Celebrating our Faith during COVID-19

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Bishop's Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

Audrey Toguchi was completely cured due to Father Damien’s intercession.

By Bishop Larry Silva
May 10, 2020

[Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Honolulu (private; live-streamed)]

If this were not a Sunday, today we would be celebrating the feast day of St. Damien of Molokai.  Eleven years ago at this time, we in the Diocese of Honolulu were diligently preparing for the canonization of Father Damien.  One of the people who was at the center of these preparations was Audrey Toguchi.  For those who do not know, several years before, Audrey had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Her doctor advised that treatment would be futile, but he could make her comfortable in her last days.  However, Audrey firmly believed what Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”  She also had a great devotion to Father Damien, and she asked him to pray for her.  Though he was not a canonized saint at the time, she knew in her heart that he had already entered into that special place that Jesus had prepared for him in heaven.  As a result of Father Damien’s intercession for her, she was completely cured of her cancer, much to the shock of her non-Christian doctor.  The matter was fully investigated by the Vatican, and it became the miracle that led to the canonization of Father Damien.  Audrey, by the way, is still very much alive and full of the faith that did not let her heart be troubled.

The Lord says something amazing in the gospel today:  “Amen, Amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.”  Imagine:  a person who believes in Jesus can do even greater works than he did while here on earth.  Now this is not in the power of any weak person to do, but once we are united with Jesus in our faith, we can accomplish things that will amaze even ourselves.

Audrey Toguchi’s story, which led to the canonization of Father Damien, is one of the rare fully documented miracles.  But there are millions of miracles that are never documented but are nevertheless quite real.  I think of our community at this moment, and even though we are all suffering from deprivation of the sacraments, of work, of school (yes, admit it, kids!), and of our normal social activities, people are still reaching out to one another in love.  This is an often missed miracle, but a miracle nonetheless.  I have heard from a few people who were afflicted by the coronavirus and who recovered, and they give witness to the power of the prayers and love of those who took care of them, whether nearby or far away.  There is the miracle of people sharing their resources out of love for those who are in need.  And there is the miracle, often overlooked, that most of us are still healthy with our immune systems working the wonders they always work.  On this day we recall especially the miracle of our mothers, who care for us even when we are demanding and difficult, and who work wonders every single day.  Jesus’ words to us are the same today as they were to his disciples at the Last Supper.  “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”

It is also good to remember that this great positive discourse we hear Jesus giving in today’s gospel was given just hours before Jesus knew he would be betrayed, scourged, unjustly condemned and crucified.  He was already being persecuted in many ways, but just when he knew that things were going to be much worse, he assured his disciples to not lose faith, but in fact to increase it so that they could carry on his work even more wonderfully than he had begun it.  And so it is that, while we hope our jobs will be secure, our churches will reopen for public worship very soon, and our economy will thrive so that it can be better than before, we all know things may be even rougher in days ahead.  Yet, we know the way to meet those challenges head on, because we have met the Way, Jesus himself.  Perhaps Jesus knew that the best way to calm his own fears was to first calm the fears of his disciples, and so it is that he entrusts us to be living stones built upon himself as the cornerstone, so that in us who believe others may find a sure shelter in the midst of life’s storms.  Jesus has made us – yes, weak, whiny, dense and desperate us – “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that [we] may announce the praises’ of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.”  If we put our trust in him and do not allow our hearts to be troubled, the miracles will multiply, and more and more people will have the eyes to see them and give eternal glory to God.