|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 will be made available through to the remainder of this year. This service is an NCR website 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.|
Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese
of Detroit, Michigan *
Amos 6:1a, 4-7
Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and to them that are secure
in the mountain of Samaria, the notable men of the chief of the nations,
to whom the house of Israel come; that lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch
themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and
the calves out of the midst of the stall; that sing idle songs to the sound
of the viol; that invent for themselves instruments of music, like David;
that drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief oils; but
they are not grieved for
1 Timothy 6:11-16
But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness,
godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight
of the faith, lay hold on the life eternal, whereunto thou was called,
and didst confess the good confession in the sight of many witnesses.
Charge thee in the sight of God, who giveth life to all things, and of
Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed the good confession;
that thou keep the commandment, without spot, without reproach, until the
appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: which in its own times he shall
show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord
of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in light unapproachable;
whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power eternal.
Jesus said to the Pharisees, "There was a certain rich man, and he
was clothed in purple and fine linen, faring sumptuously every day.
And a certain beggar named Lazarus was laid at his gate, full of sores,
and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the
* 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 againsst Iraq.
has appeared on numerous radio and television programs, and has published
numerous articles and reports.
** Scripture texts in this work are taken 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
|I guess the first
thing we need to ask ourselves this morning is whether we are ready to
listen to Moses, Godís law, and to the prophets; all of those who have
spoken in Godís name. It is very important that we open our hearts to Godís
word and try this morning to listen.
You may remember a few days ago, perhaps itís been a week now, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson caused a lot of anger among the people of the United States and maybe among some of us. They suggested that what happened on September 11th was Godís punishment because we were not listening to God. We were not following Godís laws. We were not listening to the prophets. Many were angry at that, and rightly so. For all of us, Iím sure, thatís not the way we understand God. A God that is ready to strike out and kill innocent people. A God that would bring this kind of tragedy upon us. Thatís not the God we know, the God who was revealed to us in the scriptures just a couple of Sundayís ago when the chosen people had fallen into terrible sin. And yet, Moses intervened for them. God said, ďI am a God of compassion.Ē And God forgave them.
God is a God of love revealed so clearly in the Old Testament and surely in the New Testament. Saint Paul reminds us that, even when we were sinners, God loved us. God first loves us and thatís how we become sanctified and holy. And so we reject that idea that God has punished us through that terrible accident that took place on September 11th. And yet, we must understand that this is what the scriptures bring home so clearly today, that there are consequences to our sins. It isnít God who will punish us and destroy us because of our sins. Itís the evil that we carry in our hearts that will destroy us if we refuse to repent of our sinfulness, if we refuse to change our lives. Our sin, the evil in our hearts, destroys us as human beings, makes it impossible for us to live in peace within our own spirit. And so sin has its consequences.
In the first lesson today, Amos railed out against the people who were so rich and yet so complacent and didnít care about the poor. Their nation disintegrated and they found themselves off in exile. It wasnít God who had done it. Their evil hearts had brought it upon themselves. And in the gospel lesson today, it is even clearer. The rich man didnít do anything directly against the poor man Lazarus. He allowed him to lie at his gate. He never trampled on him, kicked him, or did anything harsh against him. But he ignored him. He set up a barrier between himself and Lazarus; a psychological barrier if not physical barrier. Just as though Lazarus wasnít there, he set up this separation.
And we hear in the gospel story, as Jesus tells us, that ultimately there was this division. It had been created by the rich man who refused to reach across and reach out to the poor man, to share with him the goods that he had. And so that division became greater and greater and greater, until it was ultimate. Abraham has to tell him, ďNow there is no way for you to be connected with the poor man who is in the bosom of Abraham in heaven.Ē And so the selfishness and the neglect of the poor bring evil to the ones who are selfish and neglect the poor. Their own sin creates the gap that separates them from the poor forever. And with the poor in the bosom of Abraham, the separation is eternal.
Now if we think about the world in which we live, donít we have to acknowledge that itís a world where there is a terrible gap between the rich and the poor. I read about this kind of a gap between the rich and the poor in the paper just the other day. And this is an extreme example, but it does show what is happening in our world. On one page of the paper, thereís a very short story about a gentleman, named Craig Macaw, who built a telecom fortune that reached about 9 billion dollars last year. He was worth 9 billion dollars. Today the value of those holdings has crashed to about 1 billion dollars. So heís still exorbitantly rich. But now heís holding a so-called garage sale. For sale signs have appeared on three homes, a private island off Vancouver, three jets, a yacht, and even a collection of rare California wines. All owned by Mr. Macaw, exorbitantly rich, unbelievably rich.
