|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.)
|Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time||
September 11, 2005
I'm sure that all of us are aware that today is Sept. 11, the fourth anniversary of the terrible act of terrorism that was committed against us four years ago. And isn't it extraordinary on this Sunday when we remember that horrific event that God speaks to us about forgiveness -- a message that, clearly, our nation as a whole has not heeded. Perhaps even each of us in our own hearts have not truly heard the message proclaimed today in the Book of Wisdom from the Old Testament but especially by Jesus in the gospel. If we take the time to reflect deeply on this word of God today, perhaps we will understand in a way that we haven't before the enormity of what God asks of us when God invites us to be a follower of Jesus.
The same thing happened when Jesus was trying to teach how you have to love God with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind, all your strength and then love your neighbor like that too! Remember the Pharisee? He -- probably like a lot of us -- thought to himself, "Well, O.K. I can love, but there must be some limit. There must be some time you have to put a condition on it." So he asked Jesus, "Well, who is my neighbor?" He wants Jesus to begin to limit it, "Surely only certain ones are our neighbors." But Jesus didn't limit it. Jesus made clear that anyone who is in need, anyone who appeals to you, anyone with whom you come in contact, anyone -- everyone -- is your neighbor. So you love everyone and without limit!
That may seem impossible, and that is why Jesus tells the parable that he tells today. He's trying to get us to see that once we become his followers, are baptized into a community, become part of a community of disciples, we move on to, in a sense, a whole different plane of living. It's totally outside of ordinary, everyday life. We enter into the reign of God. And in the reign of God everything is different. You can't even make comparisons, almost. It's a different order, a totally different way of being and interacting, relating between ourselves and God as we see one another. The parable, when you begin to take it apart, helps us to see what Jesus was getting at.
First of all we have to understand -- and I jotted these numbers down because it could be confusing -- Remember in the parable Jesus says that the official who owes the king money owed him 10,000 talents. Now that's a huge amount of money. One talent equals 10,000 denarii which is the amount of money in the second part of the story. And so 10,000 talents is 100 million denarii. And a denarius was the amount of money that equals one day's wage, and so this means that 100 million days wages are what this person owed to the king. It's a number that is almost beyond comprehension. In fact, one commentator says that it's more than the total amount of taxes that Rome collected from the whole province where Jesus was. So, it's a huge amount, and yet the king says, "It's gone. Forgiven! You don't have to do a thing." He acts with mercy towards the official.
God gives without limits, forgives without limits. We have to move into that realm and not think of getting equal justice at every moment. "I get whatever you owe me and I will pay back whatever I owe somebody else." No, you get rid of that category and just move into the reign of God where God is merciful without limit. And that's how God is to every one of us. God is merciful without limits.
If we took the time to reflect, we probably would begin to realize how many different ways God's love has been extended toward us and God's mercy is given to us. And it's never with a condition, it's never with any limits upon us.
Jesus is inviting us to enter into this reign of God where there are no limits to mercy, no limits to love, no limits to forgiveness. The reign of God. A totally different way of acting, a different way of being.
When I reflect upon this, especially in the light of what happened four years ago, I'm forced to go back to the advice, the very profound wisdom, that Pope John Paul II offered at that time. I've shared this with you before, but it's important for us to listen again, because as a nation our response was and continues to be, "We must demand justice. We must get vengeance."
Four years later isn't it clear that we've made a horrendous mistake when we went to war in response to that horrific act on Sept. 11? When we think of what has happened to the country of Iraq, it is still in chaos and turmoil and suffering. You know if you think about what happened to New Orleans, the people without electricity, without clean water, without enough food, people left abandoned, people killed - that's Iraq. And it's gone on now for 12 and a half years, well no, now almost 15 years. That his how long the people in Iraq have suffered. We made it worse when we went to war against them in response to what had happened to us. What if we had really done the opposite, if we had responded as our call as Christians really requires us to? We could have begun to build those two pillars that would bring peace. We would be finding ways to share the resources of the planet. That is, of course, the basis of the war -- having control of resources. If we had responded as Christians, we would be trying to find a way to share resources so that everyone on the planet would be able to have a full life. We would have forgiven those who did the horrific act. We would be reaching out to them with love.
You can't undo what's been done but at this moment each of us can try to listen more deeply to God's word and try to take it in, try to understand what it really means to be a disciple of Jesus. It's an enormous step we take when we say, "I will follow Jesus." We should think about that, pray over that. We have to do this as individuals in our everyday life, not just as a nation but each of us individually in everyday life in our interactions with one another. The only way we will be able to bring peace into our everyday life, into our hearts is by building it on those same two pillars, sharing what we have and forgiving one another.
But then we also have to begin, each of us, to influence what is going on within our country, to try to move us in the direction as John Paul puts it, to "confront a situation where evil seems to have the upper hand." We have to do something dramatic, something totally different, move into the realm of God and act according to the way of the reign or realm of God. The conversion that has to happen, I think, is expressed quite well by St. Paul in today's second lesson when he told us, "If we live, we live for the Lord and if we die, we die for the Lord. Either in life or death we belong to the Lord." The goal for each of us, should be to make that deep commitment, "We belong to Jesus whether we live or die always, every moment forever we belong to Jesus." Making that commitment our number one allegiance in our lives and trying to follow Jesus, then we would begin to live in the realm of God. Then God's mercy, love, forgiveness and peace would envelop us. It can happen right now if we chose truly to follow the way of Jesus.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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