Some of you, I'm sure, have been to Rome and have seen the great basilica of St. Peter on Vatican Hill in the midst of Vatican City. If you haven't been there, you've certainly seen pictures of that tremendous basilica, overpowering in its size and richness and the symbol of power that it gives forth. Perhaps you noticed if you were there that around the dome -- which is the most extraordinary feature of this church, a huge dome -- in very large letters are the words that Jesus says today in the gospel.
The Peace Pulpit
The scripture readings today are very inspiring and also extraordinarily challenging.
When we look at the gospel lesson first of all, it's amazing, isn't it, the courage and the faith and the love of this woman? A Canaanite -- not only a Gentile, not a Jew, but also from the very people who were the first enemies of the Jewish people when they were freed from slavery in Egypt and came into the promised land. This is a Canaanite. They'd been hostile to the Jews for centuries, yet she has the courage to come forward, to cry after Jesus. This is a woman in a very patriarchal society. According to the custom, she should not have been in the street by herself. She should not approach a man as she did. But her love for her daughter was so strong and she wanted so much to get what was good for her daughter, that she had the courage to push beyond the boundaries that were supposed to hold her back.
It's my conviction that most of us who hear these lessons today, especially the first lesson, can find a lot of comfort in them. I think there are a couple of reasons for this, one of which is very obvious, and the other we have to search a little bit more deeply to discover what God is really saying to us today.
Over the last four or five Sundays, our liturgy of the word has focused on the reign of God. We were reminded how, when Jesus first began his public life, his first declaration was, "The reign of God is at hand. Change your lives."
As I mentioned in introducing the gospel, this is the third Sunday that we have been listening to parables by Jesus, and all of them, seven in total, are connected with the kingdom of heaven. Jesus wants us to understand what he means by the kingdom of heaven. Perhaps you reviewed this last week or the week before, but it's important to do it once more, to review what Jesus meant when he said "The kingdom of heaven."
As I mentioned in introducing the Gospel, Jesus is instructing us, and has instructed us last week and now today and next week, through parables. He's trying to teach us about what is really the meaning of his mission - why he came into the world, why he gathered a community of disciples, and then at the end of his life, sent them out to continue his work. It's all about the reign of God. That's why Jesus came.
Not many Sundays ago, as we began the ordinary time of the year, the gospel writers, Matthew and Mark especially, showed us Jesus beginning his public life. We heard Jesus proclaim, "The reign of God is at hand. Change your lives." The reign of God is ready to break forth -- that's what Jesus was proclaiming -- a message of good news.
All of us, in one way or another, carry burdens, carry heavy yokes, so it's always helpful and encouraging to hear Jesus say to us, "Come to me. Take my burden upon you, my yoke, for my yoke is good and my burden is light."
Editor’s Note: Bishop Gumbleton preached this homily at Ss. Peter & Paul Church in Detroit, Michigan at the celebration of the 160th anniversary of the parish. It is a Jesuit parish in downtown Detroit.
First of all, I express profound thanks to Fr. [Carl] Bonk [S.J.] and to all of you, who are the community of this parish at Ss. Peter & Paul, for the opportunity to be the main celebrant today on this very important occasion when you celebrate and remember 160 years of the presence of this parish community here in the city of Detroit. It truly is a privilege to be among you and to experience your faith and your joy as this celebration takes place.
I thought that we could best understand and reflect on today's scriptures if I shared with you an article that I read just a day or so ago in the Michigan Catholic of this week. The headline of the article is "Professor Stunned by Refusal of Communion." The article goes on to speak about the "Pepperdine law professor Douglas Kmiec, a constitutional lawyer who often writes on religion in the public square."
But this time when he had given a speech in which according to the article, he told how he supported one of the Presidential candidates, Obama, he said, because of his "remarkable 'love thy neighbor' style of campaigning, his expressed desire to transcend partisan divide, and specifically, his appreciation for faith."