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.
The Peace Pulpit
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.
Last Sunday when we celebrated the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus, we reflected on how that whole event was recorded in the Gospel of Mark and shared with Mark's community in order to help them -- people who knew Jesus so well, who knew Jesus as one of themselves -- to see Jesus as indeed the Son of God. Today's scripture from John's Gospel written for the community of John's disciples does something of the same thing.
A few Sundays ago, perhaps you remember, we had the Gospel lesson about Jesus preaching in his hometown of Nazareth, and afterwards he was rejected. His own family, three of his brothers are mentioned by name, and his neighbors would say things like, "Well who is this? Who does he think he is? Isn't he just the carpenter's son?"
The temptation of course on a day like this is to say we should skip the homily and just go on with the Mass, but as I suggested before, just pretend you are sitting on the shore of the lake and there is a nice breeze coming, because it's really important to try to listen deeply today to God's Word. To start with, I'm asking you a question. Do you think that that little boy was the only one among those 5,000 people who had some bread in his pocket? What do you think? He would be the only one? Well, think about it, and I'll come back to it in a minute, but before, we really need to try to understand what is happening in this Gospel lesson.