Tag Archives: National Catholic Reporter

REFLECTION: Carry on Jesus’ work of reconciliation and love

Bishop Thomas Gumbletonby Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

There are very many things that we could reflect on when it comes to this feast of Pentecost. I think, in a certain way, we overlook how important this feast really is in our own spirit life and what it has meant in the history of the church. Saint Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, describes for us, in a very symbolic way, what happened on that first Pentecost. He’s not recording history. The history probably was closer to what’s in the Gospel of John — that Jesus came on Easter Sunday night and gave the disciples the Spirit.

pentecost-artBut Luke wants us to appreciate the full depth of the meaning of this feast, so he goes back to other Scripture passages. He wants us to see what happened here on that Pentecost or Easter Sunday night as like what happened at the beginning of creation. He wants us to see this is a new creation. In the book of Genesis, it’s described as, “Before the worlds were made there was chaos and a terrible wind blowing through that chaos.”

“That’s the wind that comes down upon the house,” as Luke describes it, “Shaking the walls, this wind.” The word “spirit” in Hebrew is wind. Luke is trying to get us to remember what happened. Now we know, not in seven days, day by day, but with a big bang out of nothing, God brings forth the beginnings of the universe. Now we know that this was billions of years ago. God’s creation has been going on now, these billions of years.

The more we learn about it, the more soundly we understand that it is what God has done. We look up at the sky and we see the Milky Way and we think, “What an extraordinary event that Milky Way is.” It’s only one; there are thousands. God is continuing to create. The universe is expanding, going on. There could well be other places in this huge universe where there is human life like our own. It’s a wondrous, extraordinary thing what God began — that creation from nothing...

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REFLECTION: You are to be my witnesses

Bishop Thomas Gumbletonby Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

I really did read those letters from all of you and I found them very inspiring because you seem to understand what’s really important about the Sacrament of Confirmation, that you are committing yourself now for the rest of your life to continue to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, baptized, confirmed, strengthened regularly by the Holy Eucharist and also by your own daily prayer. Each of you seem to find that an important thing to include, that you have come to know Jesus better through your preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation. I do have that sense that you’re truly ready, but it’s important that we reflect a little bit further on the Scriptures and on this feast that we’re celebrating, the Ascension of Jesus into heaven.

pskovpecheryascensioniconThe first thing that I think is important about the feast day and what we are being taught about the feast day is not exactly when the Ascension happened. It’s important for all of us to realize that the Gospels are not a history book. They don’t follow the life of Jesus like we might do if we were writing history, or even if we were writing a biography of Jesus. But the Gospels do, and the other New Testament Scriptures like the letters of Paul and so on, teach us about Jesus — who he is, why he came, what he did. They don’t try to give us a chronological teaching about his life. In fact, if you listen to the Gospels carefully, you’ll discover, when you listen to the Gospel of John about Easter Sunday, when Jesus came back to the disciples Easter Sunday night, it was then that he breathed on them, gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit, and then left them for good.

It wasn’t 40 days later. Luke puts that into his Acts of the Apostles because in the early days of the church, the Christians thought Jesus was going to come back very quickly and that he would restore the reign of God in its fullness; but it wasn’t going to happen. By the time Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles in the 80s, it was pretty clear that Jesus wasn’t coming back anytime soon. And so, Luke puts into the Acts of the Apostles the story about how they gathered together outside of Jerusalem and then he’s lifted up to heaven. The angels come down and tell the disciples, “What are you looking up there for? He’s gone.” That wasn’t how it really happened, but the important thing is what we learn in one of the letters of St. Paul about what this meant.

What happened is described in this letter of Paul to the church at Ephesus. He tells us, “God revealed God’s almighty power in Jesus when he raised Jesus from the dead and had him sit at his right hand in heaven, far above all rule, power, authority, dominion, or any other super natural force that could be named, not only in this world, but in the world to come. Thus God has put all things under the feet of Christ, set him above all things as head of the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”...

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REFLECTION: ‘Get on board or get out of the way’ is not policy

Joan Chittister, osbby Joan Chittister, osb
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

At this point in the history of this country, the tangle between the two major dimensions of our public life — the political system itself and the politicians it spawns — is impossible to ignore. In fact, the choices we make this year — and why we make them — may well affect this country and its present governmental system for ages to come. I figure that those whose responsibility it is to make the final decisions on social policy will do so out of a sense of commitment to all the people of the world.

It may sound easy but it isn’t.

election2016button225We all have the right and the responsibility to participate in this moment of national decision about who we are and who we want to be. The question is, of course, on what grounds will we make this decision?

I watched one of the chief politicians of the country do something very unpolitical recently. And by doing so, he follows in the footsteps of great American politicians over time who chose personal integrity over political conformity: The ones who called for independence from English rule. The ones who declared freedom of religion a human right. The ones who broke with politicians who supported slavery. The ones who confronted both church and state about the legal rights of women. The ones who argued against exclusionary immigration policies. The ones who supported the union movement. The ones who contested the Vietnam War. All of these things — and many more — have shaped the character of this country.

We may be at a similar point again. In which case, why we do what we do will make all the difference...

