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Bishop's Homily for the Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

July 5, 2020

[St. Patrick Church, Kaimuki (Pastor Installation); Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Honolulu]

I remember going to a workshop once in which a nationally known religious leader gave the keynote. This person has written many books and articles and was sought after for speaking engagements throughout the country and the world. She gave an extremely stimulating talk about prophecy – speaking God’s word in the midst of a people who are living contrary to God’s ways. This certainly was an important topic for our time – or any time. She spoke of how we need to get beyond our natural shyness before strangers and proclaim the gospel fearlessly in public.  It was a rousing talk, but something about it bothered me, though I could not quite put my finger on it.

During the break after the talk I met a woman who teaches the second grade.  This was someone who did her job, day in and day out, year after year, teaching one group of children after another some very basic lessons.  But she did not at all fit the speaker’s definition of a prophet.  She was not raising her voice to publicly confront deficiencies in the Church, in the government, or in the culture.  Then it occurred to me what bothered me about the talk.  Without good, dedicated second grade teachers, would anyone be able to achieve what this famous woman had achieved?  Then I began to think of ordinary moms and dads, people who seldom, if ever, appear in a public forum, but whose daily loving care as parents is one of the most important factors in building our Church, our society and our culture.  Sitting with a two-year-old and saying “See the pretty choo-choo” would not fit our speaker’s definition of a dedicated prophet of the Lord.  But thank God for parents and teachers who humble themselves out of love for their children!

Jesus reminds us today that, even though he may call some to be popes or prophets or great public servants, he is filled with joy when we see the wisdom of serving him in simplicity, in whatever way we are called to live.  Marriage is often a struggle, but the constant desire to grow in love, to forgive and reconcile, to be present in good times and bad, is to bear the Lord’s gentle yoke.  Being a good student – and none of us should ever stop being a good student – is to simply be in awe of the wonderful things that God has done and continues to do in our lives.  Playing with children and helping them to feel loved probably has more lasting effect on the world that the act of any congress.  Offering prayers for the sick, the lonely, or for peace in the world does not require a Ph.D. or extensive training, but we must never underestimate the power contained there.

Most of us will have peak moments in which we feel the great love of God touch us deeply – a wedding, an ordination, the birth of a child, a First Communion. But Jesus himself thanks God that he reveals himself in the most ordinary ways, ways that would not be of any interest to the media and that we ourselves may find a bit burdensome in their routine.  Yet if we remember that this burden, this yoke on our necks, if it is the Lord’s yoke, is easy and light.

The current topic du jour in the media is racism.  This is, of course, an extremely important topic and one we should not forget about once the media cycle moves on to something else.  And while there is a place for strong statements and perhaps even demonstrations, we have to be careful that we do not think the problem will be solved by throwing words at it or making noise about it.  It will be solved if we do the simple task of looking into our own hearts and asking the Lord to purify them so that they will be open to all brothers and sisters; or if we open our eyes to see how certain groups are not treated with dignity and ponder what we can do to change that.  This may seem too simplistic to some, but the Lord teaches us that often the simplest solutions are the most lasting.

We also know our country is divided over the issue of abortion.  And there is a need for prophets who raise their voices and expose the lie that a fetus is not a human life that deserves respect from the first moment of conception.  Participating in marches, signing petitions, and voting for the right representatives are all ways we can be prophetic in promoting a culture of life.  But perhaps something more simple could also be effective, like letting our children and their friends know that every life is precious, and that if they ever find themselves in a situation where they might be thinking of ending a life, we will be there to support them and help them preserve that life.  No one beyond our family may know we have done this, but it would probably be more effective in the long run that a dozen highly articulate speakers.

The risen Jesus makes himself present in the most ordinary of elements, bread and wine.  Through this presence he makes us more and more like himself, meek and humble of heart.  If we realize that this simple yet marvelous gift of his presence is with us always, we will realize that all the daily burdens we bear and the simple loving interactions we have with one another, are the source of our own strength and of God’s own joy.