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Bishop's Homily for the Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time

August 22, 2021

[St. Anthony Church, Wailuku (installation of pastor); St. Theresa Church, Kihei (installation of pastor)]

It’s shocking!

What Jesus teaches is shocking.  Sometimes we hear it so often that it no longer has much of an impact upon us.  Sometimes we are so familiar with it that we either take what he says for granted or, worse, simply choose not to believe it.

Jesus said he was the living bread come down from heaven, and that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we will not have life within us; but if we do, we will have eternal life, and he will raise us up on the last day.  This was shocking when Jesus first said it, causing some of his disciples to walk away from him as a crazy, deranged person.  Today, of course, there are some who still walk away, thinking this kind of talk is simply nonsense.  But there are others who stay but who do not really believe.  A survey taken several years ago of American Catholics indicated that about 70% do not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but think of it as merely a symbol or a reminder of his Presence.  Perhaps these people have decided, too, that what Jesus said is too shocking, but they still like the benefits of fellowship with fellow Catholics.  Perhaps others simply do not believe how shocking is Jesus’ desire to be with us, and therefore keep him at arm’s distance.

Joshua’s challenge to the people of Israel in the first reading is very relevant to this issue.  We have to decide if we are for Jesus and all he teaches, or against him by watering down what he teaches and insisting on our own point of view.  We can no longer straddle the issue or water it down, but allow ourselves to be shocked each time we participate in this incredible encounter with Jesus that is the Eucharist.  We have to decide whether we can accept the fact that Jesus wants to be our Bridegroom, entering so intimately into communion with us that we actually become one with him, members of his very Body, of which he is the head; or whether we will simply keep him safely in his place, confining him to one hour a week in church.

It is shocking to think that Jesus, who died and ascended into heaven, still walks the earth today through us, who very often do not look very Christ-like.  Yet he is truly present with us so that he can unite us to himself and make us – with him – instruments of healing and wonder in the world.

It is shocking to think that Jesus lives in our own homes, when we who become members of his Body here make him present there.  He heals the wounds of our families, listens to those who are troubled, and celebrates life with joy in simple ordinary ways because he is still very much alive and present through us, the members of his Body.

It is shocking to think that Jesus, even today, can cast out demons of hatred, of vengeance, of racial and political discord.  We often have the attitude that he is dead and gone and has simply left us a legacy of teachings that help guide us on our way.  But it is shocking to realize that he is not long-ago, far-away, and once upon a time, but even more present to us that we are to ourselves.  We do not have to wonder “What would Jesus do?” if he were here, but we can realize that he is indeed here, physically present among us, not only to guide us, but to make us instruments of healing as members of his Body.

When we reach out with our resources to the suffering people of Haiti, or we lift up our prayers for the frightened people of Afghanistan, it is Jesus himself who is doing so.  When we teach our children to pray and to listen to the living Word of God, it is Jesus himself who is teaching through us, the members of his Body.  When we suffer persecution because we raise our voices to defend the unborn, to affirm the value and dignity of the gift of sexuality God has entrusted to us according to his plan, or when we confront those who are truly oppressive of others and rob them of their human dignity, it is – shockingly! – Christ Jesus himself who does so through his living Body.  He makes himself one flesh and one spirit with us whenever we eat his flesh and drink his blood here in the Eucharist, and when he draws together as one not only those we like, but even those we may not like so much, reminding us that he loves us all.  What a shocking thing that is!  Yet it is what we are challenged to believe, as incredible as it may seem, because we know that Jesus is the Holy One of God who has the words of eternal life.  Encountering him here is meant to shock us out of our complacency and our sinfulness, so that in intimate communion with Jesus we can shock the world with his love.