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The Peace Pulpit:  Homiles by Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time June 12, 2005

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 here five days after they are given, always on Friday.
This week's readings **

Exodus 19:2-6

When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain. Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: 'You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you to Myself. 'Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel."

Romans 5:6-11

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.


Matthew 9:36-10:8

Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest." Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him. These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: "Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.

* 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.

I asked Keir and Eric to sing that song before we began our reflection today because I hope that all of us will leave here with those words resonating in our minds and our hearts– how God loves us, especially through Jesus made visible -- that love of God made visible for each of us.  Remember the words “Oh, how God loves you and me."  And that’s brought out so clearly in each of the lessons today.

In the first lesson, Moses reminds the chosen people, who at various times, as you remember, when they’re traveling through the desert, become very discouraged and complain because it's a hard journey and there are many times that they are hungry, they’re homeless, they’re wandering through the desert. But God is always with them.

And there’s that very beautiful image that Moses uses that we often here because it’s been written into the song, “On Eagle’s Wings.” “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself.” Maybe we’re not so familiar with what that image contains, but it’s a marvelous image for the love of God. It’s the mother eagle sending the small, newborn eaglets, I guess we call them, off on their own. They make their first journey away from the nest, trying to fly on their own.  But as they become tired and can’t carry on, the mother eagle comes under them and spans her wings and carries the tiny ones on her wings. That’s the love of God, Moses is saying, carrying the chosen people through the desert but also carrying each one of us.

Whenever we become tired or the journey gets hard or we are confronted with various kinds of difficulties or suffering, God is like that mother eagle carrying us on God’s wings. A beautiful way to think about the love of God, reminding ourselves everyday that God loves you, God loves me -- and God will always be there to carry us along.
And, of course, in the second lesson St. Paul, in a very dramatic way, points out how we might understand if someone gave his or her life for a person who is really good, someone who deserves to have his or her life saved because they were so good. We might understand the sacrifice of my life for another in that way.  But Paul says that God is so far beyond that. It’s when we were sinners, when we were far from God, when we were helpless– that’s when God loves us and God lifts us up. We don’t earn the love of God. It’s a total gift and it’s always there. It’s so easy for us to forget that. In fact, I think it’s hard for many of us even to believe that that’s the kind of God we worship, the God who is love– love without limit, without condition. He doesn’t demand that we do this, that, or the other thing in order to be loved. God loves us period. Without any limit. Without any condition. Always and everywhere and forever. God’s love is always there.

And in the Gospel lesson Jesus also uses a beautiful image to show how in him the love of God is made so clear, manifest. He speaks of himself as a shepherd.  And for the people who heard him when he first spoke those words there would have been a very clear resonance. When Jesus says, “I am the Shepard. My heart goes out to the sheep who are harassed and scattered and I draw them back.” Well, the people who were listening, especially Matthew’s community ,which was a Jewish community of Christians, they would remember so well from the book of the Prophet Ezekiel where the prophet speaks about the “Shepherds have not cared for my sheep, because you Shepherds have not bothered yourselves about them but fed yourselves and not the flock.” But then Ezekiel says, “Because of that hear the word of God. This is what God says, ‘I will ask an account of the Shepherds and reclaim my sheep from them. No longer shall they tend my flock nor shall there be Shepherds who feed themselves. I shall save the flock from their mouths and no longer shall it be food for them.’” Indeed God says this: “I myself will care for my sheep and watch over them.” And Jesus is proclaiming he is that Shepard, God in our midst, who is ready to reach out and bring back all of us into the abundant love of God’s goodness, compassion.

What I hope is that each of us will continue to reflect on these lessons throughout this day and throughout this week and keep on remembering, “Oh, how God loves me.” But then, also, Jesus tells his disciples when he sends them out to proclaim this same good news to let people know that God loves them. He says, “What you have received as a gift, you must give as a gift.” In the Gospel lesson, Jesus appoints the 12 whom he sends out.  And it’s important to understand that those 12 represent the 12 tribes of Israel. Well, Jesus was living on this Earth. His understanding of his mission was to draw the people of Israel, the chosen people back together again. The tribes had been scattered, dispersed. Only the tribe of Judah remained as a whole nation and Jesus said, “You must go out, you 12 disciple, to each of the 12 tribes and bring them back.” But the love of God and Jesus doesn’t stop there. That’s how it was while Jesus was here on the Earth. His role or his mission was to draw back the chosen people, bring them back as a whole people. But, then if we remember further on in the Gospel, after Jesus has given himself for us and has been raised from the dead, then he meets with all of his community– the whole community– and he says, “Now, you must be my disciples to all the nations.” And so he gives to the whole church, the whole community of disciples this path of knowing the love of God within ourselves and then going out to proclaim it! To let others know that God loves them! Proclaim that good news!

And there are various ways that we can do this. A couple of things have happened during this past week that reminds me of how important it is to carry on this message of Jesus, to carry on the love of Jesus and how to do it in concrete ways. After many, many years now of effort, people who have worked so hard to bring the love of God to the poorest people on our planet by helping them to be able to rise out of their poverty– the 18 poorest nations on the planet where people live in absolute poverty– finally, the rich nations have agreed they will eliminate all their debts. A debt that was destroying those nations because they paid more in interest than they could pay for education or for medical care. And so now it’s gone! They have a new chance. Many people worked hard to make that happen but we have to go beyond that. We’re the richest nation on the planet and this past week when President Bush and Prime Minister Blair had their press conference, President Bush proclaimed that, “Well, we’re doing so much that we give more money than everybody else.” Well, that’s true, in absolute terms, but not when you consider the amount of wealth we have. Prime Minister Blair wants to double the aid that’s given to the countries of Africa so they can overcome the terrible problem of aids that is destroying so many people. We don’t really give a whole lot as a nation. It’s about 15 cents out of 100 dollars of our wealth. That’s all. Fifteen cents out of 100 dollars of wealth. We’d be embarrassed if someone came to us in need and we gave them 15 cents out of 100 dollars and yet that’s what we do as a nation. So we have to keep on trying to make our nation more generous, really, than it is to keep on reaching out– proclaiming the good news! That’s a way, a very concrete way, of showing God loves you! We proclaim that good news by sharing what God has given to us in such abundance. “What you have been given freely, give freely.”

But, also, there’s a very simple way too that we can do this. It’s in our bulletin today. Going out into our neighborhood, walking the streets, carrying the message to the people right around here that God loves them! We’re not going to be trying to convert everyone to the church, but we want them to know that this church is here, that we’re a community of disciples of Jesus and that we love them and we love all the people who live here, where we live among them! So we’re going to have our evangelization team walking the streets again as we did last summer, inviting people, welcoming people, but mostly just to let them know that Jesus, who lives in our midst, loves them just as Jesus loves us.

If all of us keep in mind this beautiful message of today’s scriptures, “Oh, how God loves you. Oh, how God loves you and me,” and then give that love as freely as you have received it. If all of us will carry this message in our hearts this week to try to live it, what a beautiful difference we can make. First of all, in our own lives, we’ll be living with hope and with joy knowing that God loves me, but also we’ll be living that spirit of compassion and love that Jesus chose by going out and spreading the good news:  God loves you, God loves me, and God wants all of us to live in a world that is manifest so that we will live in a world where there is justice and there truth for every person. The message is a beautiful message. We must take it to heart and then we must live it. In the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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