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Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese
of Detroit, Michigan *
For, behold, the day is coming, it burneth as a furnace; and all the proud, and all that work wickedness will be stubble; and the day that is coming will burn them up, leaving them neither root nor branch, says the Lord of host.
But unto you that fear my name, there will arise the sun of righteousness
with healing in its wings; and ye shall go forth.
2 Thessalonians 3:7-12
For you know how you are to imitate us; for we did not act in a disorderly
way among you; neither did we eat bread at anyone's table without paying
for it, but in labor and drudgery, working night and day, that we might
not burden any of you. Not because we have not the right. But
rather, to make ourselves an example to you, that you might imitate us.
For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, "If any will not
work, neither let him eat." For we hear of some that walk among you
in a disorderly way, that work not at all, but are busybodies. They
that are such we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ, that they
work quietly and eat their own bread.
As some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and offerings, Jesus said, "As for these things which you see here, the days will come, in which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down."
And they asked him, saying, "Teacher, when will these things come to be? And what will be the sign when these things are about to come to pass?"
And he said, "Take heed that you are not led astray, for many will
come in my name, saying, 'I am he' and 'The time is at hand.' Do
not follow after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, be
not terrified; for these things must come to pass first; but it will not
immediately be the end." Then he said unto them, "Nation will rise
against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be great earthquakes,
and in diverse places famines and pestilences; and there shall be terrors
and great signs from heaven. But before all these things happen,
they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to
the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for
my name's sake. It will lead to your giving testimony. Settle
it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate beforehand how to answer,
for I will give you wisdom in speaking, which all your adversaries will
not be able to withstand or to refute. You will even be handed over
by parents, and brethen, and kinsfolk, and friends; and some of you will
be put to death. You will be hated by all for my name's sake, but
not a hair of your head will perish. In your perseverancae you will
win your souls.
* 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 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
|(Editorial note: This week’s homily includes
comments about the baptisms of two infants that took place during the Sunday
You can be sure that if I were choosing the lesson for a day when I was going to have baptisms, these are the last lessons I would think of. Who wants to think about judgment, the end of the world, and the end of time at the moment when we are celebrating new life with the newest members of our community? And yet, as I brought myself to think about these lessons and prayed over them, I began to realize that they are very appropriate for what we are doing today, especially, the first lesson from the prophet Malachi.
He talks about the end of the world, the time of judgment. But he uses a metaphor for God that is very appropriate and can help us to understand what judgment is about. He uses the metaphor of the sun.
Now we know, even better than the people of that time, how important the sun is to our very existence. If we did not have the sun, there would be no life on earth. If we were too close to the sun, all life would be destroyed. If we were too far from the sun, everything would be frozen.
We are at just the right place for life.
In fact, we also know what Malachi and the people of his time did not know: that our very planet is made up of particles that were thrown off from the sun four billion, six hundred million years ago, and evolved into this beautiful world that we now have today.
The sun is not only, in a sense, a metaphor for God because we are made from the particles of the sun, created, but also because we are sustained by the sun. Yet, if we do not relate appropriately to the sun, it can be destructive. We can suffer illnesses; destroy our very health. We can become dehydrated and get cancer. So, if we make the wrong choices, the sun can also be a source of suffering and death. This is where we make a very important connection with what we are doing today.
Baptism is about making a choice, the most important choice in life, actually, because baptism is a moment when we choose to follow Jesus Christ.
During the past year, Pope John Paul II was in the Holy Land and he visited the place called the Mount of the Beatitudes. That’s where Jesus, as you know from Matthew’s gospel, went up on the hillside, sat down, and began to teach his disciples.
It’s a beautiful, beautiful setting in the Holy Land.
And when John Paul was there, he read the gospel that starts with the beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit and so on…” And Jesus goes on to say, “You have heard that it was said of old, ‘Thou shall not kill.’ But I say to you, do not even have anger or hatred in your heart. You have heard that it was said of old, ‘Love your neighbor, hate your enemy.’ But I say, love your enemy.” It was there that Jesus preached this very long, powerful passage of Matthew’s gospel.
And so John Paul II was reflecting upon this gospel and he says, “Jesus’ call has always demanded a choice between the two voices competing for your hearts; even now, on this hill, the choice between good and evil, between life and death.” And then he asks, “Which voice will the young people of the 21st century choose to follow?”
