As I listen to the first part of today's Gospel where Jesus notices that great crowds are following him, I get a sense that he almost becomes alarmed: "Do these people really know what it means to be a disciple -- to follow me? Or are they just filled with enthusiasm and think of me as a wonder-worker, and they're coming for favors and blessings and not really discerning discipleship -- what it means to follow Jesus?"
The Peace Pulpit
Editor's note: Bishop Thomas Gumbleton gave this homily Sept. 1.
As I mentioned to you at the beginning of introducing the Scriptures, Jesus has been teaching us over the last 10 or 12 Sundays various parts of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus -- how we are intended to be following him, following his way. Last Sunday, Jesus, in the Gospel, used the banquet as the point of beginning his discussion. But then at last Sunday's Gospel, Jesus described how extraordinary was what would happen at the fullness of time in the reign of God.
The Peace Pulpit (with audio): Follow Jesus' way and his real vision, his real goal -- peace -- will happen in our hearts, Listen to Bishop Gumbleton's latest homily.
In this passage that we have as today’s Gospel, it seems to me, and others have suggested this also, that last Sunday’s teaching was very difficult for us to accept. You remember, Jesus said so clearly, “Avoid greed at all costs.”
As usual, I think we will be able to listen most deeply and understand well the Scripture lessons of today if we remind ourselves of the context, especially of the Gospel lesson. A couple of weeks ago, you may remember, there was the story of Martha and Mary and Jesus coming to be with them. We learned from that what it means to be a true disciple. Mary was the one of whom Jesus said, "She is really being a disciple because she is listening," and a disciple is someone who listens and follows Jesus.
The Peace Pulpit (with audio): If we continue to listen to Jesus, we can have that blessed assurance that God will always be there. Listen to Bishop Gumbleton's homily.
The Peace Pulpit (with audio): Remember how important it is to be hospitable and to listen to God's word in the depths of our heart. Listen to Bishop Gumbleton's latest homily.
The first lesson today really gives us a very good context in which to reflect on our Gospel reading today and the letter from Paul to the Colossians. That first lesson from the Book of Deuteronomy -- the name of the book means "The Second Law" -- is really a kind of an updating; [it was] a revision of the law that had been given to Moses and the chosen people at Sinai. But now after many decades, they were in a sense overly familiar with it, took it for granted, and didn't let it really challenge them.
I think we can gather from our listening to the Scriptures this morning that the message today is about being a disciple of Jesus -- our call to follow him -- and maybe some of us are somewhat like Elisha. We say yes, but then we hesitate, and we're not so sure if we really want to be this disciple of Jesus. But if we listen carefully and turn to God for help, I think we can leave the church today with a firm commitment to be disciples of Jesus, which could mean radical change in our lives.
As I mentioned in introducing the Gospel, it's kind of a confrontation because Jesus is demanding of his disciples after he's been with them for maybe a year, year and a half, close to two years: "Who do you really think I am? What do people say about me?" You heard the answers, but then he confronts them directly: "Well, OK, who do you say I am?"