So today as we listen to the gospel, we realize that we are coming to the end of this last journey of Jesus to Jerusalem. For six weeks now we have been listening to Jesus teach his disciples -- teach us -- as he walked this final journey. Jericho is the last stop before they get to Jerusalem where it will all happen as Jesus had told them. He will be handed over to enemies, people who hate him. They'll torture him, nail him to the cross, crucify him, but then on the third day he'll rise again.
The Peace Pulpit
For six Sundays now, we have been traveling together with Jesus and the disciples as they make this journey to Jerusalem, and Jesus has been instructing them on what it means to be a disciple and so of course that instruction is for us. We are the community of the disciples of Jesus. That's what the church is; that's what our parish is -- a community of disciples.
As I read through various commentaries this week on the scriptures, I came across this item: "Biographers of W.C. Fields", a stand up comedian many decades ago, "always narrate an episode which happened shortly before he died. A friend came to visit him in the hospital and was amazed to find the comedian reading a Bible. 'I didn't know you were a religious person, Bill,' the friend said. 'I'm not!' Fields shot back. 'Then what are you doing with that Bible?' 'Looking for loopholes.' "
As I mentioned in introducing the Gospel, we continue to listen to Mark's description of this final journey of Jesus with his disciples to Jerusalem where he is to suffer and be put to death, and along the way Jesus is instructing them about discipleship -- how to be his disciples. He's asking for some radical change in their thinking and in their way of acting and so if we listen carefully to what he is teaching us, we too, if we wish to be his disciples, will discover that we need to change, perhaps even radically, in our thinking and in the way we act.
In order to reflect on these Scriptures today, it's very important, I think, for us to remind ourselves of the context within which we hear these particular readings. Three Sundays ago we began a short cycle of readings that all have to do with hearing God's Word. On that first Sunday, we had a passage from Isaiah where we were instructed about what it means to be a disciple. Each of us is a disciple of Jesus. "Morning after morning God wakes me up to hear, to listen, like a disciple." To be a disciple means to be a learner, to listen, to hear and Isaiah speaks about how God, every morning, alerts him so that he can listen, he can hear. And this is what we must do. We must commit ourselves to hearing deeply God's Word because that is what will form us, help us to become truly, authentically a disciple of Jesus. And our lessons have shown us where we must turn to listen. We listen to God's Word in the Scriptures. We listen to God's Word as it's proclaimed through the whole community of disciples -- the Church.
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Bishop Gumbleton was unable to provide us with a homily this Sunday.
Many times, you've heard me refer to our community as a community of disciples. This is what the whole church is, a community of disciples of Jesus. If that's the case, then of course, it's very important to understand what it means to be a disciple. As I mentioned in introducing the first lesson, Isaiah makes it very clear that the first thing about being a disciple is to be one who listens, listens deeply to God's word. "God has taught me, so I speak as God's disciple. Morning after morning God wakes me up to hear, to listen, like a disciple. God has opened my ear."
After our first lesson today, we sang a psalm with the response, "Praise the Lord my soul, praise the Lord my soul!" That's really what this liturgy of the Word is about, praising God and it reminds me of our mantra, which I thought perhaps we should say a couple of times today: GOD IS GOOD! [Congregation responds: ALL THE TIME!] Right! GOD IS GOOD! [Congregation responds: ALL THE TIME!]
Perhaps you're aware of the speech that [U.S. Defense] Secretary [Donald] Rumsfeld gave earlier this week to a convention of the American Legion. It was a speech in which he was very harsh on critics of the war [in Iraq] and critics of the policy of the President and his administration. In fact, he went so far as to charge that people who are critics of the war and of President Bush, are guilty of what he said "is moral and intellectual confusion." President Bush himself, didn't use the same words but yesterday, in his radio speech, he repeated practically the same idea: If you're not for the policy of this government, you're morally confused, or you're intellectually confused.
I am mindful as I'm sure many, maybe most of you are also mindful, that we're coming to the end of the summer. To the end of a beautiful season of the year. Endings are always difficult. I feel sad that summer is coming to an end. But when there's an ending, usually there's also a beginning. And so we do have new beginnings happening. School is getting underway. Every day the teachers are coming, preparing their rooms looking forward to this new school year. As a parish, we're experiencing a certain ending, but also there will be a new coming as we transition into a different way of being St. Leo's parish. Another renewal, is Wynetta, this morning coming into our community, renewing and deepening her faith which has been there for a long time but now becoming part of our parish family and the whole Catholic community, a beautiful new beginning.