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REFLECTION: We have to listen to the Spirit

Bishop Thomas Gumbletonby Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

As we try to listen deeply now to the Scripture lessons and draw from them guidance for our everyday life, I think it’s important, especially from the Gospel, to hear Jesus telling us, “I’ve told you all this while I was still with you.” Remember again, he’s in conversation with his disciples the night before he dies. But then he says, “From now on, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom God will send in my name, will continue to teach you all things and remind you of what I have told you.”

We’ve heard that before, and I think probably we don’t really give enough attention to this promise of Jesus, that he’s going to send his Holy Spirit to be with us, to guide us. But when you think about it, it’s really important that he do that because if you notice in the Scriptures, Jesus doesn’t give the disciples any blueprint about how to follow up on his teachings. He doesn’t tell them how to establish a church, what they are to do.

1432075456212All he says is, “You’ve received the Holy Spirit. Go and proclaim the good news to all the nations.” He’s telling them, “Go out and preach the good news that I’ve been teaching you.” But there will be times when they will need special guidance. Of course, one of those times came very early in the church. It’s what we heard about in the first lesson today. The apostle Paul and Barnabas had made a missionary journey into Asia Minor, where would be Turkey, Syria — those countries, and they had great success.

In town after town they went into the synagogues, they preached about Jesus, and people wanted to be baptized, wanted to become followers of Jesus. These were Gentiles. Back in Jerusalem where the church first began to function, all the disciples of Jesus who became his followers — the Christian church, were Jews, and they still followed the Jewish practices. Now Paul and Barnabas were going out and saying, “That’s not necessary any longer. You don’t have to be circumcised. You don’t have to follow the 613 laws of the Jewish covenant. You’re free of that. You’re followers of Jesus.”...

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REFLECTION: All of us are called to be witnesses

Bishop Thomas Gumbletonby Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

Before we proceed with the confirmation, it’s important, of course, to reflect on the Scriptures of today’s liturgy. And even though we didn’t choose these Scriptures specifically for this confirmation ceremony, as we listen to them, I know for myself and I think all of us probably got a sense that these Scriptures fit very well for what we’re celebrating today in the sacrament of confirmation. What’s one of the most important things about being confirmed?

What do you accept when you’re confirmed? It’s a responsibility. A responsibility for what? As we said in the opening prayer, we asked God, “Send your Holy Spirit upon us to make us witnesses before the world to the good news proclaimed by Jesus.” “Make us witnesses before the world to the good news proclaimed by Jesus.” That’s what we are called to do when we become confirmed disciples of Jesus Christ. We’re to be like Paul and Barnabas who went out into those other lands and other areas of the world and proclaimed that good news.

actsphotoThey spoke about Jesus. They witnessed to Jesus, to what he had taught, what he meant, how he lived, what he asked people to do to bring about the reign of God, the fullness of God’s life and love and kingdom. Paul and Barnabas were among the first witnesses to Jesus, but all down through the centuries now, people have been witnesses to Jesus. Every part of the world now has heard the Gospel of Jesus. Today you’re being asked to be witnesses also.

How do you witness? Paul and Barnabas went around and they preached. Neither one of them had known Jesus during their life, but they knew Jesus from the other disciples who told them about Jesus. They had witnessed Jesus through the resurrection, especially Paul. He had that extraordinary conversion experience where Jesus appeared to him and said, “Why are you persecuting me?” Paul said, “Who?” Jesus, because Paul had been persecuting the church, God’s people, and Paul was converted...

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REFLECTION: We can’t forget our suffering brothers and sisters

Bishop Thomas Gumbletonby Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

This Sunday is typically called Good Shepherd Sunday, and as I was thinking about the readings and our reflection on the readings today, I remembered a story that perhaps I’ve told before, I don’t remember that, but it’s maybe true, maybe not. Remember back in the days when we had confirmation in the parishes and the bishop would come and the children, and at that point they used to be nine, ten, eleven years old, and at the beginning of the ceremony the bishop would ask the kids questions.

Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio washes feet of shelter residents during 2008 Mass at church in Buenos AiresOf course they were all nervous, “Will the bishop call on me?” and they’re trying to squeeze down a little bit, be out of sight. But one youngster, when the bishop started to ask questions, raised his hand right away. He was ready to recite a Psalm for the bishop, Psalm 23. So he stands up and he says, “The Lord is my Shepherd. There is nothing I shall want,” and then his mind goes blank. The next line just won’t come, so he’s standing there and then finally says, “And that’s all I need to know.”

It’s true, isn’t it? The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. That’s all we really need to know: that God loves us, never stops loving us, and only asks that we show gratitude and try to love in return, love God and love one another. So that’s a good story about Good Shepherd Sunday. We have to think about our Scriptures today and how, through learning more about the Good Shepherd, we learn more about how God loves us and how we are to respond to that love.

The idea of God as a shepherd is woven through all the Scriptures. The Old Testament is filled with references to God as a shepherd. David, the great ruler, the first real king of Israel and Judah was a shepherd, becomes a shepherd king, kind of a paradox because a king we think of as a ruler, stern and fierce, but the shepherd is tender, loving and caring. So that’s the theme: shepherd, ruler. Ezekiel talks about the wicked shepherds, those who don’t care about the sheep anymore...

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