore don't be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Don't be drunken with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing, and singing praises in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always concerning all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, the Father.

John 6:51-58

Jesus said to the crowd, "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." The Jews therefore contended with one another, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Jesus therefore said to them, "Most assuredly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life in yourselves. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father; so he who feeds on me, he will also live because of me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven-- not as our fathers ate the manna, and died. He who eats this bread will live forever."

* 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.

Perhaps it’s appropriate to begin this morning by asking the question:  “What did you decide?  Are you going to join in that banquet that you have just been invited to, or not?  If you listened to what we heard from the Book of Proverbs, you have really been invited:  Wisdom has built her house set on seven pillars.  She has watered her beasts, prepared her wine and laid her table.  Next, she sent her servants to call from the central square of the city. You who are foolish, pass by here but to the senseless she says, ‘Come, eat and drink of the bread and wine I have prepared.  Give up your foolishness and you will live.’

That’s the invitation.  “Come. Eat. Drink. Live.”  That’s the wisdom of God.

A little further on in the Book of Proverbs, there’s another invitation.  We don’t hear it in today’s reading, but it is a clear contrast.  Lady Foolishness, impetuous, knows nothing.  She sits at the door of her house on a throne in the central square of the city to invite all passers-by:  “Come here, whoever is ignorant.”  To the foolish she says, “Stolen waters are sweet and comfort bread is the tastiest, but they do not see the shadow world lying there or realize that its guests are heading for the abyss of death.” 

So which invitation will we accept?  That of wisdom, who is God. Or foolishness, the way which so often of the world around us.

As we try to understand perhaps more clearly what Lady Wisdom is offering to us, we need to go a little further on in the Book of Wisdom and find where it is told to us that the beginning of Wisdom is reverence for God — or confidence in God, trust in God, faith in God, willingness to follow God’s ways.  The beginning of wisdom is that reverence, trust, confidence in God’s ways. 

At the time in which the Book of Wisdom was written for the chosen people who heard this message, the Wisdom of God was contained in the Torah—the law of God which had been given to them in that very extraordinary way on Mount Sinai when they first entered into Covenant with God and became God’s people, chosen to follow God’s ways.  The Torah was the way of wisdom and Lady Wisdom is inviting the people at that time to follow that way of God as it is put here:  “Take the straight path of discernment.  Look deeply into the ways of God and follow them.  Come to the table.  Eat of this Wisdom and be changed to follow God’s ways.”

And, of course, they would reject that way of foolishness, the shadow world, the world that is really not authentic.  We follow God’s ways in God’s world.

But there was not completeness in this wisdom of the Torah.  Over the millennia, the thousands and thousands of years of human development, God was being revealed only gradually to God’s people.  And at the point where we have the Torah, it is still an incomplete revelation.  The rewards that are presented and proclaimed when we follow this way of wisdom, as far as the people of that time could understand, was only a fullness of life on this earth.  They knew nothing about an everlasting life.  It was “shalom”, a fullness of life, of peace and happiness and completion on this earth alone. 

There were many other ways in which the Torah was incomplete, not only that its outcome was in this world only, but it was not a full development of all God wants us to be. 

In one commentary that I was reflecting on this week, the writer pointed out how in the Torah there was a total lack of understanding of the words of wisdom.  A woman was simply property under that law.  It sounds really strange to us, but it was true.  A man, a father, had complete ownership of his daughters and then passed that ownership on to her husband and women were simply property.  That, of course, was seen quickly as a clear lack of completeness in the Torah.  And so God, as revelation continues to happen, reveals more and more of what God’s wisdom is. 

And, of course, that’s where we come in today’s Gospel where Jesus says:  “Come to me.  Eat and drink of my Flesh and Blood.”  This is the real invitation we are given today—to co