Thursday, June 8, 2017

"God has made a universal covenant with people everywhere" by Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, National Catholic Reporter

..."That’s why Jesus came — in order that we might receive the gift of God’s reign into our world where God’s love would be what dominates everything — God’s love flowing through our planet, through us, transforming our world into the reign of God. In the Gospel lesson, we’re told by John in his account of what happened on what he describes as Easter Sunday night when Jesus came. These disciples had abandoned Jesus.
They were in fear that Easter Sunday night because they were afraid that what happened to Jesus might happen to them. But they were also afraid of confronting Jesus. They had run away. Peter had denied him. Judas had betrayed him.
But what happens? Jesus shows us what his mission is: how the reign of God will happen. He enters into their midst and his first words are reassuring, loving, “Peace be with you.” Let go of your fear; there’s nothing to fear. You’re forgiven. There’s no limit to the forgiveness that God offers.
Jesus makes that clear, “Peace be with you.” I’m sure the hearts of the apostles were just filled to overflowing with thanksgiving and love and a very deep peace that Jesus had brought to them, that Jesus offers to every one of us. But then you notice that John says, “Jesus breathed on them.” That’s an unusual thing. You think of a crowd of people and somehow Jesus breathing over all of them. But why is John describing it this way? He’s going back to the story of creation.
When you look in the book of Genesis when God formed what was to be the first human, the author of the book of Genesis tells us that God breathed on him and he was filled with life. So, God’s breath brings life. Jesus breathed on the disciples. They received the new life of God, God’s spirit living in them. Then Jesus says, “As God has sent me, I send you.” To do what? To transform our world, again. How will they do it? “The sins you forgive, they’re forgiven.”
Jesus, first of all, is calling his disciples to reconciliation, to bring peace into our world by forgiveness, by reconciling, even by loving our enemies, never turning them away, never trying to hurt them or destroy them but loving them. It’s something totally new. We haven’t learned it yet, have we — how to really become the people of God who are reconciling and forgiving, giving up weapons and war and hatred and killing, and only bringing peace, forgiveness, and love — only those that are of Christ. Jesus calls us to spread that.
Jesus shows us that we must be people who reconcile by forgiveness. The sins you forgive, they’re forgiven; there’s peace. But also, Jesus says, “The evil you restrain, it can be restrained.” There are tremendous evils in our world. In fact, I think Pope Francis made a very deliberate effort when he met with President [Donald] Trump to try to highlight something that many people still do not accept: that our planet is being destroyed.
It will not be a place where humans can live three or four generations from now. The pope took great effort to write that encyclical letter based on highly qualified scientific research that shows what is happening. We could restrain that evil and it would be restrained. But we can ignore it, as we see as a nation through our president, at least at the present time, to be doing. Many people who will and can continue to restrain that evil to save our planet, this gift that God has given to us that’s not repeatable. We can save it. We can restrain evil and it will be restrained.
The feast of Pentecost is a very important feast. You and I as people of God and members of the church have entered into this covenant with God through Jesus. It’s a covenant that can transform our world into the reign of God if we follow the way of Jesus, the way of peace, forgiveness, and love, the way of overcoming evil with good, the way of restraining evil by good.
We can do it if we continue to listen carefully to what Jesus teaches us and if we follow his way as members of his body having entered into this new covenant with him that extends to the whole world. It’s a universal covenant that God has made with all people everywhere. It can bring our world to a fullness of life that God intends as God makes God’s reign happen in our midst..."
[Homily given at St. Philomena Parish in Detroit June 4. The transcripts of Bishop Thomas Gumbleton's homilies are posted weekly to Sign up here to receive an email alert when the latest homily is posted.]

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