2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a
It fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where there was a
great woman of influence, who urged him to eat bread with her. So
it was, that as often as he passed by, he turned in there to eat bread.
She said to her husband, "See now, I perceive that this is a holy man of
God, that passes by us continually. Let us make a little chamber on the
wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a seat, and
a lamp stand: and it shall be, when he comes to us, that he shall turn
in there." It fell on a day that he came there and he turned into
the chamber and lay there.
Elisha said, "What then is to be done for her?" Gehazi answered,
"Most assuredly, she has no son and her husband is old." Elisha said,
"Call her." When he had called her, she stood in the door.
Elisha said, "At this season, when the time comes round next year, you
shall embrace a son."
Romans 6:3-4, 8-11
Brothers and sisters, don't you know that all we who were baptized
into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore
with him through baptism to death, that just like Christ was raised from
the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness
If, then, we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live
with him; knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dies no more.
Death no more has dominion over him! For the death that he died, he died
to sin one time; but the life that he lives, he lives to God. Thus
also consider yourselves also to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ
Jesus our Lord.
Jesus said to his apostles, "Whoever loves father or mother more
than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than
me isn't worthy of me. Whoever doesn't take his cross and follow
after me, isn't worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it;
and he whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Whoever receives
you receives me, and he whoever receives me receives him who sent me.
Whoever receives a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's
reward: and whoever receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous
man will receive a righteous man's reward. Whoever gives one of these
little ones just a cup of cold water to drink in the name of a disciple,
most assuredly I tell you he will in no way lose his reward."
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.
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
|NOTE: Today’s homily was given by
Cardinal Wilfrid F. Napier, OFM, a guest of Bishop Gumbleton who was visiting
at Saint Leo Church in Detroit, Michigan.
Cardinal Napier is the archbishop of Durban, South
Africa and the president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference
(SACBC). He is also a consultor to the Congregation for the Evangelization
Dear Bishop Gumbleton, dear friends,
I don’t how much you know about me, but
I’m sure that from the way I speak you will have suspected that I did some
of my training in Ireland. And while I was in Ireland, I learned about
Irish bulls. An example of an Irish bull is a statement such as this.
“If you see ten cows lying in field and one of them is standing up, then
that’s the bull.” Another one, which is my favorite, and which I
think can serve as a model for our spirituality and our living of the gospel
is this. “There was a hotel porter in Dublin who had this rather
peculiar way of receiving the guests at the hotel. He would go to
them, take their baggage, and say, ‘Follow me sir or madam, I’m right behind
We have just heard God
saying that to us. In the first reading from the life of the prophet
Elisha, we are told about how this prophet in his hardship when he was
being persecuted, having to run away from those in authority, when he was
being marginalized and not given his rightful respect as a human being
and even less as a spokesperson for God, he sought refuge and he was given
refuge by a couple who were themselves in need and yet in their need they
reached out and from their meager resources provided a place for the prophet
What God is doing in
this reading is saying to us, “Follow me.” And the way to follow me is
to go through my word and see all along the way how I place before you
people that show you how to live the way of life. And certainly the
prophet Elisha was showing people the way of life.
But in the second reading,
we go even further into what it means to ‘follow me.’
There’s a famous way
of calling that Jesus had. How many times in the gospel does he not
say to somebody ‘follow me.’
In this reading from
Saint Paul, we are told how we have to follow Jesus, how we have to follow
God our creator, how we have to live the life to which God is calling us
-- ‘follow me.’ St. Paul is saying that the way to live the Christian
life is to be as close to Jesus Christ as is possible.
What does that mean?
Well it means first of all getting to know who Jesus is. And how
will we do that? By listening to what others had to say about him,
but especially listening to what he has to say to us. He’s
told us so many times the different things that we need to do if we are
to be his true followers.
In the gospel that I’ve
just read for you, he says, “If you are going to be close to me, then you
have to look at your life all the time, everyday, to see if there are things
in your life that are obstacles that are driving a wedge or creating a
barrier between you and me.” And sometimes it may be people that are near
and dear to you like your father, your mother, your brother, your sister,
or your son or your daughter.
We also have to add in
all the other possibilities of the things that are keeping us apart.
Where I come from in South Africa, for so long the barrier was put in place
by racism, by apartheid, by that horrible belief that some people are born
superior to others and that others are born inferior to them. Yet,
we know from our basic catechism, we are all created and born in the image
and likeness of God. To the extent, therefore, that we recognize
and acknowledge and give respect to that image of God in others we will
be coming closer and closer to Jesus. Or it may be a relationship
such as a man or woman that we know that we shouldn’t be in relationship
with. But you know what it is to fall in love. Jesus is saying,
“It’s hard to follow along my way. You may even have to give that
The reason for my coming
here to America is to speak about Catholic Relief Services(CRS), an agency
of the Catholic Church here in America which has been working very closely
with us in South Africa -- closely on a problem that is causing more upheavals
in our society than we’ve ever had before, and which is threatening our
society more than even apartheid threatened us -- that is the disease of
HIV and AIDS. That is causing a real catastrophe.