But now in that same paper, thereís a story about Nicaragua, a tiny country in Central America where there is desperate poverty. And it keeps getting worse and worse. And in the story about Nicaragua, it says: Mateo Rosalesí wife, Usebia, is too weak to nurse their 18 month old baby in the one room shack that they share with 8 other people.
Imagine that kind of poverty in this world where one person owns a whole island, has 3 yachts and 5 houses. The gap between the rich and the poor is extraordinary. This maybe exaggerates it in a sense, but there isnít one person in this church this morning who isnít far more rich than those people in Nicaragua where nine people have to share or ten people have to share a one room shack. They donít have enough food to eat. Theyíre extremely hungry. Thatís a picture of almost two-thirds of the people on the planet.
And the question is: how much do we care? How do we let ourselves become aware of this situation and then try to close that gap somehow? Or are we complacent in our good living? Are we complacent about the way things are, ignoring the poor who are so numerous in the world in which we live. Or are we perhaps increasing that gap between us and the poor, making it impossible for anyone to cross over.
Certainly this isnít the only reason, this extreme gap between the rich and the poor, the only reason that we live in a world where there is terrible hatred between those who have so little, not all of them, but certainly some, perhaps many, and those of us who have so much.
In todayís paper, there is a picture of the capital city of Pakistan, a city of 12 million people. The headline says: ďHatred of U.S. burns in Pakistanís biggest cityĒ. In Karachi where there is a mood of dread and anger, Osama bin Laden is popular with the masses. That isnít something that Iím suggesting in any way is justified. That what he did, as he would say in the name of those masses of people, lashing out against us who are so rich. Itís not justified what he did, but perhaps itís understandable. That the poor of the world are outraged and this gap is getting larger and larger. So that itís a gap being filled with violence, a violence that is killing them and a violence that will ultimately destroy us. We must do something to bridge that gap, to bring us closer to the poor of the world, to understand why they are angry and why they hate us, why they would lash out with such violence against innocent people. And itís only going to get worse.
In the same paper today, some see the U.S. as vulnerable to germ attack. What happened two weeks ago is dreadful. We have a hard time even realizing all the horror of it and all the suffering that goes with it. But if we donít close this gap between the rich and the poor, if we donít try to make our world really one with one human family sharing all the resources that God gave for all and not just for a few, if we donít do something to close that gap, the violence will only become worse.
As we reach out now in violence to them, the next step could be germ warfare. Thatís what the article is suggesting and weíre vulnerable to it, it says. Thatís very frightening. And yet, when someone like Jesse Jackson suggests, as he did, that he was willing to go and talk with the people on the other side, with Osama bin Laden and those who are out to destroy us, people mocked him. People rejected the whole idea. But as I thought about that, it made me remember something that happened hundreds of years ago when the crusades were going on. This was a time of war between Christians and Muslims. And someone, whom we now revere as a great saint, Francis of Assisi, went unarmed into the camp of the Muslims and spoke with the leader and warded off an attack.
You have to talk to one another, not with weapons, but with human understanding, with love and with care. Why is it so absurd to think that someone like Jesse Jackson might be able to begin a conversation that could lead to discussions between the leaders of the terrorist groups and our government leaders? A conversation that could lead to genuine discussions between the leaders of all the nations in the Middle East, ourselves, other nations in Europe and throughout the world, so that we could come to an understanding of one another, reach out in love to one another, find ways to share the wealth of the planet with one another. Instead of building up our side against their side, instead of retaliating to their violence with our violence, reach out in love.
It may sound foolish. Many people say itís just too idealistic. Then I remind you of what Saint Paul said when he wrote to the church in Corinth at the very beginning of the churchís life in this world. Paul said, ďI came not to baptize you, but to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, the Jesus who was crucified.Ē And he said to the Jews, ďThatís a scandal.Ē And to the Greeks, ďItís foolishness.Ē But to those who follow the way of Jesus, itís the way to peace and to life.
And what Paul was preaching was this crucified Christ, who rejected violence, accepting death rather than inflicting death, who was killed rather than kill. And Paul said, ďYes, thatís the foolishness of God.Ē But that foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom. And the weakness of God is more powerful than human strength.
Godís way may seem to be foolish, may seem to be weak. But that foolishness of God is wiser than our human ways, our human wisdom, which will only lead us to answer with violence. That power of God in weakness is so much greater than our power and arms. Itís time for us to hear the prophets Amos, Moses, and all of them. To hear Godís law proclaim the law of love. To listen about how we must share our wealth. Itís time for us to close the gap between the rich and the poor. And this will bring us peace in our world.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
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