Tag Archives: National Catholic Reporter

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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REFLECTION: Jesus is alive forever and draws us into his risen life

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

First let me extend everyone here, to the whole parish family of St. Philomena, my own prayers that each of you will celebrate a most joyful and peaceful Easter, the victory of Jesus over death. As we celebrate this feast, I have a sense that we take it too much for granted. We talk about the Easter mystery, which means the sufferings, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus. We say those words so easily as though it’s just kind of a normal thing that someone rises from the dead, but it wasn’t and isn’t.

ResurrectionThose first disciples really had no clue. In the other Gospel accounts, in Mark’s especially, the disciples come to the tomb and after they discover that the body is gone (it’s women disciples that do this) they’re all upset and they just leave without saying anything to anybody. They don’t know what to do. Today we hear about Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb and being upset. At least she runs and gets Peter and John and they come back to see what’s going on, but they too leave. Nothing seems to change.

It took a long time for the disciples to begin to understand what Jesus had told them. He had said that the Son of Man is going up to Jerusalem, be handed over to his enemy, be tortured, executed, but then rise from the dead, “I will be lifted up.” But they never, never really understood what he meant. So when this happens, they were just clueless. They might have thought (and maybe some of us think this way) that Jesus was talking about what we would call a resuscitation.

In other words, when someone goes into a deep, deep coma, appears to be dead, but then comes back to life. There are a couple of examples of that in the Gospels where Jesus resuscitates someone and they come back to a normal life like it was before. But this isn’t a resuscitation. There’s something totally different about the resurrection of Jesus. He had been dead; now he’s alive, but in a totally different form, a different way...

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REFLECTION: The way to peace is through love

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

Today we have the reading of the entire passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus — quite a long Gospel this year according to St. Luke, so I have no intention of preaching at length, but there’s just a couple of things about this Gospel lesson in preparation of our procession with the palms. But, also, as we listen to the long Gospel of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, there are points that I hope we will spend this week reflecting on, bringing about deep transformation in our minds, our hearts, our attitude, and our way of acting.

Banner Author/Artist: The Benedictine Sisters of Turvey Abbey

Banner Author/Artist: The Benedictine Sisters of Turvey Abbey

It starts with this procession with palms. We do a little bit of theater, in a sense. Jesus did this journey into Jerusalem, the crowds gathered, and just spontaneously it was a march and a decoration of Jesus as king. So we reenact that. We bless the palms and then we have our procession around the church singing, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” As this Gospel for the procession points out, Jesus developed a kind of theater himself for the procession.

They had many times wanted to make Jesus king and he always rejected it. He simply would not be a king because they understood the king to be one with power, one who led people in war, one who dominated and ruled, and oppressed often. Jesus was not going to accept that role. Yet, here at this point when the crowds had got so large and were so insistent, he went along with their desires to go into Jerusalem being hailed, “Hosanna to the king,” this prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.

But notice what he does with his staging of how he’s going to enter into Jerusalem as their king. In Matthew’s Gospel, Matthew points out that he is fulfilling a prophecy from the prophet Zechariah. Matthew just quotes a part of it, but listen to what the prophecy is, “Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout for joy, daughter of Jerusalem for your king is coming just and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt. No more chariots in Ephraim. No more horses in Jerusalem for he will do away with them. The warrior’s bow shall be broken when he dictates peace to the nation. He will reign from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth.”...

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REFLECTION: Be ambassadors of God’s love, reconciliation and peace

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

We may not have adverted to it, but there’s been a very clear pattern in our Scripture lessons over the last three weeks, especially. As usual, the first week of Lent we reflected on Jesus and the temptations in the desert. The second week on his transfiguration when God declared, “This is my Son, my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” But then on the third Sunday we began to hear, in a very powerful way, the message that is the most important one for us to absorb and really take into our mind, but most of all, into our spirit, to experience — that God loves us. God loves us because God is love.

fig_tree2The pope, this year for Lent, published his book, The Name of God is Mercy. Compassion, love — that’s God. That love is poured forth upon us to draw us into existence, to be with us every instance of our lives, to heal us when we’re broken, to comfort us when we need that. God is always loving us. Think back for a moment to the Gospel that third Sunday where Jesus compares God to a gardener, one who is taking care of the plants.

The owner of the field said, “That particular plant has not given any fruit. Get rid of it.” He was looking only for profit. He wanted a different plant that would bear fruit. But the gardener, who images God for us, says, “No. Let me tend it for another year, fertilize it, nurture it, and it will bear fruit.” God loves that plant. That’s a symbol of how God loves us. Last Sunday, you remember because it’s such a vivid story about the two sons — the one who goes off and squanders all his inheritance, comes back, ready to be a slave in his father’s house.

Do you remember the image of the father going out looking for him? He must have been going every day because he loved him. He was just trying to draw him back. Finally, he sees him coming and he runs out to greet him. Then he calls for a feast to celebrate the return of his son who was dead, and was raised from the dead, and he’s come back...

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REFLECTION: When did we confuse freedom of speech with the freedom to be rude?

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

I’ve written or spoken a good many times about the incivility that unmonitored social media sites have generated in this country. Someplace along the line we have managed to confuse freedom of speech with the freedom to be rude, crude, mean, hurtful or brutal — anonymously. Secretly. Behind some silly moniker like “Darth Vader 2.” Or worse.

I grew up in a society where there were some words that were never spoken — in front of women, in front of children, in public, at a dinner table, in a professional setting, on a telecommunications program of any kind. But then, little by little, we began to see it painted on back walls of old buildings. And did nothing. Then we began to accept it in teenage music. And did nothing. Then it showed up in racy “literature.” And we did nothing. Finally, it was everywhere on the streets. And now, it seems, there is very little we can do about it at all.

Where did we lose the idea that freedom of speech is the right to have our speech protected, no matter what our opinion might be? That does not, however, include the right to libel, slander, and now bully people into submission. It does not include a license to abuse someone — meaning to call names or threaten harm or talk or harass those who are different than we are. Physically, socially, or politically. There are statutes against it. So much for the law. So much for our birthright. So much for the character of the nation. So much for our vaunted ideals of democracy.

Obviously, given the increase in the amount of outright lies or veiled insults in the public airwaves now, the threat of the law does not really much restrain an anonymous population, let alone educate it to a more civilized kind of communication. Those websites that employ monitors with the right to reject that level of so-called “comments” manage to maintain a higher standard of conversation and insight. But for smaller groups with fewer resources, the ability to engage that kind of monitor is more likely to threaten the existence of the website itself than it is to eliminate the problem...

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