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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. 
September 1, 2002
Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week's readings **

Jeremiah 20:7-9

You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.
All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me.

Whenever I speak, I must cry out,
violence and outrage is my message; the word of the LORD has brought me derision and reproach all the day.

I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.

Romans 12:1-2

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.  Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

Matthew 16:21-27

Jesus began to show his disciples
that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.  Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, "God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you."  He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."

Then Jesus said to his disciples,
"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?  Or what can one give in exchange for his life?  For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct."

* 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).


In order to reflect on today’s readings, we have to remind ourselves of last Sunday’s gospel. I think that most of us felt blessed last Sunday. We were reminded from the gospel lesson of how Jesus spoke about Peter as the rock and even gave him the name ‘rock.’ We learned that the earliest interpretation of this passage was that the rock really was the faith of Peter; the recognition that Peter had that Jesus was not only the messiah, one like us in every way as a human, but even more than this, he was the son of the living god. It was this revelation, which Jesus said that Peter had received, whereby he knew Jesus not just as a friend and brother but also as the son of God. That was the faith of Peter and the knowledge that Peter came to have.  And it was on this that the church, the community of disciples of Jesus, is to be built.

     And what made us so blessed was to realize that that same faith is ours– our own awareness of Jesus as son of man and son of God. The faith that we share with one another is what builds the church. This is what builds our community and holds us together as disciples of Jesus. And truly we are blessed to be those who know Jesus and to be the rock upon whom the church is built.

     And then at the very end of the lesson last Sunday, Jesus told the disciples something that probably seemed sort of strange.  He said, “But don’t tell anybody this. Don’t tell anyone who I really am.”  It was because he had not fully revealed to the disciples what it meant to be the messiah, to be the son of god as part of our human race.  And it’s in today’s gospel that it becomes clear.  Jesus tells them, “I have to go up Jerusalem. I’ll be handed over to my enemies. They’ll mock me, they’ll scourge me, and they’ll kill me.”

     None of us likes to hear that and certainly Peter did not want to hear that. And that’s why he gets right out there in front of Jesus and says, “No, don’t go to Jerusalem. Why be so foolish?” And you know it was a temptation for Jesus. You can kind of tell this because of what he says to Peter. He tells him, “Satan, get behind me.” This should remind you of an earlier reading from the gospel of Matthew where Jesus is taken into the desert and Satan tempts Jesus with all kinds of things that he could have if only he would turn away from the course that God had laid out for him. To be the suffering servant, to reject violence, reject wealth, prestige, power. To be the suffering servant, the one revealed in the book of the prophet Isaiah -- Here is my servant, my chosen one in whom I am well pleased.  He does not cry out aloud in the streets.  He does not break the bruised reed, nor crush the wavering flame. Yet my servant brings true justice and fullness of life to all the people. But that servant must do it in that extraordinary, almost unbelievable way and not cry out aloud in the streets. Not call people to arms.  That’s what that means. To be a nurturing, compassionate, and loving servant, healing the bruised reed and bringing to fullness of life the wavering flame.

     So Jesus had a call and it meant he had to empty himself and let himself be tortured and be put to death.  So that by his love even those that put him to death could be transformed. He could show us the way to bring true justice to the nations, to bring true peace, to make a world where the reign of god breaks forth and where all our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of the same God and live in peace and harmony and love together. 

     Peter was telling Jesus, “Don’t do it your way. That’s a foolish way.” And Jesus says, “Satan, get out of here.” And then he goes on to tell all of the other disciples and you and me too:  If you want to be my disciple, you must deny your very self, take up your cross and follow me. The only way our world will be transformed and become the reign of God will be by following the way of Jesus.