“To put your faith in Jesus means choosing to believe what Jesus says, to follow what he says, no matter how strange it may seem. Putting your faith in Jesus means choosing to reject the claims of evil, no matter how sensible and attractive they may seem.”
Baptism is the moment when we, as a community, but the parents first of all, speak for these two infant children and make a choice. Afterwards, we will guide them as they grow to continue to live that choice.
It seems to me, very clearly, that when we look at what is going on in our world, we are confronted in a more dramatic way than we have been in a long time with making a choice between what Jesus says, which may not seem sensible, and a choice of what so many others say, which might seem much more sensible.
I’ll give you a couple of examples of how people are making choices today.
This appeared on Fox television news. “We should not target civilians. But if they do not rise up against this criminal government, they starve, period. Let them die.”
Those seven million people in Afghanistan who are becoming refugees, who cares about them?
In The Washington Post, a reporter put it this way. “If we flatten part of Damascus or Tehran or whatever it takes, that is part of the solution.”
So just bomb anywhere, whatever it takes.
Today, in The New York Times, there’s a big headline over a column: Surprise, war works. And that’s what people are beginning to say. It works.
In fact, there’s a cartoon in the paper, too, that I think is even more devastating in a way.
There’s a picture of a newscast that looks like the six o’clock report. There’s the host and the panelists, three on one side with military people dressed in their uniforms, including one who is suppose to be the Secretary of Defense. Then there are three other chairs and they’re empty. The host says, “Thanks gentlemen, we had hoped to go, next, to our panel of peace experts, but…” We see the empty chairs and in front of one is the name Jesus, in front of another is the name Gandhi, and in front of another is the name Martin Luther King, Jr. A very clear and powerful way of saying, “Jesus is irrelevant.” You don’t win wars if you follow Jesus.
Now the choice. Are we going to continue to follow the choice that so many people want to follow, war, bombing, killing? Or, as John Paul says, “Even though it may not seem sensible, will we follow Jesus?” Jesus promises that we can transform our world of violence and injustice and hatred, and make it into the reign of God, but not through violence and killing.
Even in the article where it said war works, toward the end of the article the writer has to say, “But there are some ominous signs out there. What if there was an uprising in Pakistan and the fundamentalists got control of their nuclear weapons? Who knows what would happen next?”
Yes, there are very ominous signs. When you follow the way of violence, there will always be more violence. When you follow the way of Jesus, it may not seem sensible and it may take a lot of courage as Jesus suggested in today’s gospel. “People will persecute you, people will reject you.” Even within your own family, you’ll find those who will turn against you when you try to follow the way of Jesus. But, ultimately, if we really believe in Jesus and his message, we know that his way, the way of love, is the only way to bring peace into our world.
Today then, again, we make a choice for these two youngsters, two babies. We are choosing in their names to follow Jesus. Are we going to make it an authentic choice, no matter what? And are we going to try to raise these two infants to be genuine disciples of Jesus, rejecting the way of violence, the way of war, the way of killing, so as to follow the way of reconciliation, forgiveness and love, the way of Jesus?
And I emphasize, it’s not just the parents who have this responsibility. All of us must deepen our own commitment to follow the way of Jesus so that as a community we can support these parents and all the parents in our community in trying to raise our children to make that choice for Jesus for their whole life.
Yesterday, I was at a Baptist church and I was taking part in a program. They’re celebrating their 99th year. And they had a flyer that I brought back with me which I thought was very appropriate for a community. You can’t read it from where you are, but it says, “The purpose driven church.” That’s how they’re thinking about themselves: as a purpose driven church. And they draw from Acts, the second chapter. They write this, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the communion of life, to the breaking of bread and to prayer, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily.”
That’s the kind of a community we are, purpose driven, trying to become a real fellowship and communion, a community of people celebrating the breaking of the bread, giving ourselves over to prayer. As we become, more and more, this purpose driven community, the more we will be able to be faithful in our commitment to these two babies we baptize today. We will help them to grow as genuine, authentic disciples of Jesus, choosing his way, no matter how strange it may seem, always knowing that his way is the way that can transform our world and bring us into the reign of God.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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