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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.)
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 26, 2003

Thomas J. Gumbleton

Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese
of Detroit, Michigan *

This week's readings **

Jeremiah 31:7-9
Thus says the LORD: Shout with joy for Jacob, exult at the head of the nations; proclaim your praise and say: The LORD has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel. Behold, I will bring them back from the land of the north; I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng. They departed in tears, but I will console them and guide them; I will lead them to brooks of water, on a level road, so that none shall stumble. For I am a father to Israel, Ephraim is my first-born.

Hebrew 5:1-6
Brothers and sisters: Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who said to him: You are my son: this day I have begotten you; just as he says in another place: You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Mark 10:46-52
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, son of David, have pity on me." And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, "Son of David, have pity on me." Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you." He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man replied to him, "Master, I want to see." Jesus told him, "Go your way; your faith has saved you." Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.


* 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.

My hope, as we reflect on these scripture lessons today, is that each one of us will hear -- not just now, but throughout the day and into the future -- Jesus saying to us, "What do you want me to do for you?" My hope is that our response will be, "Lord, that we may see!" As Mark intended, it isn't just physical sight we mean, it is seeing with faith, seeing who Jesus really is and what he asks of anyone who is to be his disciple.

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(October 2003-December 2003)

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To get the full impact of today's reading, we need to put it within the context of Mark's Gospel. Jesus has been on a journey, his last trip to Jerusalem, where he is going to be executed. When you go back into the gospel, you discover that just before this journey began, Jesus said to his disciples, "Do you have eyes and yet do not see? Do you have ears and yet do not hear?" He was talking about more than physical sight and more than physical hearing. He was talking about having eyes of faith and listening with faith.

Then there was a miracle. A blind person came to Jesus and was cured of his blindness. The journey went on, and, as we read, there was another cure of a blind person. The cures are like two bookends framing this long journey to Jerusalem -- a miracle at the beginning and a miracle at the end, and, in both, people getting sight.

The miracle we hear about today, the one at the end of the journey, is a very special miracle. First of all, it is the last one in Mark's Gospel. But more than that, it is special because most of the time, when people received assistance from Jesus, when Jesus cured them of one thing or another, they always went back to their ordinary lives -- which is fine. But in this case, the man completely changed his life. He threw aside his cloak. He left everything behind, and he followed Jesus. He became a disciple because he saw with the eyes of faith. Jesus told him, "Your faith has healed you."

In between these two miracles, there were examples of those who were already following Jesus -- his disciples -- not really seeing, not really understanding who Jesus was. When we pray for the gift of faith, we are praying that we will really understand Jesus, who he is and what he asks of his disciples.

If we go back three or four Sundays, we have that passage where the young man came up to Jesus and asked what he had to do to gain everlasting life. Jesus said, "Keep the commandments." The man said, "I've done that since my youth." Then Jesus said, "If you really want to be my disciple, go sell everything you have and come follow me." Remember what the young man did? He left with great sadness because, as Mark said, he had many possessions.

Jesus was trying to get him, and us, to understand that if you are going to be disciples of Jesus, you can't be given over to consumption, to wealth. You have to let go of those things. Trust in God alone. Even the disciples, the apostles, the closest ones, said, "Well, if that is the case, how is anyone going to be saved? Can you really expect people to let go of their wealth, not cling to it, not hold it for their security?" Jesus said, "It's possible with God. You can't do it alone, but with God, you can do it."

Jesus is trying to teach his disciples that if they want to follow him, they can't trust in material wealth. They must learn to trust in God.

Then there is the other incident a couple of Sundays ago where Jesus told the disciples, "I am going up to Jerusalem, and they are going to torture me, nail me to a cross, execute me." Remember how Peter objected? He tried to tell Jesus that he didn't have to do it. He didn't have to accept suffering. He should fight back. Jesus said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan!"

Peter was not willing to accept what Jesus was saying about how you have to be willing to accept suffering rather than to inflict suffering. You have to be willing to be killed rather than to kill. Maybe the hardest part of the teaching of Jesus is that you have to give up violence, war, killing, if you really want to follow Jesus.

Those first disciples were having a very difficult time. Perhaps we do, too, in accepting a Jesus who rejects violence, who rejects war, the culture in which we live. In this culture, we glorify violence. We rejoice in military victory when we kill people. That's not Jesus. It is a very hard teaching. It takes eyes of faith to see this kind of Jesus and to accept Jesus.

Last Sunday, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus and said, "We want the first and second places in your kingdom, one on the right and one on the left!" Jesus had to rebuke them, "Look, that is not the way the reign of God is, with people having power and dominance over other people. If you want to be first in my kingdom, then you must become the servant of all. If you want to be a leader, you must become a slave, actually serve others, not be served."

He told them, "This is why I came. Not to be served but to serve, to give my life for all, to pour out my life for everyone." It is a very hard message, but it tells us who Jesus really is.

The gospels actually are very plain about all of these things. This message that I am reciting today from the last three Sundays is very clear in all the gospels, not just Mark's. That's the kind of Jesus who came into our midst: one who was poor, who lived among the poor, reached out to the poor, put the poor in first place. A Jesus who rejected all violence and all killing. A Jesus who really did say you must be ready to accept suffering rather than to inflict it, to be killed rather than to kill. A Jesus who said we must be servants of all.

What blocks us from seeing this Jesus? Our Christian community isn't living in such a way that we manifest those values that Jesus made so clear were his values.

It really is very important for us to hear Jesus say to each one of us, "What do you want me to do for you?" And then to respond, "Lord, let me see you. Let me see who you really are." Then, even more, we must not only see who Jesus is, but, like Bartimeus, "Let go of everything and follow him, become his disciple."

It may be kind of a miracle of faith, but it can happen. Jesus can give us that sight and also the courage to follow him. So when he asks you, "What do you want me to do for you?" say, "I want to see. I want to follow you."

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

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