Just to give you some
idea -- throughout the country, we are looking at an infection rate
among the adult population beginning from about the age of 15. The
worst group is from 15 to 45-50. We are looking at an infection rate
of about 20-25 percent. But the province I come from, KwaZula-Natal,
where Durbin is, we have a rate of infection which is between 25 and 30
percent and in some areas as high as 50 percent. Who is it affecting?
The age range of people from 15 to 35 or 45, the very backbone of any society,
of any economy, of any community, and of any church as well. We are
losing the most important people in our communities to this dreadful disease
of HIV and AIDS.
CRS has come in and is
assisting the Catholic Church through the various dioceses and parishes
to run programs that do four things.
But if Africa is seeing
itself as rising, then it needs to have that other part of our Irish bull:
“I’m right behind you.” Somebody has to be there to support it.
That’s what the American church, through Catholic Relief Services, is helping
us to do. It’s giving us that support so that we can move forward
in caring for some many hundreds and thousands of people who are affected
by this disease.
First of all, to inform, to teach, to educate
and to make people aware how it is transmitted, how to avoid contracting
it and so forth.
Secondly, to care for those who have HIV and AIDS.
Since our hospitals, clinics and hospices are not able to cope with the
numbers that are sick and dying, we have to train people to care for their
sick in their homes, so home-based care programs are being run throughout
The third area is that of looking after orphans and
vulnerable children. One of most touching experiences I’ve had in
AIDS ministry has been to go and visit an area that has been devastated
by AIDS and to find there that an 18 year old girl is trying to run the
family because their parents have died from AIDS. She’s doing this
on something like $11 a month, a salary that she gets from being domestic
help in a home. She’s trying to run a family, her own little baby
of a few months, a brother who is 14, and another sister who is around
9 or 10. How touching it is that somebody tries to dedicate her life
when she’s still a child herself trying to raise her sibling brothers and
sisters to bring them to a sense of hope that there is a future for them.
Possibly, the most important part that CRS is playing
is working together with us in this desperate situation to be a light of
hope, a beacon of hope. The campaign that they are running is called
Africa Rising. I think some people might wonder why Africa Rising?
For me, just as ‘Jesus rising from the tomb’ is a signal of hope, so too
Africa’s rising is a way of saying Africa has to be filled with hope.
Otherwise, it will never rise.
The other aspect of what
CRS is doing is preaching a message of healing, of peace building.
That is so necessary in Africa where there have been so many conflicts.
In South Africa, though we emerged from apartheid with relatively little
violence at the election time and after the election, we have a very violent
society. In that, I think, we have a lot in common with Detroit,
Chicago, and many of the great cities of America where crime and murders
especially are very, very common and too numerous. And that’s where
I think we can play a role together, communicating together, being one
together as one body in Christ, suffering with each other and helping each
other carry our burdens together.
Healing -- bringing healing
into people’s lives -- that’s what Jesus was about and that’s what CRS
and the Catholic Church in South Africa are trying to do -- to bring healing
So, brothers and sisters,
when you go home this afternoon, remember that philosophy of life that
God is saying to us, “Follow me. I’m right behind you. I’ve
a program of life that’s going be for your redemption, that’s going take
you out of the power of sin and evil. But you will not get there
unless I’m there supporting you.”
Then we know what our
church says. If you want to be supported by God, then you must make
daily prayer, personal and community, but especially family prayer, a part
of your daily life. Reading the scriptures must be a part of your
daily life. Trying to do acts of kindness and goodness must be part
of your life. That’s what God wants. That’s the support God
is giving us. We’ve got the sacraments, reconciliation, the Eucharist,
ways of being strengthened in our commitment. So as you go home,
remember that God is calling you, especially through Christ, to follow
him because he’s right behind you giving you all the support and all of
the strength that you need.
Thank you very much once
again, Bishop Gumbleton, for the warm welcome that you have given me and
to the community, your wonderful welcome as well. And I’d like you
to remember that we were very much with you in our thoughts on the 11th
of September and that our sympathies are still with. And I think
many of you found yourselves after the 11th of September wondering from
where you were going to get a beacon of hope. Everything seemed to
have changed so much. That hope has to be the fact we have been baptized
in a hopeless situation in the death of Jesus in order to rise with fullness
of hope in his resurrection and that what we are celebrating here is the
triumph of Jesus over death -- the resurrection that has given us the body
and blood that are our life.
God bless you and be
with you always. Amen.