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 The Peace Pulpit:  Homiles 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.
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Easter Sunday - The Resurrection of the Lord
April 20, 2003
This week's readings **

Acts 10:34a, 37-43

Peter opened his mouth and said, "You know what has happened throughout all Judea, beginning in Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; , how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses of everything he did both in the country of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they also killed, hanging him on a tree. God raised him up the third day, and gave him to be revealed, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen before by God, to us, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He charged us to preach to the people and to testify that this is he who is appointed by God as the Judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him, that through his name everyone who believes in him will receive remission of sins."

Colossians 3:1-4

Brothers and sister, if then you were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, our life, is revealed, then you will also be revealed with him in glory.

John 20:1-9

Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene went early, while it was still dark, to the tomb, and saw the stone taken away from the tomb. Therefore she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have laid him!"

Therefore Peter and the other disciple went out, and they went toward the tomb. They both ran together. The other disciple outran Peter, and came to the tomb first. Stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths lying, yet he didn't enter in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and entered into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying, and the cloth that had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but rolled up in a place by itself. So then the other disciple who came first to the tomb also entered in, and he saw and believed. For as yet they didn't know the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead

 * 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).

** The Web link to Pax Christi is provided as a service to our readers.

Like the other disciple, (who, of course, is John, the writer of the Gospel), we believe we are those who have come to know Jesus not just as the crucified one, but the one who went through death and is now raised to new life. 

That belief is important to us for a number of reasons.  It establishes the fact very clearly that what Jesus said about himself is true.  He is the Son of God!  This truth also is very important to us because of the comfort it gives us as we experience the death of someone close to us.  My own brother, whose anniversary is this week, or any of us who have suffered the loss of someone or even looking forward to our own death, it is not with fear because Jesus has overcome death and we who share in the life of Jesus overcome death also. 

Those, of course, are very important reasons for our belief in the truth of the Resurrection but there is more to it than that.  Astounding as it may seem, because that is so much, if we listen carefully to the second reading today -- when Peter, for the first time is taking the message about Jesus beyond the chosen people, beyond his own Jewish community where he and the other disciples had remained up to this point -- when he preaches this message that we hear today, it shows us a lot more about the Resurrection and what it has to mean in our lives. 

We may not have noticed this as the reading was being proclaimed but, at one point Peter says:  “God raised him to life and let him be seen not by all the people but by the witnesses that were chosen before hand by God, by us who ate and drank with him after his resurrection from death.” 

Now again, we might not recognize at first what Peter is referring to but, at the Last Supper, Jesus had said to his disciples when he had shared with them the bread and wine that had become his body and blood, he said, “I will not eat or drink again of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes.”  And so what Peter is telling us here is that now that they had eaten and drunk with Jesus again, the reign of God is at hand. It’s happening. Jesus has come back and he has now drunk wine with them once more in the reign of God. 

Peter also points out what the reign of God means in the same passage.  We have to read carefully to discover all this but it is there.  Peter has said:   “This is the message God has sent to the people of Israel.  The Good News of Peace has been proclaimed through Jesus Christ.” 

There Peter is referring to a passage of the prophet Isaiah, Chapter 57, where the prophet promises that the one who is to come is to bring peace into the world.  Clearly the reign of God is the reign of peace. 

And then Peter goes on, talking about Jesus.  “No doubt you have heard of the event that occurred throughout the whole country of the Jews beginning from Galilee after the baptism John preached.  You know how God anointed Jesus, the Nazarene, with the Holy Spirit and power.  He went about doing good and healing all those who were under the devil’s power because God was with him.” 

Peter is adverting to the words that Jesus used about himself when he preached his first sermon in the synagogue in Nazareth after he had spent 40 days and 40 nights in the desert in prayer listening to God’s call and he comes back and says:  “The Spirit of God is upon me.  God has sent me to proclaim good news to the poor, to heal the broken hearted, to give the blind new sight, to set the down-trodden free, to proclaim God’s years of favor.” 

This is why Jesus had come.  This is why he proclaimed in that synagogue of Nazareth the reign of God.  It is happening and all those things belong to it – good news to the poor.  They will not be poor any longer in the reign of God.  They will share as everyone has a right to in all the good things God has made for everyone. Healing the broken hearted, lifting up those who are suffering, giving the blind new sight, setting the down-trodden free, breaking the yokes of injustice and proclaiming a year of favor, a time when wealth is re-distributed, debts are forgiven, everyone again has the chance to share in the fullness of the blessings of this earth that God gave for everyone.  The reign of God! 

