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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 five days after they are given, always on Friday. 
July 28, 2002
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week's readings **

1 Kings 3:5, 7-12

The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said, "Ask something of me and I will give it to you." Solomon answered: "O LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act.  I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted.  Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.  For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?"

The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request. 
So God said to him: "Because you have asked for this-- not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, 
nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right-- I do as you requested.  I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you."

Romans 8:28-30

Brothers and sisters: We know that all things work for goodthose who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son,
so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.

Matthew 13:44-52

Jesus said to his disciples: "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. 
When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.  When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets.  What is bad they throw away. Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

"Do you understand all these things?" They answered, "Yes." 
And he replied, "Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old." 

* 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).


At the end of the gospel lesson today, Jesus tells us that everyone who becomes a disciple is like that householder who can produce from the storeroom things both new and old. Commentators tell us that this is a reference to Matthew, the one who brought together these words and sayings of Jesus and put them all into one gospel.  Matthew is reminding us that, as a disciple, he had to learn how to, first of all, record the words of Jesus as they had been proclaimed.  But then, 30, 40, or 50 years later, as he put the gospel together, he was in a new period of time.  So he had to find new ways to apply those words of Jesus to the new times in which he lived.  

     It is important for us to remember that as we, too, come to listen to the gospels and especially to parables, that they are stories that have no particular application.  They are open ended.  As Iíve explained before, we always have to remind ourselves as we listen to parables that we have to find the way this parable relates to who I am, where I am, and what is happening in my life and in the world around me.  Thereís no one application.  

     And so Matthew had to draw from his old traditions and apply those parables to the way the church was when he was writing.

     Now we have to do the same thing.  We can learn from the old.  We can learn how Matthew applied the parables, how other people maybe have applied them. But then, too, we have to look at what these parables mean for me and in the time in which I live and where I am.

     And there is something else that we must remind ourselves Ė weíve been talking about these parables concerning the reign of God for the last three weeks now.  We must remember what the reign of God is.  In fact, Matthew uses the term kingdom of heaven, but Mark and Luke always talk about it as the reign of God.  And I think this is a more clear expression of what Jesus was speaking of. 

     When you say kingdom of heaven, you might think of a place where God is king, that image that we sometimes use.  But Jesus isnít talking about a place.  The reign of God is more of a situation.  It has to do with relationships -- with Godís relationship with us, our relationships with one another.  The reign of God happens when Godís love -- which is Godís basic relationship to every one of us -- when Godís love is guiding everything that happens.  

     And the fullness of that reign, of course, will only come at the end of time when Godís love will totally permeate every person, every situation, and the whole universe.  But, even now, that reign of God begins to happen -- when Godís love, the way that God acts towards us and the way that we then act toward one another, imitating Godís love.

     And so thatís why, as we look at the parables today, we might begin to understand why someone, discovering what the reign of God means and wanting to be part of that reign of God, would let go of everything else. 

     The treasure buried in the field.  Get that field and have the treasure.  Everything else can be let go.  Or the merchant searching for pearls over a long period of time and suddenly finds one that is worth everything else. 

     And we, perhaps, will understand this best if we truly reflect on how the reign of God is Godís relationship to us, Godís love.  

     Iím sure we are familiar with this, but it helps to remind ourselves.  Itís written so beautifully in the first letter of Saint John: ďMy dear friends, let us love one another.  For love comes from God.  And this is love; not that we loved God, but that God first loved us.Ē  Thatís the treasure.  If we could get hold of that and really understand and experience that God loves me and loves me first.  I donít earn that love.  I donít have to worry that I have done something that I think is wrong.  God loves me and that love of God is unbreakable. 

     See, thatís what the reign of God means; that Godís love is present.  Godís love is reaching out to me at this moment.  Godís love is ready to fill me, to raise me up, to make me know the deepest joy and the most profound kind of peace.  Thatís the reign of God.

