Celebrating our Faith during COVID-19

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Bishop's Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent

December 13, 2020

[Sacred Heart Church, Punahou; Holy Trinity Church, Kuliouou]

“Rejoice always!” St. Paul tells us.

Even when there is a pandemic that is so radically changing our lives?  Even when there are such deep political divisions within our country and in our Church?

“Pray without ceasing.  In all circumstances give thanks,” he goes on.

Even when so many people are getting sick?  Even when people are losing their jobs and there are already more and more people living on the streets?

We are often faced with a choice.  We can pay attention to prophets of doom and even become messengers of doom as we become overwhelmed with all of the terrible things that are happening in our world.  An attitude of doom leads to darkness, and never to light.  A perspective of constant calamity will sharpen our anger, which can then become a destructive force, since as we have seen in the civil unrest in so many of our cities, or in the emotional violence that is perpetrated every day on the internet.  Or we can face all of these terrible realities and in spite of them rejoice and give thanks.  We may appear to others as crazed and naïve, but if we do not despise prophetic utterances of true prophets, we will have the will and the energy to really change darkness into light.

One of the most pressing issues in our country and our world is the erosion of respect for life, the normalization of such a brutal and savage practice as abortion, and the hidden and legal violence that is done to more babies than the Holocaust perpetrated against six million Jews during the Nazi regime.  We can spend our time criticizing others who believe women should always have the choice of ending the lives of their babies or screaming at the top of our lungs about the injustice of it all, but that has obviously not been a highly successful tactic.  Or we can rejoice in life itself, rejoice in children, and rejoice in those who sacrifice so much to struggle to care for their children.  I believe such a spirit of gratitude will accomplish more than a million harangues in bringing liberty to all those little captives in their mothers’ wombs.

We can complain and criticize our government for not doing more for the homeless so that they can find a decent way to live.  But I have found that those who are able to bring the best news to these poor brothers and sisters are those who rejoice in coming to know them, who give thanks for their presence, and who can then become positively engaged in bringing glad tidings to the poor by really changing their circumstances.

We can constantly criticize a spouse or a child because he or she is not living up to our expectations, but this usually leads to more divisions in our marriages and families.  Or we can rejoice that these people, imperfect as they may be, are in our lives to offer us the opportunity to love them and to be loved by them, so that we engage less in breaking hearts and more in healing the brokenhearted.  Giving thanks for them constantly can change our perspectives and our relationships for the better.

The prophet John the Baptist, who was chosen and sent to prepare the way of the Lord, was not a man who ignored the sinfulness of the world or who was shy about pointing out even the hidden faults of others.  Yet he rejoiced in the coming of a Savior, whose very presence would change the world.

We who are gathered here have been given the special privilege of intimately knowing the Lord Jesus, the Christ, the Anointed One.  We open our hearts to hear his Word and be shaped by it.  We open our mouths and our hearts to be fed by the living Bread come down from heaven for the life of the world.  We experience a love beyond all telling in Jesus.  And so, like John the Baptist, we are called to prepare the way of the Lord so that others may come to know him, and so that his risen Body present in his Church can bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives, and insist that it is a time of favor of the Lord, even when others see it as a time of gloom and doom.  We are challenged to be alert to the deadening droning and complaining of the world and to offer a fresh and liberating perspective.  How do we do this?

Rejoice always in the Lord!