Celebrating our Faith during COVID-19

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Bishop's Homily for the Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Marriage is a sacrament because it is a reflection of God’s love for us.

By Bishop Larry Silva
June 28, 2020

[St. John the Baptist Church, Kalihi (Parish Visitation)]

I am sure we would be surprised if we went to a wedding and the groom made these vows: ”I take you for my wife, for better, for richer, in health, until I decide otherwise.”  We would know that something essential was missing.  What about “or for worse,” “or for poorer,” “in sickness” and “until death do us part”?  Now unfortunately it often happens that couples make the traditional vows that involve both the positive and the negative, but in their minds and hearts, they are really only making the first form.  They say, “for worse, for poorer, in sickness, and until death do us part,” but when things get worse, poor, or sick, they are gone!  We know that a true marriage is one that is loving and joyful, but is also willing to take up crosses, to accept difficulties and sufferings, and to not give up, just as God does not give up on us.  It may be very difficult to love someone and be loyal when things are not going our way, but that is why marriage is a sacrament, because it is a reflection of God’s love for us.  Any couple who endures these difficulties and crosses knows that love actually deepens and a real joy is felt even when to the rest of the world it seems foolish.

So it is with the Christian life, which also is a kind of marriage, in which Christ unites himself with his beloved Bride, the Church, and every member of it.  Sometimes it is filled with beautiful music, candles, wonderful friends, and opportunities to enjoy one another.  But what if people in the Church scandalize us at times, as it has with the clergy sex abuse crisis?  What if different parts of the Church have very different ways of looking at the same reality, as so often happens with factions in the Church?  What if following the law of the Lord goes against the “law” of our own selfish, lustful or power-hungry desires, and we rationalize that we must be right and the Church must be wrong?

This is why Jesus’ words about loyalty to him above even father or mother, son or daughter not taking precedence over him are so difficult.  But he knows that if we first put our hope and trust in God, then everything else will be well.  But if we first put our trust in human beings rather than God, no matter how much we love them, our relationships will sour, and we will eventually go our own separate ways.  When Jesus seems to be self-centered, he is really centered on all of us and what is best for our welfare, even though it may mean being immersed in his death.  He knows that our baptism into his death alone will lead to our rising to new and eternal life.  If we take the “worse, poorer, and sickness” of life and not just the pleasant parts of it, our love and hope will actually grow.

Taking up our crosses may seem like something terribly heroic that may demand our reputations and even our lives from us, but often it is a heroism expressed in the simplest ways.  A family welcomes a man of God to their table and offers him a room at their house whenever he is in town.  That is commitment.  Someone offers a cup of cold water to someone who is thirsty for love of God.  This is devotion.  In each case, you have to give up something of your time, your space, or your resources, but Jesus assures us that this giving up will have its rewards; this sacrifice will not go unnoticed.

In a world that is hurting because of the coronavirus pandemic, we can easily say, “Life is tough.  I need to take care of myself and my family before I think of anyone else.”  While the Lord challenges us not to think exclusively of them but of those who may be in even greater need and who would benefit from the “cup of cold water” we could offer them by helping with rent, assisting them in finding work, sharing some food with them, or enabling their parents to give the children a treat they might not otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy.  This can be a sacrifice, but in the end it will be a joy.

As we come face to face with racism in our world, it is easy to throw out slogans and to say the things that we are expected to say.  It is not so easy to sit down with a person who is different and realize your common humanity.  Here in this parish there are local people, as well as immigrants from Micronesia, Samoa, Latin America, the Philippines and many other places.  It is a joy for each of these groups to be able to celebrate their own particular cultures.  It is much more challenging for them to share the same space, to interact with each other with different languages and customs, and to act as one single family.  But what a blessing it is to have this opportunity to break down barriers and to appreciate that we are one human race with many beautiful variations.

The Lord wants to marry humanity, but he makes it clear, it is for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death – and even beyond death!  It is up to us to return those vows of devotion, loyalty and love to him.  Yes, we may have to suffer in doing so, but in the end, we will have the fullness of life and love in his presence and the presence of all he loves.