The Peace Pulpit: Homilies by Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton
|Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time||February 12, 2006|
As I mentioned before we started our celebration of this Eucharist, today we will be baptizing our newest family member: Aidan Abraham Nolan. I hope that as we do that, all of us remind ourselves that what happens when we baptize a new member to our parish family as an infant -- all of us take on a responsibility. This tiny baby will be clothed in Christ today, become a new creation, but he has to continue to grow into the fullness of being like Jesus and so we all have the responsibility of trying to make sure that he and all the tiny and young members of our parish family continue to understand who Jesus is and how we have to model our lives after Jesus.
Its a good reminder for every one of us who is already baptized that it is important for us to continue to grow into Jesus. Have this mind in you, St. Paul said to the church at Phillipi, which was in Christ, Jesus. Have the mind, the attitude, the heart, the values, the way of living of Jesus. Its something we have to keep on trying to develop our whole life, become more and more like Jesus.
We might wonder, How do we make that happen? Well, one of the most important things I believe is we have to come to know Jesus, know who Jesus is, how Jesus acted, what he taught and so on. And we have the opportunity to do that, to come to know Jesus more deeply every week when we come here for Sunday liturgy. When the Gospel message is proclaimed, Jesus speaks. Jesus acts. Jesus shows us who he is, how he lives his life, what his values are. Today we have one example out of all of these Sunday Gospels where if we listen deeply we can come to know Jesus better and perhaps be more determined to model our life on his.
To know Jesus in todays Gospel requires us to understand something about the Gospel that is very important. One word in the Gospel, the way Ive read it was when Jesus looked on the man he had compassion but do you know what the word really should be? Jesus was angry. He was angry!
What happened of course, you know, that as the scriptures were passed down generation after generation, they were written out by hand by scribes and often words would be changed. Particular words for compassion, for pity and anger have the same Greek root and late in the 1500s probably the manuscripts began to show compassion instead of anger, but the original word was anger. Jesus was angry. Probably scribes thought, Thats not a good thing to say about Jesus -- he got angry. No, it would be better to say he was compassionate. Everybody would accept that.
And isnt it true we sometimes shy away from the idea that Jesus would be angry. But he was! In this incident he was angry. Why? Well, because the people had taken these sick people and shoved them out of their community, excluded them. It was a very harsh thing to do. Not only out of the religious community, but out of the civil community. They had to wander, homeless. In Leviticus were told how they were punished because they were ill. Those who have the sore of leprosy shall keep their garments rent, their heads bare. They shall muffle their mouth. They shall cry out, about themselves, Unclean! Unclean! In other words dont come close. They shall dwell apart, making their abode outside the community. You can almost hear Jesus if you listen at this point in the Gospel saying, You have heard it was said of old, Thou shalt... whatever, but I say to you: keep changing everything. Hes bringing in a whole model of love and inclusiveness. We dont exclude anybody from our community. We welcome everyone.
If were going to be like Jesus, perhaps at times we have to be angry. Maybe some of us think, Well, thats a sin isnt, it to be angry? No, its not a sin. Anger is a very good, valid human emotion. When something is wrong, is unjust or is evil, we should be angry. Anger is the emotion that moves us to action, to change things. And thats why Jesus got angry. He wanted, Ive said so often, to transform this world into as close an image of the reign of God as possible, so we have to change things. And sometimes it takes your anger to move you to make those changes.
If we look at ourselves individually, as a church family, as a nation, might we discover ways in which we do the very thing that Jesus got angry about? Excluding people? I have a lot of contacts because Ive sort of developed a ministry with homosexual people -- gay men, lesbian women. It is difficult for them to find what they call a gay friendly church, because so many of the Christian, supposedly Christian churches, push them away, even say horrible things about them like theyre an abomination. Or even as our own church document says theyre disordered, intrinsically disordered. How evil. We have to change our attitude if were going to be like Jesus.
One of the things that I have discovered with the abuse situation in our church, one of the hardest things for the survivors is the way that those who represent the authority within the church, the bishops, have made them enemies. Instead of reaching out pastorally trying to draw them in, trying to heal, they go to court and going to court in our system is adversarial. So now theyre the enemies. We have to fight them off and thats exactly how many of them have felt. And the wound that they received when they were abused just become even more intense. How different our church should be. If we really were like Jesus, we would reach out and try to embrace those people who were, have been so deeply wounded, so hurt. But weve developed an attitude of making them the enemy, accusing them of only wanting money, and that isnt it at all. They want healing. They want healing more than anything else and unless we become a community that really welcomes people like that and unless our leaders welcome them instead of considering them an adversary in a court situation, they will never get the healing that they need so badly.
There are other ways in which sometimes we exclude people. Sometimes its on the basis of class or economics. How many parish churches do you suppose really welcome poor people, homeless people, make them aware that they, even if theyre dressed shabbily, even if they smell, theyre welcome to come be part of the community? I know of a parish in our diocese where there was a homeless man, mentally ill, so he didnt take care of himself. His family lived right in the parish. It hurt them desperately to see him on the street, but that was his choice and there was nothing they could do about it. He would often go to the parish church, but he was homeless and so his appearance was very shabby looking and he probably did smell, and people complained to the pastor. You know what they did? They put up a sign in that church with his name. He may not enter this church. How evil. How cruel. It just about broke his mothers heart. Yet it was done by a Christian, supposedly Christian, community.
Should we not be angry about something like that? Of course we should. If we re going to be like Jesus, we have to try to change such things. In our hearts every one of us must look deeply to see how we are. What is our attitude towards others who in some ways are not like us? Maybe theyre homosexuals. Maybe theyre homeless. Maybe theyre ... Well, even in our church we sometimes make differences between black people, white people, rich people, poor people. We want to be with our own only instead of including everybody, making our family the real family of Jesus where everyone is a brother or sister of Jesus and a brother or sister to ourselves.
In our nation theres something we have to be concerned about when it comes to excluding. There is a law now pending in the Congress. Its an immigration law. Its already been passed by the House. It will be submitted to the Senate soon, and theyll be debating on it. Its a law that reinforces the idea that we want to keep those people out. Those people being the poor from Mexico, Central America and Latin America who try to cross our border because theyre desperately hungry. Some of them are desperately sick. They need what we have and instead of our being willing to share it with them, we build a wall, keep them out. And this new law will even say that anyone who even assists them, humanitarian assistance -- Suppose theyve made it across. Theyre starving. Theyre dying of thirst. If you give them a drink of water you commit a crime. Thats the kind of law that were developing, and what does that say about us as a nation, as a people? Some say were a Christian nation. That is very far from the way of Jesus.
You may have heard it said of old to put people out. I say to you to you: You must welcome everyone. Draw them all in. They are all my brothers and sister, Jesus would say. You know if that law existed in the time of Jesus he could never have gone from Galilee or Judea to Egypt. He was a refugee. He was homeless and he would have been kept out. He couldnt enter our country as a homeless person from another nation. How cruel can we be? How cruel are we?
So again, I ask you, think about what will happen in the moment when Aidan is baptized -- he puts on Christ. Each of us have to deepen the way that we put on Christ so that we become more and more like Jesus and we can guide him as he grows up so he becomes more and more like Jesus. All of us must be committed. Have this mind in you which was in Christ Jesus, who though he was God did not think his divinity something to be clung to but emptied himself and entered into our human history and became one of us -- gave himself over to death even the ignominious death of the cross. Gave himself completely for us so that we all might become the one family of God, sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus.
We commit ourselves to try to change our lives so that we become more like Jesus and we pass down the values of Jesus to our youngest members.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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