Friday, April 19, 2013

Bishop Gumbleton on the Gospel Message: "This Is a Community Where Everybody Is Welcome"

For those seeking spiritual sustenance at a time when it's sometimes difficult to cling to churches because so much that emanates from the pastoral leaders and some members of churches is eminently unwelcoming, I highly recommend Bishop Tom Gumbleton's homily on John 21:1-19 at National Catholic Reporter right now. This is the gospel for the third Sunday of Easter, and has the risen Lord asking his disciples if they've caught any fish.

Here's part of what Bishop Gumbleton say in his homily:

As we go on in what happens on this occasion, we discover a couple of things about that mission [i.e., the mission Jesus gives to his followers]. One is how it has to be totally inclusive. You don’t push anybody out of the community. You draw everybody in, until you have -- in John’s Gospel, he often uses large numbers to make a point by exaggeration. Back when he changed water into wine, when Jesus did that, John said, “There were six jugs of water with thirty gallons of each,” he’s making a point. Thirty gallons in six jugs, that’s a lot of wine, but they certainly didn’t drink it all on that occasion. John is simply making a point: there’s no limit to what God can do. So this occasion, when they’re fishing, the net is bulging with fish, bulging, but it doesn’t break. See, everybody can come in. 
There’s also been a lot of discussion over the years from commentators on the scriptures about, why 153? It seems kind of odd, one number like that: 153. Well, there have been all kinds of explanations, but probably the best one is what St. Jerome offered. He was one who translated the Bible into Latin and was a great scripture scholar. He said in the Greek sciences about nature, there were 153 species of fish. 
So in other words, you draw in everybody. No limits again; not exclusive. This is a community where everybody is welcome and is invited to become a member. That’s the sign that Jesus was giving in this episode that we hear now that’s added to our Gospel of John. 
It’s something we need to remember, that we’re not to push people away from the church. We’re supposed to draw them in. We want everyone to be part of this community of the disciples of Jesus. 
Everyone is welcome, including sinners, of course. Peter and the other disciples had all fled and abandoned Jesus, betrayed him, denied him, but they’re welcome. At the Eucharistic feast -- that’s obviously when Jesus is breaking bread for the disciples -- that’s the sign of the Eucharist. So they’re gathered there around that fire on the beach, celebrating the Eucharist, and again, nobody is told, “Stay away.” Everyone is invited: participate.

This is, plain and simple, the gospel, the good news proclaimed and embodied by Jesus. To the extent that we choose not to understand or follow this message of radical welcome and radical inclusion, we choose simply to reject the gospel itself. It's important to keep in mind that Bishop Gumbleton is preaching this gospel message of radical welcome and inclusion right after Archbishop Vigneron of Detroit and his sidekick canonist Edward Peters encouraged Catholics supporting marriage equality to excommunicate themselves.

Anti-gospel, meet gospel.

No comments: