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The Peace Pulpit
Homilies by Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton

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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.
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Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 13, 2002

Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese
of Detroit, Michigan *


This week's readings **

Isaiah 25:6-10a

On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of fine foods and choice wines, of fat things full of marrow, of well refined choice wines.  He will destroy on this mountain the covering that covers all peoples, and the veil that is spread over all nations.  He has swallowed up death forever! The Lord Yahweh will wipe away tears from off all faces. He will take the reproach of his people away from off all the earth, for the Lord has spoken it.  It shall be said on that day, "Behold, this is our God! We have waited the Lord, and the Lord will save us! This is Yahweh for whom we have waited. We will be glad and rejoice in his salvation!"  For on this mountain the hand of Yahweh will rest.
 

Phiippians 4:12-14, 19-20

Brothers and sisters, I know how to live in humble circumstances, and I know also how to live in abundance. In everything and in all things I have learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in need.  I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.  However you did well to share in my affliction.  My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  To our God and Father be the glory forever and ever! Amen.
 

Matthew  22:1-14

Jesus answered and spoke again in parables to them, saying, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who made a marriage feast for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the marriage feast, but they would not come. Again he sent out other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, "Behold, I have made ready my dinner. My oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the marriage feast!"' But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his merchandise, and the rest grabbed his servants, and treated them shamefully, and killed them. When the king heard that, he was angry, and he sent his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. "Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited weren't worthy. Go therefore to the intersections of the highways, and as many as you may find, invite to the marriage feast.'  Those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together as many as they found, both bad and good. The wedding was filled with guests.  But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man who didn't have on wedding clothing, and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here not wearing wedding clothing?' He was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and throw him into the outer darkness; there is where the weeping and grinding of teeth will be.'  For many are called, but few chosen."
 
 

* 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).
http://www.nccbuscc.org/nab/index.htm

** The Web link to Pax Christi is provided as a service to our readers.

On various occasions, I have quoted words from one of the liberation theologians of El Salvador who was murdered down there in November 1989. This is Father Ignacio Ellacuria. He was the rector of the University of Central America. The words that I quoted were words that he wrote in a newspaper article describing the Christian community.  He said, ďWe are people of the gospel.  We are people of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel that proclaims the reign of God and that calls us to transform our world into as close an image of that reign of God as possible.Ē

     For me, thatís a clear expression of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus; to be someone who is a person of the gospel and understands that this gospel proclaims Godís reign on earth and calls us to transform our world so that it becomes as close as possible to the fullness of Godís reign. 

     We know that, when we talk about the reign of God, weíre not talking about a place, as if the kingdom of God is someplace else.  Weíre talking about a situation where Godís ways are followed, where Godís goodness and love break forth in every person. The reign of God is what happens when we follow Godís ways.

     If we listen to the lessons of todayís Eucharist, perhaps weíll get a better understanding of how Jesus describes the reign of God as he understood it from the prophets himself and how we can help transform our world into as close an image of that reign of God as possible.

     When Jesus spoke about the reign of God, he drew from the prophets. That passage that we heard today would have been a passage that Jesus knew very, very well. Itís a beautiful:  On this mountain, God will prepare for all peoples.  The reign of God is not something exclusive. Itís for all peoples:  God will prepare a feast, full of rich food and choice wine, meat full of marrow.

     In other words God provides for us everything we need as human persons. 

     When we encounter God, God provides for us everything. Then God reaches out to us with tenderness and love, because God will destroy the pall caste over all peoples, a death pall -- the very shroud spread over all the nations and death will be no more. In the reign of God, there is fullness of life. When that reign of God breaks forth in its fullness, thereís no more death. God, tenderly and carefully wipes away tears from all cheeks and eyes, takes away the humiliation of people all over the world.

     So the reign of God is a beautiful, marvelous, powerful experience of God being present within us, drawing us to follow God and Godís ways and then helping to transform our world into as close an image of that reign of God as possible.  And itís important for us to hear those words from Isaiah and to hold them deeply within our heart.

     As we listen to Jesus telling us that the reign of God is like this wedding feast, he goes on to tell the story to the Pharisees.  That wedding feast parable that we hear today is also recounted in the gospel of Luke.  Itís really the same story, although these two gospels were written down at different times.  So, as the writers proclaimed them, they used the message of the parable for different purposes.  As you know, a parable is not a story that has only one meaning. Every parable of Jesus is to be read in whatever circumstance it is proclaimed.

     We have to listen to parables out of our own background and draw the teaching that Jesus is proclaiming. Well, when Luke proclaimed it and wrote it down in the gospel, it wasnít a wedding feast, it was simply a dinner that someone was holding and inviting all of his friends and relatives to come and have this marvelous dinner.  And someone who was listening to Jesus says, ďHappy are those who eat at the banquet in the kingdom of God.Ē  This person was suggesting that this is going to happen a long time from now, when the kingdom of God finally happens after this world is over.

     But then Jesus tells this parable to indicate itís happening now. He describes how a person has this banquet and invites everyone to come.  He wants people to realize as he tells that story, ďThis is what I am doing.Ē  When Jesus tells this story, he was at a meal, celebrating with friends, enjoying one anotherís company.  And heís saying, ďItís especially as you see me doing, reaching out to the poor and drawing them in, people who are lame or crippled in any way and drawing them in, people who have been rejected and drawing them in.Ē

     Thatís how Jesus acted whenever and wherever he went.  He would always draw all the most poor and neglected and oppressed people to be with him. And he was saying, ďItís happening now, Iím drawing all the peoples to myself.Ē

     And so Jesus was emphasizing that you donít wait until the next life for the reign of God to happen. It begins to happen here and now. Just as it was when Jesus was inviting people to come and have meals with him and especially invited the poor, the oppressed, and the rejected.