     And that’s what St. Paul is getting at in the second lesson, today.  It’s a very powerful passage if we take the time to reflect upon it. Paul is saying, “Do not be conformed to this age and to the culture and the world around us.  But be transformed by the revolution of your mind.” Turn all of our natural impulses upside down and inside out. Where we think we have to use power and violence, use love. You think you have to have wealth in order to be happy. No, blessed are the poor. Turn all of our thinking around. Have your mind be transformed and not conformed to the world around us. Not conformed to the messages around us everyday.

     There are a couple of examples that are very current in our minds where the thinking of the people around us, the world in which we live, is clearly very contrary to the thinking and the  way of Jesus. And we have to ask ourselves, “Which thinking are we inclined to accept and to follow?”

     One of the examples I’m thinking of is this call from our government leaders to go to war again -- to invade the nation of Iraq and to bring about the death of thousands and thousands of people in order to establish dominance in that part of the world. That is so contrary to the way of Jesus that you would think all the Christian churches would rise up and say: No, we can’t do that. We have to find a different way.

     I heard Secretary Rumsfeld say this week about President Hussein -- and this is such a blatant example of how different it is from the way of Jesus -- “We’re not going to let him stop our plans through a diplomatic offensive.” In other words, if President Hussein wanted to sit down and talk and negotiate --  what Rumsfeld calls a diplomatic offensive -- we’re not going to let him stop our plans.  We want to go to war. And we will, unless enough rise up and say no. Don’t conform our minds and our thinking to the ways of the world around us and the 70-80 percent of the people in this country who say yes to that war.

     If we really want to follow Jesus, don’t we have to have a different way of thinking? We need to have our minds transformed, a revolution of our hearts.

     The other example that I think of -- it has to do with our government again and the leaders of our country -- is the meeting going on in Johannesburg, South Africa. There’s a meeting of all the nations of the world. Over 100 leaders of countries are there, but one very notable absence is the leader of the United States. And there are thousands of people over there protesting, because of what this meeting is about.  It’s about trying to find a way to bring development, to lift people out of poverty – the four-fifths of the world’s people who are poor, and many of them desperately or even absolutely poor. To help them to lift themselves out of poverty and yet sustain our environment.  Don’t destroy our world.  It’s not a very easy thing to do. It won’t be easy to do this.

     If all of the nations developed as we have developed, it would be the end of our world. We couldn’t sustain what would be almost ten billion people in a rather short time, if everybody consumed as we’re consuming -- unless, we make some dramatic changes.  And people over there are protesting because those who are meeting and making the decisions are not really listening to the poor. My guess is that if Jesus were here right now, he would be among the protestors.  He would be in solidarity with the poor who are pleading for life for themselves and for their children who die in such terrible numbers.

     And our president can’t even take the time to go to be part of the discussion and perhaps bring some influence in a way that would bring about sustainable development for all the peoples of the earth.

     Most people don’t even know the kinds of decisions that are being made there and need to be made there. So we’re not raising our voices.  Yet Jesus would be raising his voice for the poor. Don’t you think? I do. He always went out among the poor. They were the ones closest to him and he identified with them.

     It’s so easy for us to conform our thinking to the way of the world around us and to ignore this and pay no attention. Don’t demand the kinds of changes that would bring true justice to all the peoples of the world.

     If we’re convinced, as I hope many of us would be, that we really must undergo a revolution in our thinking and really must try to follow a different way to justice and peace in the world, if we really do act against the common thinking that’s around us, you know what might happen? It might be what Jeremiah says happened to him, “I am a laughing stock, a laughing stock from morning to night. They all make fun of me. Yahweh’s word has brought me insult and derision all day long.”  People don’t want to hear the message of God, the message of Jesus.  And if we try to proclaim it and live it, that’s what might happen. But if we let that word of God enter deeply into us, just as Jeremiah did, even though he said, “Look, I don’t want to say this word of God anymore,” it became a fire inside of him and he couldn’t stop proclaiming God’s message. That’s what I hope will happen to us and that we will let this word of God proclaimed in our midst today enter deeply into our hearts, into our spirits, and become like a fire that will change us and help us transform our world 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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