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Bishop's Homily for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time

The Word of God is a word of hope to us who live in this world.

By Bishop Larry Silva
October 02, 2022

[St. Augustine by the Sea Church, Waikiki]

A stadium full of soccer fans went to enjoy themselves at a match in Indonesia this weekend.  At the end of the game, rival fans started a riot, causing people to flee in a stampede, and at least 125 people are dead as a result.  As I blessed our first parish columbarium yesterday at St. Ann Church in Kaneohe, I flashed back to when I was a priest in Oakland and had to go to the Catholic cemetery to comfort the workers who were shaken up by gun play between two rival gangs.  Although no one was hurt physically on that occasion, three died that afternoon as the gangs took the matter to the streets once they returned home.  I often have to shake my head as I watch Congress doing its work.  I remember a time when Republicans and Democrats had different perspectives on issues, but would try to work together.  Now it seems that they have demonized each other and get very little done.  I am aware of tremendous rifts in families, parishes, and religious communities – places where one would presume a loving attitude.  In the midst of all this, we might very well echo the lament of the prophet Habakkuk, “How long, O Lord?  I cry for help, but you do not listen.”  I cry out to you, ‘Violence!,’ but you do not intervene.”  It is very easy to see all these situations – and more – and to lose hope.

The message of our Scriptures today, however, is one of great hope.  Habakkuk is told not to give up on the vision of peace; it will be fulfilled in its own time.  St. Paul tells his colleague Timothy to “stir into a flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.”  It may be just a spark that seems to be fading away completely, but have hope that it will turn into a flaming fire.  And Jesus says that if we have faith just the size of a mustard seed, we can accomplish wonders.  The Word of God is a word of hope to us who not only live in this world that is often a vale of tears, but who are commissioned as the Lord’s servants to plant mustard seeds, to fan dying embers, and to keep the vision of God’s kingdom, no matter how far it may seem from fulfillment.

I would dare say that the only way we can keep this flicker of hope alive is by doing exactly what we are doing now:  worshipping the Lord.  This is the most important thing we can do, not only for ourselves and our own salvation, but for the good of the entire world.  Our coming to bow down before the true and living God is the best antidote to a world that has lost hope because it now bows down to a golden mirror, imagining that we ourselves are gods and treating others, no longer as brothers and sisters, but as inferiors or enemies.

We may also need to be purified a bit, too, but we still need to come to worship.  I have heard so many people say they no longer attend Mass because it just does not fulfill them, as if the purpose of worship is to fulfill ourselves.  They are like the servants Jesus refers to in the gospel who are not told, after a hard day’s work, to sit down and rest so that the master can serve them, but who know their whole life is dedicated to service.  Yes, we are “unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.”  But it is precisely in doing what God obliges us to do that we find our greatest fulfillment and the greatest possibility of bringing God’s abiding peace to the world.

The flame that we are called to fan, of course, is our faith in a person, Jesus Christ himself, who is God and human, who gave his life for us, and who rose from the dead and is with us still, especially in this beautiful encounter of the Eucharist.  Yes, people can encounter Jesus in the privacy of their rooms, in the beauty of the ocean or in the majestic mountains.  But nowhere else can they eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man in such an intimate and holy communion.  Nowhere else can this communion involve not only those we love but those we do not yet love, remembering that Jesus died for all.  Nowhere else can we be so purified of our selfish and clannish ways and open our hearts to all our brothers and sisters for whom Christ died.

Who can preserve for a cynical world the vision that God does indeed love us and call us into one family?  Who can fan into a flame the spark of hope in a world that drowns hope with human discord?  Who can nurture the little mustard seed of faith that can move mountains?  Jesus calls us to be his servants, to bow down before the true and living God in our worship, and to take out to the world this little bit of heaven we experience here in the Eucharist.  This will make all the difference in the world!