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Bishop's Homily for the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

September 9, 2018

[Kula Catholic Community] 

St. James was right.  Sometimes there are people or realities we would just rather not let into our churches.  We welcome affirmations, beautiful surroundings, good music, and friendly people.  They are the ones that make us feel good, with their gold rings of goodness and beauty.  But then there are other things we would prefer to leave outside the door.  The current sex abuse scandal is one of those things we wish would just go away.  Though there is still much to be done to truly deal with it and hopefully get it behind us, let’s admit it, we are becoming very weary of its ugliness being paraded before us day after day.  But there are other realities we would rather leave at the door.  We are happy to talk about the joys of heaven and the saints, and to hope that we will one day be in that number.  But we would rather not talk about the terrors of hell and the real possibility that we could choose that eternal option for ourselves.  We are happy to rejoice in our outreach to the poor, in our programs for our youth, and all the wonderful things that are going on in our parishes.  But we would rather that any challenge to our own way of consuming that actually causes poverty for others would just stay outside the door.  We are happy to talk about safe issues that everyone will love to hear about, but when it comes to affirming the value of life from the first moment of conception to natural death, or the beauty of the genders that God bestows upon us, or the sacredness of marriage between one man and one woman, we would prefer to leave these realities outside the door. 

But just as Jesus opened the ears and loosened the tongue of the deaf-mute in the gospel, so he wants to open our ears and free our tongues.  

Yes, he wants to open our ears not only to hear the many sounds of his love and mercy, but to hear the discord that we allow to take over our lives – often, ironically, by denying that they have any place in our lives.  He wants us to hear the cries of the poor, so that their sufferings will move us to do whatever we can to work against poverty itself.  He wants us to hear the cries of the abused, so that we can work toward their healing by eliminating all sources of abuse and praying for the healing that only Jesus can accomplish.  He challenges our superficial holiness that covers over our sins, so that his true holiness can turn us away from our sins. 

And Jesus also wants to loosen our tongues.  He wants us to speak up for those who are voiceless, such as the unborn and the powerless poor.  He wants us to share the good news of his love with others rather than to silently enjoy it ourselves in the safety of our churches.  He wants us to speak to our legislators when they are enshrining sin rather than goodness into the laws of our land.  He wants us to speak up for the people suffering abuse, whether that is the horrible sexual abuse at the hands of a cleric, the abuse of power or prestige, domestic abuse, or the abuse of bullying in school or on line.  He wants our tongues to be loosened so that the very bad news of the sins of bishops and priests will never overpower the good news of his continual presence with us, and his love for us, even when we are sinners. 

The gospel is never only about what Jesus did long ago and far away, but also about what he is doing now.  Just as he overturned the corruption in the Temple two thousand years ago with his whips and cords, he is turning his beloved Church upside down at this moment, not as an act of hatred but as an act of merciful, purifying love.  Yes, it is true we would rather he deal with us by way of the well-groomed and mannered ways of gentility, but if he comes in unkempt and unsmiling, we also need to recognize his presence with us there as a transforming and ultimately loving presence. 

We therefore stand before Jesus, sinful and sorrowful, deaf to the plight of those who suffer and mute as the agents of their freedom, and we ask Jesus to look up to heaven for us, to emit his healing groan for his sinful people, and to pronounce anew his “Effata,”  “Be opened,” so that we can hear more clearly his glorious voice and speak more boldly of the cleansing fire of his love.