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Bishop's Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

June 14, 2020

[Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa, Honolulu (with initiation of Elect)]

“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen; nobody knows but Jesus.”

These words of a familiar spiritual song come to mind as I reflect on the state of our world today.  There are racial tensions in our cities and in our streets.  There is the suffering brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, ranging from loss of work and driving some people deeper into poverty, to an increase in domestic violence and suicide, to a heightened sense of suspicion about whose word to trust.  There is a double standard when we rightly insist that Black lives matter yet also insist that a baby’s life only matters if her mother wants it to matter.  There is a polarization of viewpoints, such that anyone who thinks differently than I do must be demonized.  There was a time when if one made a logical argument about something, everyone would see the logic and agree, but now logic does not matter if it goes against what I want to believe.  There is physical bullying, cyber-bullying, and bullying by the “thought police,” who insist we must think as they do.

Nobody knows the trouble we’ve seen.  Nobody knows but Jesus.  But where is Jesus in all of this?  Where is a Savior when you need him?  Has he abandoned us to our sinful ways and deserted us in the desert of our troubles and woes?  We are not so different from our ancestors, the Hebrews, who complained and complained about their deprivations, while ignoring both the fact that God had already freed them from slavery and that he had promised them a land flowing with milk and honey.  When they were hungry, God gave them bread from heaven in the form of that miraculous food called manna that sustained them for forty years, but they even complained about that after a while.

Jesus knows our troubles and has by no means abandoned us!  He suffered through the most horrible human sufferings, including bullying, thought-policing, and illogical injustice.  It was so intense for him that he died on a criminal’s cross.  But he rose from the dead, conquering sin and death, then ascended into heaven.  So, great, we might think.  He left us on our own, suffering here below while he is in the glory of heaven.  No, in fact, he has not left us on our own!  This is why we celebrate this feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord.  He is the living bread come down from heaven.  He is here with us physically, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, in this sacrament of the Eucharist.  The early disciples were afraid of going out because they wisely knew there was a price on their heads because they were disciples of Jesus, but when they encountered the risen Jesus physically, even for a brief moment, it changed everything.  It gave them the courage to go out and to proclaim that real salvation had come to the world in the person of Jesus.  And though we do not see the risen Jesus with our eyes, happy are we who have not seen and who still believe that this simple sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ is his continuing presence with us that alone can transform us and transform the world.

Like our ancestors, we were freed from slavery to sin in our Baptism and in our Confirmation, when were sealed by the Holy Spirit of God.  Like our ancestors, we are on a journey that wearies us, challenges us, and tempts us to lose hope.  Like our ancestors, we are promised a land flowing with milk and honey that lasts forever.  Like our ancestors, we need food to sustain us in the journey from the glory of liberty to the glory of eternal life.  But unlike our ancestors who ate the manna and died nonetheless, we are given the living bread come down from heaven, Jesus himself, who is truly present in the Eucharist, so that even if we die we may live forever.  What an amazing gift this is, that God, the almighty, the all-powerful, who created the entire universe in all its diverse splendor, should love each one of us so much that the Son of God makes himself food and drink for us!  By his cross and resurrection he has set us free, and he is the Savior of the world!  But his salvation is not just a long-ago, once upon a time salvation, but one that affects us here, now, today.

But there is something even more miraculous – and scary at the same time!  The risen Body of Jesus continues to be present in this world to bring it healing and to purify it in the truth, and it is present through us, who by our Baptism and Confirmation and by partaking of this wonderful sacrament of the Eucharist, become the living members of the Body of Christ physically present in this world.  It is this Body of Christ that now walks among the scribes and Pharisees of our day to insist that their supposed wisdom is nothing compared to the truth that is found in God alone.  It is the Body of Christ that heals divisions among races, tribes, and nations.  It is the living Body of Christ that alone can tell a world so weary of its woes that it longs to go back to slavery to keep moving forward on the journey toward eternal life, no matter how hard it may seem.  The Body may still be bullied by criticism, threatened with extinction, or crucified by those who simply have no grasp of the truth; but it keeps moving forward joyfully, knowing its Head has gone before it and is awaiting the birth of the rest of his Body into Paradise.  The Body of Christ comes together not to blissfully ignore the troubles and woes of the world, but to embrace them with a vision of eternal life that can be achieved by eating the flesh of the Son of Man and drinking his Precious Blood.

Yes, we sing, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen; nobody knows but Jesus.”  But we who are the members of the Body of Christ never give up hope as we sing to all the world in the midst of its most tumultuous troubles, “Glory!  Hallelujah!”