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Bishop's Homily for Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

April 10, 2022

[Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Honolulu]

This Friday, April 15, is the anniversary of the death of Father Damien, who, as we know, was ordained a priest in this very Cathedral.  As he was lying in state before his Funeral Mass, I imagine all the people he served filing by to pay their respects to this man who laid down his very life for them.  You could imagine Damien saying, as each one passed by, “This is my body, which was given up for you.”  In the same way we can think of a soldier who gave up his life to defend his homeland and his loved ones; or a front-line healthcare worker during the pandemic, who herself succumbed to COVID.  We can think of those who do not die, but who still offer their bodies so that others may have a more abundant life:  the mother who experiences a dangerous pregnancy, but never gives up hope; the exhausted social worker who reaches out to the homeless in their myriad needs; the teacher dedicated to teaching the most challenging children; the parents who work several jobs between them and who still take good care of their children; the teen who stands up for a classmate being bullied and risks becoming bullied herself.

In his last calm moments before his arrest, trial, and horrible death, Jesus, dining with his disciples, “took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.’”  Here was the one who was God himself, who had humbled himself to take human flesh, who deserved to be acclaimed with “Hosanna in the highest” and who became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Here he was about to give his all, and he gave much more than the inspiring memories so many other heroes and heroines had left behind.  He gave a living sacrament of his enduring presence with us, his giving up everything because he longed to free us from our sins.  He endured the beatings, the buffets, the spitting, and the shame of being deemed a criminal deserving of death.  He held nothing back from us.  But unlike other people who give up their lives for others, his sacrificial death would not be simply an inspiring memory, but a deed that would go on forever.  He did not say, “Remember me by this gesture of taking, blessing, breaking and giving bread and wine,” but “do this in memory of me.”  Of course, he rose from the dead and conquered death itself, but he wanted us to do what he did, to give up our lives for one another.  He therefore gives us this gift of the Eucharist to be with us forever, to remind us of his sacrificial death and glorious resurrection, and to feed us with his very self, so that we can become what we eat.  And once we do, he calls us to remember who we are, that we are people destined for eternal glory and resurrection from the dead.  He does this so that we may be strengthened to sacrifice ourselves that others may live more abundantly and live forever in the presence of God.  He gives us the courage to accept our crosses obediently and humbly, as he did, knowing that if we do, we will one day be with him in paradise.

Yes, memories of heroic people can sustain us, but nothing gives us more courage and joy than to ­do what Jesus did in memory of him, so that a hungry world, starving for peace and love, may, through our Holy Communion with Christ, be admitted to the eternal banquet of God’s kingdom.