It is happening now that Jesus is raised from the dead and progressively it comes to its fullness. But it doesn’t take a lot of pondering or insight on our part to realize that we are far from the reign of God – 2,000 years since Jesus first proclaimed this message of love, this message of justice, this message of peace.  And we still live in a world where it hasn’t happened. 

The message of Easter is that the reign of God has begun.  It should be here in its fullness. That’s what Peter is proclaiming to Cornelius and his household.  But it hasn’t happened and it doesn’t take a lot of effort on our part to realize how desperately our world needs the message of Jesus. 

Obviously, the thing that is most current in our minds is the war, the war that we have been engaged in in Iraq.  And I think about that in a very personal way because I have been there and I have made many friends there. I wear this cross and I am sure many of you are aware it.  This is a gift to me from Archbishop Gabriel Kassab, the Archbishop of Basra, and I cherish this cross, this gift, and it reminds me constantly of Basra, that city in the south part of  Iraq, and of the archbishop, and the people there. Whenever I wear it I think about him and his suffering and the suffering of his people. 

It was over three weeks ago that his family (some of his brothers who live here in Detroit) heard from him and talked to him on the telephone about three days after the war had started.  That communication was broken off.  They couldn’t get through any longer, didn’t hear anymore from him after he had described the desperate situation they were already experiencing. 

It was only  today that I finally was able to receive some word of what is happening there.  His brother, Dr. Joseph Kassab,  whom I contacted, told me they were able to contact and speak with his brother the archbishop again through a special satellite.  And the suffering is extreme. I think about the Cathedral where they are trying to celebrate Easter Mass.  It is filled with homeless people.  Their homes have been destroyed.  There are hundreds of people who have taken refuge in the church building. 

The Archbishop himself, his home was almost destroyed.  He told about a huge chunk of shrapnel that broke through his house and landed at the foot of his bed at 2:30 in the morning.  Imagine his shock and the fear.  But that was happening to people all around his neighborhood,  and he told his brother this week, they have no water still. 

Think of the children, especially subject to infection and disease.  They will get dysentery and diarrhea and dehydration and die.  The suffering is intense and terrible.  The reign of God has not happened and we have to wonder why and ask ourselves why.  Surely it’s partly because you and I who are committed to being followers of Jesus Christ, who share in his risen life have not fully accepted his way. 

You know that incident in the Acts of the Apostles, which is our first lesson today, we see in a very beautiful and symbolic way what Jesus wanted to happen through active of love, rejecting violence.  Peter -- this Jew disciple of Jesus, who up until now had never gone out into the Gentile world to spread the good news -- goes and preaches in the home of a Roman soldier, one who is occupying their land and whom the Jews hated. 

Peter and Cornelius become friends. Cornelius accepts the Word. Peace happens between these two groups -- Peter and the Jewish Christian community and these Gentiles who had been their enemies.  That’s what the reign of God is supposed to be -- enemies become friends -- but that will never happen if we continue to follow the way that we have gone using war and violence, try to bring democracy or justice.  It has never happened and it never will. 

No, we have to follow the way of Jesus, which is that way of reaching out to the poor, giving service, loving all others, even our enemies, sharing our goods with total generosity.  That’s how the world is transformed into the reign of God. 

So here we are 2,000 years after Jesus first came back, ate and drank with his disciples to symbolize that the reign of God is happening.  You and I can help now to bring this reign of God to its completion -- to make our world transformed from a world of violence and hatred and killing into a world where God’s love and God’s goodness spread everywhere.  We can do that if we take seriously our commitment as disciples of Jesus:  come to understand his way, live his way, spread his message of love and goodness. 

In a few moments we will stand and renew our Baptismal Promises.  This will be a moment when each one of us can say once more,  “I decide to follow Jesus”.  Each one of us can commit ourselves to the firm belief that Jesus is the Son of God, is raised from the dead, has inaugurated his reign and commit ourselves to making that reign of God happen. 

I pray that we will take this very seriously as we make our promises today -- that each of us will leave our church today as a committed follower of Jesus, the risen Christ, who brings his reign into our world. 

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

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