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.
The Peace Pulpit
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."
When we begin now to reflect on these scripture lessons this morning, we have to adjust our thinking somewhat in order to be aware of why the Pharisees, the religious leaders, were so shocked and upset because Jesus was eating, having a meal, in the house of Matthew, a tax collector. The Pharisees, these religious leaders, described Matthew, a tax collector, a public sinner and he's eating with other sinners.
As you've noticed, I'm sure, by the fact that I'm wearing green vestments today, not the white or the red that we've seen over the past 10 or 12 weeks, we have returned to what we call "ordinary time." We finished the celebration of Lent and Easter, Pentecost and then Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi. So now we begin once more to take up the gospel of Matthew, which we will follow throughout this year.