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Bishop's Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent

December 11, 2022

[St. Damien of Molokai Parish, Kaunakakai (with installation of pastor)]

Another bishop recently related a conversation he had with a young man.  The young man said he was very discouraged because so many terrible things are happening in the world, and very little good.  The bishop asked him where he got the information that led to that conclusion, and the young man answered that he learned it all on the news.  The bishop told him that perhaps he should stop watching the news for a while, since it does tend to focus on the negative things that happen, and begin paying attention to all the good things that happen around him.

It seems that young man may have been like John the Baptist, who was keenly aware of sin, since his whole message was one of repentance.  At this point in the Gospel, John was even the victim of the sin he was railing against, since he was put in prison for daring to tell the truth about the need for the world to convert.  His message became a little too personal and a little too embarrassing for the king, and so he was imprisoned in order to silence him.  The world was a gloomy place.  In the midst of this, there was glimmer of hope, but John was not quite sure.  So he sent messengers to Jesus to ask if he was the one who was to come, or if the world still had to wait longer.

Jesus’ reply is not to point out how the world was headed for hell in a handbasket, but to remind John and his disciples to open their eyes to the wonders already being worked:  opening the eyes of the blind, clearing the ears of the deaf, loosening the mute tongue so it could sing, healing the sick, proclaiming good news to the poor, and even raising from the dead.  The one who accomplished all these things was right there in their midst, and it was he, Jesus.

We can easily be skeptics about the world, too.  We can be so jaded by the bad news we hear every day, that we fail to appreciate the good news that is all around us.

Last Friday I celebrated a Mass for the closing of the 75th anniversary celebration of Catholic Charities Hawaii.  This is an organization that, in the name of Jesus – in the name of the Catholic Community, which is the Body of Christ, the good news is constantly proclaimed to the poor by helping them with housing, job training, counseling, and learning life skills.  I attended a meeting of St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii, which, during the pandemic, visited many lonely seniors, taking the food and the salve of human contact they so desperately missed during the lockdown.  I worked with a group of parishioners who want to bring healing to those who are suffering mental health or spiritual challenges by creating supportive programs where they can be listened to with compassion and love.  And then there are the teachers and catechists who so generously give their time day in and day out to share the beauty of their faith with others.  I met with some dedicated people who are trying to organize fellow parishioners to work to strengthen marriage and family life.  All these things are the continuation of the ministry of the Lord Jesus, and the concrete proclamation of the Kingdom of God.

We do not hear much about these things in the news, but they are very real and much more pervasive than the bad news that is often the focus of the media.

Just as Jesus set the record straight for John the Baptist by reminding him to open his eyes to the wonders of God and not just to the sins of the world, so that bishop did for that young man.  So we are all called to do for one another.  If we listen only to the voices of doom and gloom, which announce all the terrible things happening in the world, we can lose sight of the fact that Jesus has already come, and that those who believe in him are doing the marvelous works he began, and doing them in his name.  Yes, there is still much more he needs to do to overcome all the very real bad news in our world, so we cry out for the second coming of Jesus to definitively establish his kingdom of justice, love, and peace.  But notice the high praise Jesus gives to John the Baptist, who was chosen to prepare the way of Jesus, the Messiah:  “among those born of woman there has been none greater than John the Baptist.”  But also notice he adds:  “Yet, the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”  It is our joy and our mission, our duty and our salvation to be those who prepare the world for the second coming of Christ by proclaiming the good news of his continued healing presence with us in the Eucharist, and his continued self-giving love pour out in his Body, the Church.