In our first lesson today, we have an incident that shows how the first disciples of Jesus were beginning to carry out the work of Jesus. If you think about it, you can really imagine how distressed those officials in that courtroom must have been, how upset. They thought they had killed Jesus. What's this? Now people are going out now and in his name -- that is, with his power -- acting as he did. They're continuing to do the same thing he did.
Fourth Sunday of Easter
They thought they had ended everything when they so terribly tortured Jesus and then put him to death, executed him. His work was over, they thought. But now, suddenly, here are these two followers of his going out into the streets, finding a cripple, and in the name of Jesus, the power of Jesus, they cure him. Yet we should not be surprised because if you remember Easter Sunday night, the day Jesus arose from the dead, he came to his disciples.
They were hiding in the upper room, afraid. Afraid that what happened to him might happen to them, ashamed with even how they had abandoned him. Then, suddenly, he was in their midst. "Peace be with you." Do you remember how he said that? Of course, calmness and peace spread throughout that room. But then, even more important, he breathed on them. He said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. As God has sent me, I send you." You see, it wasn't all over on Good Friday.
Jesus came back to life. But then what's even more important, he passed on that life, his spirit to his followers. It's the same life, the same spirit, that every one of us shares because we've been baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus. Think about it. We bear the very life of Jesus within us. We have received the Holy Spirit. We are the ones now called to continue the work of Jesus, to transform our world into the reign of God.
Do you think Jesus expects us to do the kinds of wonderful things that those first disciples did? Of course, the answer is yes -- physical healings, perhaps, at times, but even more, changing the spirit within the world, transforming our world so that it becomes a world where the reign of God really happens. Remember what Jesus said about the reign of God in the Gospel of Luke? He said, "I came to proclaim the good news. I'm come to give the blind new sight, heal the broken-hearted, set the downtrodden free, proclaim God's year of faith and jubilee -- a time of peace and fullness of life for everyone."
That's why he came and that's the work he gave to us -- transform our world. Our second lesson today reminded us that we are called children of God. You and I and every one of us is a child of God. We bear God's light. That's what we're called, and that's what we are, which means then that we are the ones to do the work of God, the work of Jesus. But that's not an easy thing to do because what it means is we have to transform our thinking, our understanding, our way of looking at the world, our way of interacting with one another, our way of interacting with people everywhere. We have to change.
St. Paul, writing to the church at Philippi, told them, "Have this mind in you, which was in Christ Jesus." Have this mind, this attitude, this understanding, this heart that was in Jesus. Though he was God, he did not think his divinity was something to be clung to, but emptied himself, became human, even became like a slave and gave himself over to death, let himself be weak in the sight of people even to the terrible death of the cross. Have this mind in you. In other words, don't seek power and advantage and wealth and all those things that in the world around us seem to be so important. No, have the mind of Jesus.
We live in a world, of course, where every day, I think almost, we're confronted with a reality that our world doesn't conform to what Jesus proclaimed as the reign of God. The terrible disparity between the extremely wealthy and the desperate poor in our world keeps getting worse and worse. The injustice is overwhelming, but also the violence, the killing, and the wars. Do we really have the mind, the heart, and the attitude of Jesus?
I'm afraid that as a church, we are failing. Do you remember earlier this week, in the Detroit Free Press, the article about Christ the King parish in Ann Arbor? The priest/pastor thought everyone should have a gun. He was going to run a program to train people so that they could get permission to carry concealed weapons, to bring weapons into church. You could all be sitting there with guns. How could that be the way of Jesus? It's impossible.
Jesus said to Peter, "Put away your sword." Even when Peter was coming to the defense of Jesus, Jesus said, "No, that's not the way. You don't overcome violence with violence, killing with killing." How could a Catholic parish promote the idea that we're going to defend ourselves with weapons and kill one another? That's not the way of Jesus. And we do that. That kind of killing goes on at an individual level, and look at how we've been at war since 1991 now, almost without any interlude.
Last week, we had the terrible killing when we were trying to target so carefully with our drones people 5,000, 7,000 miles away. We killed two innocent victims -- one an aid worker from the United States and another from Italy because we're using weapons to try to bring peace. It's wrong; it's not the way of Jesus. You know that priest in Ann Arbor when the bishop said, "You can't do that in a Catholic church." The priest said, "I'll obey the bishop." But is that enough?
It seems to me that priest and all of us should be looking into the Scriptures, into how Jesus acted, what he said, what he did. He rejected violence. The priest shouldn't just say, "I'll obey the bishop." He should begin to study Jesus. So should all of us come to know Jesus so that we really would have this mind in us, which was in Christ Jesus, who though he was God, did not think even divinity was something to be clung to, but emptied himself, became human, one like us, and gave himself over to death rather than resisting and fighting. He offered his life.
As he said in the Gospel, "I am the good shepherd. I lay down my life for my sheep. I show them how to respond to violence and to killing. I responded with love. And I, when I am lifted up on the cross, through love, will draw all people to myself." That's the way we're going to change the world into the reign of God, to the way of Jesus. We can't maybe think about how we're going to do it on this international scale, but every one of us could begin to think more carefully and deeply about how I can change in my own personal life by not being violent in my use of words against other people, not being violent in my reaction to other people, not returning hate for hate, violence for violence, but rather, finding ways in my everyday life in which I reach out in love.
Then that spirit could spread. That's why we are the sons and daughters of God. That's why Jesus called us to be disciples. That's why he breathed upon us and told us, "Receive the Holy Spirit. As God has sent me, I send you." This morning, I hope we hear Jesus saying that to us: "I am sending you -- each one of us out into the world to live according to my way, the way of love." Gradually, when all of us, the whole community of disciples of Jesus, begin to follow his way, our world will be changed. The reign of God will begin to break forth more fully. Pray this morning that we really can hear what Jesus is saying to us and we must change in our way of acting and in our way of thinking. We must follow his way, the way of love in a way that will transform our world.
[Homily given at St. Philomena Catholic Church in Detroit. The transcripts of Bishop Gumbleton's homilies are posted weekly to NCRonline.org. Sign up here to receive an email alert when the latest homily is posted.]
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