     And, perhaps, if we pray during this liturgy and enter into it very deeply, we will come to understand that God does love me. God loves me without limit and preconditions.  Itís extraordinary.  And once weíve gotten hold of that, then we will begin to, I think, understand how we have to reach out to one another and that will make the reign of God really break forth in our lives.  And hereís where we have to make some very special efforts because itís so easy for us, in our relationships with one another, to let those relationships breakdown -- for various reasons, sometimes our pride, our selfishness, our greed and so on. And if weíre going to really discover the reign of God breaking forth in our midst, we have to try to heal those relationships that have sometimes broken down in our personal lives.

     This past week, the 16th week of the year, was the week when, three years ago, my brother died and I celebrated his funeral mass.  Iíve shared this with us before, but to me itís such a powerful thing that every year, when I come across it in my prayer book, I find it just so compelling.  My brother, as he was dying, had written out and kept by his bedside these words: ďYouíll never be happy if you canít figure out that loving people is all there is.  And that itís more important to love than to be loved.  Because that is when you feel loved by loving somebody else.  Iíve learned that you get the rewards of love by giving love.Ē 

     And thatís true, isnít it?  But itís so important, though, that we not wait until weíre on our death bed to realize that.  We really have to make it happen now, heal every relationship in our lives; reach out, be ready to forgive, to be forgiven, so that we heal ourselves.  That makes the reign of God happen, thatís what the reign of God is.

     Yesterday, at the Pax Christi meeting, we had a young man present whose brother had been killed on September 11th.  He spoke about an organization that he and others, who had family members killed have formed, called ĎPeaceful Tomorrows. í The words are taken from a part of a sermon that Dr. King preached where he called for peaceful tomorrows and told how they could happen. 

     Well this group of people, all of whom had someone killed on September 11, has protested our governmentís violence against the people of Afghanistan.  And they have pleaded that, what happened to them, would not happen to any other family anywhere; in Afghanistan or here in the United States.  And that we can never make peace through violence.  Theyíve gone to Afghanistan and theyíve reconciled with other families in Afghanistan. 

     It was very moving to hear Ryan Amundson speak about this; how his family went through such suffering and still suffers and, yet, they want to heal, they want to be forgiven and to forgive. 

     To me, thatís an extraordinary example of how the reign of God can break forth--if not only individual families did that, but if our nation did that too.  

     If our nation was really committed to trying to reconcile, to make peace happen between ourselves and the Al-Qaeda and Afghanistan, that would make the reign of God happen.  If we would do it on the basis of what Pope John Paul has said: ďThe only way to end that violence, to respond to terrorism is to build peace on the two pillars that only can make peace, the pillar of justice and the pillar of the special kind love we call forgiveness.Ē Thatís what makes the reign of god happen. 

     And thatís what can make the reign of God happen in your life, in my life, and in the life of our nation. 

     Jesus teaches us today that the reign of God is out here.  All we have to do is enter into it.  Itís like that buried treasure that we can find or the special pearl that we can also come across.  Itís right there waiting, but we have to make the effort to find that treasure and to find that pearl and to life according to the ways of God. 

     In a book that he wrote shortly before he died, a spiritual leader, Fr. Anthony DeMello, told a story that I think helps to understand what I hope we will take from todayís scriptures.  He tells about a wise man, who had reached the outskirts of a village and had settled down under a tree for the night, when a villager came running up to him and said, ďThe stone, the stone, give me the precious stone.Ē  ďWhat stone?Ē asked the wise man.  ďLast night, God appeared to me in a dream,í said the villager, ďand told me that if I went to the outskirts of the village at dusk I would find a wise man who would give me a precious stone that would make me rich forever.Ē  The wise man rummaged in his bag and pulled out a stone.  ďHe probably meant this one,Ē he said, as he handed the stone over to the villager.  ďI found it on a forest path some days ago.  You can certainly have it.Ē  The man looked at the stone in wonder.  It was a diamond; probably the largest diamond in the whole world, for it was as large as a persons head.  He took the diamond and walked away.  All night he tossed in his bed unable to sleep.  The next day, at the crack of dawn, he woke the wise man and said, ďGive me the wealth that makes it possible for you to give this diamond so easily.Ē

     Thatís the wealth that we need, the wealth that is really the reign of God.  Give everything else away and have that wealth which is Godís reign, Godís love for us and our love for one another.

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

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