     Now, when Matthew tells the story, itís in that context that I mentioned before, where Jesus had gone into the temple.  Itís one of the most striking things that happens in the gospels. In fact, it disturbs many of us, because he went into the temple and he acted out of anger. He was very angry when he went in there and he saw the poor being exploited. And thatís what was happening, they were being exploited by the religious leaders and Jesus became angry at that. He said, ďYouíre making Godís house a den of thieves.  I canít let that go on.Ē And so he knocked over the tables and drove the moneychangers out, so that the poor could be welcomed there in Godís house and not be exploited.

     So when Jesus told the parable in that context, the leaders had challenged him, ďBy what authority do you this?Ē  So then he began to tell this parable.  And itís the parable about people who have been invited and who donít want to come. Theyíre not interested in the reign of God. And, in this instance, the parable is changed a bit. Those that donít want to come, not only refuse the invitation, but they also kill the servants and they try to prevent others from entering into the reign of God, into the fullness of life.  They try to prevent others from being able to live in a world that is transformed into as close an image of the reign of God as possible.

     And Matthew was writing at a time when the city of Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Roman armies.  So he suggests that because you rejected the reign of God this is what happens, destruction of what is most sacred to you, the very temple of God. 

     Those religious leaders understood what Jesus was saying.  They knew he was talking about them. And he made it very clear that what they were doing was not bringing about the reign of God and, for that reason, they would find themselves excluded from it.

     Now as we listen to this parable, itís important for us to put it in the context in which we live.  Remember that the reign of God will be this marvelous time when all peoples, especially the poor and oppressed, are allowed to share in all the good things that God has given in this world Ė that this is for all and not just for a few.  If we listen to this parable carefully, we think about the world in which we live and weíll understand very quickly that we are not transforming our world into as close an image of the reign of God as possible.

     Weíre like the people in the parable today in the sense that we kill the servants who are bringing the message today.  We donít want to hear it.  We donít want to change our lives.  We donít want to work to transform our world into this reign of God where everyone on this planet would have access to all the beautiful and good things that God has given us; that we would have a banquet where everybody comes and shares, rich or poor, black or white, men or women, no matter what; everybody; breakdown every barrier, cross every line and draw all people together into one world where all share in what God has given for all.

     Now, you know and I know that our world isnít like that.  One fifth of us take to ourselves 87% of the worldís resources and wealth.  The bottom fifth has 1.2%.  Youíve heard those numbers before. It should shock us.  Itís far from the reign of God. Itís almost totally opposite what the reign of God should be. And what makes it even worse right now is that weíre going to war.  And you know why weíre going to war.  Our own leaders have told us in a document that was published by the Pentagon back in 1988 that said we will have to wage war in the next two decades in the third world to protect our vital resources. It said it very blatantly and very plainly. 

     Thatís not bringing about the reign of God. Weíre like the ones in the parable who destroy the messenger, refuse to have the banquet, and refuse to come.

     Perhaps, we need to think about what happened in Matthewís parable. They refused the word of Jesus and their temple was destroyed.  All that they held sacred and good was destroyed. Their lives were turned upside down. It was a time of injustice and violence and terrible anguish. Perhaps we are preparing for that kind of outcome for ourselves, if we continue to refuse to hear the call of Jesus and to transform our world into as close an image of the reign of God as possible.

     As we reflect on this and perhaps begin to understand that we are failing to respond to the word of Jesus in the way that he asks of us, to try to share our wealth, to try to change the situation so that all of the peoples of the world come to the banquet and are refreshed and blessed by God, in the reign of God, and as we think about what we need to do, we might also understand that for any one of us we donít have to wait until the full reign of God happens.  You or I or any of us can enter into that reign of God right now.

     I think thatís what is meant at the end of the parable today where there was this one person who did not have the wedding garment on and was put out.  The hearers of the parable would have understood it. Wedding garments were provided for everyone and it was that personís choice not to have one. Everyone can have the wedding garment.  Any one of us can enter into the reign of God by being clothed in Jesus.  Paul speaks about that at our baptism: You are clothed in Jesus. You change, you become like Jesus, and you develop a spirit of compassion, tenderness, love, care, reaching out to others, drawing people together.

     Any one of us can do that. We might have to change our live to some extent. If we really want to enter into the reign of God, we can do it and that will help us to make sure that the world around us is gradually changed and transformed into the reign of God. We donít have to wait until it all happens. Make your choice today. Each of us can do that.  Say, ďI will clothe myself in Jesus and follow his way and thereby help transform the world around me into the reign of God.Ē

     In the second lesson today, St. Paul gives us an understanding of what that can mean for any one of us.  Heís in jail. Heís deprived of all the things that we think would be important for a happier, joyful life.  Yet he says, ďLook, it makes no difference.  I am joined with Jesus.  Iím clothed in Jesus.  Iím at peace and thereís joy in my heart.Ē  You sense that as Paul writes this letter from jail.  In those worst of circumstances, he is joyful, filled with peace.

     And that will be what happens for every one of us as we chose to follow the way of Jesus -- to enter into the reign of God in my life, right now, wherever I am and whatever Iím doing.  Then, I will be entering into the work of Jesus and in some small way, but real way, I will be helping to transform our world as fully as possible into as close an image of the reign of God as possible.

     In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
 

 


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