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

August 29, 2021

[St. Philomena Church, Honolulu; Immaculate Conception Church, Ewa]

Very often when we have external symptoms like fever, dizziness or loss of appetite, the doctor will order internal tests so that what is going on inside the body can be diagnosed and then treated.  What happens outside is one thing, but often it is merely a symptom of what is happening inside, which can be much more serious.

So it was that Jesus confronted the Pharisees and saw the external symptom of their hypocrisy.  They claimed that they were holy and righteous, following the law of God, but in fact they were making up their own rules and imposing them on everyone else, as if they were gods themselves.  Once he identifies these external symptoms, however, Jesus goes down deeper to look into their hearts, from which came “evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.”  In other words, these were very sick people, and Jesus has diagnosed not just the symptoms but the diseases.

We live in a world full of discord.  This pandemic should have made us draw together to fight it together, but in fact has done just the opposite in so many ways.  It has caused a rift between those who push the vaccine because it helps preserve the common good, and those who, for a variety of reasons, are adamantly opposed to it.  It pits those who are in favor of more restrictions to contain the virus against those who think we have too many restrictions already.  This discord, however, is a symptom, and we need to diagnose its internal origins if we are ever to hope for real healing.

In many ways, people have been conditioned by our culture to believe just what they want to believe, to claim their own version of truth and reality, and to think that each person is the ultimate arbiter of good and evil.  And, in fact, it is a culture so sick that, like the Pharisees, it imposes its nonsensical beliefs on everyone else.  If I want to follow the science and affirm that a fetus is a child with a right to life, I will be ridiculed by those who choose to believe it is only a blob of tissue.  If I believe that God made the human race with male and female members, I may be branded a bigot by those who insist that you can have whatever gender you desire.  If we look deeper into ourselves, we will see that this is a symptom that we have strayed away from God, that what is in us can only defile, sicken, and lead to our dissolution as a community.  We have made each individual a separate god, so that the true and living God becomes competition and must be eradicated.

Today, however, we are celebrating the antidote to this disease.  God is going to fill these brothers and sisters from the inner core of their being with the gift of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Confirmation.  This is a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, of right judgement and courage, of knowledge and reverence, and of fear of the Lord  -- the opposites of the evils Jesus mentioned.  It is a Spirit who will dwell within them forever, to drive out all those other terrible things that can be within us and that defile us.  They will also take into their own bodies and souls the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, so that God may live in them in intimate communion.  It is in these sacraments that we find healing from those internal sicknesses that can lead to our eternal death, and that give us internal health to lead us to eternal life.

And when the Lord changes us by filling us with himself and living within us, there will be external “symptoms” or manifestations as well.  We will be more attentive to the Word of God, knowing that God’s law is the only one that can bring us true freedom.  We will be more willing to pour ourselves out in love and service to others, just as God has done for us in sending us Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  We may be very different from others – and in fact may be ridiculed by them – because we follow not some internal law we have manufactured ourselves, but the law of the One who made us, knows us, and wants only what is best for us.  There will be the symptom of joy, even in spite of trials and difficulties, because we will know that the source of this law is Love itself, the God who wants to make his home within us so that we will never be defiled but filled with peace and love.