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Bishop's Homily for the Twenty-Nineth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 17, 2021

[St. Stephen Diocesan Center Chapel, Kaneohe; Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Honolulu]

Now that most of us are so dependent on our computers, ransomware is a new crime we have to deal with.  Someone hacks into your computer and holds your personal information hostage, then demands a high monetary payment to just walk away and leave you alone; or else your hard work that is stored on your computer is gone in an instant.  It is very insidious.  But suppose someone said, “I will pay your ransom,” so that you can be at peace (after, of course, you change your passwords and other security measures!).  You would be incredibly grateful to that person.  It would be an act of pure kindness and generosity on his or her part.

We are aware of a ransom that is demanded when someone is kidnapped, and we want so desperately to get the person back that we might seriously consider paying the ransom.

What we reflect upon today is that we are all held hostage by Satan.  He wants to claim our very souls.  He is extremely cunning and crafty in his methods of deceiving us, luring us along a primrose path that leads ultimately to eternal death and destruction.  And, although none of us has experienced that fate, we have seen glimpses of his insidious ways in our lives.

We know we are right about something, and we insist upon our righteousness even when it destroys relationships.  We think others are evil, but we do not bother to analyze their motives and what causes them to do the things they do.  We pour the gasoline of pride upon a fire of conflict and start a forest fire rather than planting an olive branch of reconciliation.  We, like James and John in our gospel today, strive to be close to Jesus and in the process we forget that his desire is not to be close to one or two people only, but to all.  We acquire wealth, which can be a good thing, but then we hoard it rather than share it with the poor and needy, and wealth becomes a god to us rather than a servant for us.  We know we are sinners and imperfect, but we despair of God’s mercy and love and so fall into a depression or into suicidal behavior.  In short, we are held hostage by Satan in many ways.

But we celebrate and give thanks because Jesus has already paid our ransom.  Perhaps we have not realized this, and so we continue on in our fearful and wayward ways.  He paid the ransom not with money, but with his own blood, his own body, his own life.  He who is completely without sin, took our sins upon himself.  He who is who did nothing to open the door to Satan’s ways, gives himself to shut the door on Satan’s power over us sinners.  Jesus was the gift that God was pleased to give us, even though he knew Jesus would be crushed for our sake and would suffer as the ransom paid to free us.  He was crushed as grapes are crushed, so that the fruit of the vine could become the saving blood that would wash us.  He was crushed as olives are crushed, so that his wounds might pour out balm on our own and provide the fuel to burn away our tired excuses and to make us glow with the fire of his love.

It is not easy to remember when Satan puts his “gun” of evil to our head that our ransom has already been paid, but when we remember this in this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, we know that in the end Satan can only shoot blanks and nothing that will kill us forever.  We celebrate the Eucharist to remember the death of the Lord, so that his resurrected life may call us into his kingdom.

But beware, because the one who gives himself as our ransom from sin and death wants us to do the same for others.  He gives us an example so that, joined to him, we can be crushed for others so that we can pour over them the healing balm of love.  It is for this reason that Jesus sends us out to all the world to share the good news of his love with others.  There are so many who are still held captive by sin and Satan or who are so captivated by themselves that they do not even know they have been taken hostage.  As Jesus was immersed in the troubles, woes and sufferings of others, so he calls us to be baptized into his sufferings and to drink the cup of his self-sacrificing love.  His power over Satan will multiply enormously the more of us claim and use this power he has given us to lay down our lives for one another and to offer ourselves, with Jesus, as a ransom so that others may be freed.

This is what it means to walk with others, which is the meaning of the word “synod.”  Today we begin the diocesan phase of the synod of our Church, so that Jesus can truly be the ransom of all who are in need of freedom from Satan’s bonds, whether individuals, institutions, or cultures.  We pray that our diocese’s participation in the process leading to the Synod of Bishops in 2023 will be fruitful in bring more and more people to lay down their lives with Jesus, to drink the cup of his suffering and rejection, so that they may be soaked in his love.