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Bishop's Homily for the Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

July 17, 2022

[St. Raphael Church, Koloa (Confirmation & First Communion)]

I hope this homily will be interesting.  I wonder if the bishop worked on it?  Homilies can be so boring sometimes.  I hope the music will be uplifting.  I don’t like the kind of music they do at that parish; I prefer the music at another.  The people are friendly, for the most part, but I don’t want to go there because so-and-so goes to Mass there, and I would rather not see him.  I won’t be able to go to Mass on Sunday because we have a soccer game that morning.  Our family is going to the beach on Sunday, and I don’t want to miss it.  I will skip Mass because I need to get things ready for our day at the beach.

Perhaps you have heard people say something like the things I just said, and so they opt out of Sunday Mass.  I wonder if such people need to reflect on today’s Gospel, in which Jesus teaches that what is done at the dinner is not as important as who is at the dinner.  As you children prepare for your First Communion today, I imagine you may be nervous, as perhaps your parents are.  “Is her veil on straight?”  “Is his shirt tucked in?”  “Will they remember how to receive Communion reverently, and to say ‘Amen’ when the bishop says, ‘The Body of Christ’?”  “Will I be able to get good photos?”  It is natural for us to think of all these things.  But what is the most important thing to think about?  The fact that Jesus himself is here, and he allows us not only to sit at his feet and listen to his Word, as Mary did, but to become the food that we eat at this banquet!  Yes, how you are dressed is important, just as it was important for Martha to prepare and serve the meal.  (It was a dinner, after all!)  But Mary chose the better part by acknowledging the loving and mesmerizing presence of Jesus, and that better part was not to be taken from her.

Every Sunday (in fact, every day, if we are able!) Jesus is with us.  The same Jesus who ate and drank in that house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus two thousand years ago, is here with us physically every time we come to Mass.  By the power of the Holy Spirit poured forth in the words of the priest, the bread and wine we place on the altar are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ.  The One who loves us more than we can possibly imagine is with us here, and wants to enter into intimate communion with us and bring us into communion with all others who are members of his Body.

How easy it is for us to be so distracted by the people, the atmosphere, the music, or the preaching that we forget, as Martha did, that they are here for one purpose:  to encounter the risen, living Jesus Christ, just as Mary did.  If we realized WHO is here and how much he wants to show us his love, we would hunger to come back every Sunday to be with him.  We would never think of missing Sunday Mass except for the most serious reasons, because we would want to be close to our friend, our lover, our Savior and our Lord.

Now, I will admit that it is not always easy to have this attitude when there are so many other things to do in life.  How can we just sit at the feet of Jesus when we have so much serving to do?  Here is where the other sacrament you will be receiving today is so important, the sacrament of Confirmation.  Sometimes we can only do the right thing because the Holy Spirit moves us to do it.  He can help us focus on what is most important and give us the wisdom and courage to choose it.  And so it is important that we all remember that this gift of the Holy Spirit is a permanent gift, and that we can call upon him whenever we are in need to having the proper perspective restored to our often-disordered lives.  And once we have discovered the sheer joy of being in the presence of Jesus, as Mary did, we will learn the lesson that Jesus taught Martha:  that nothing is more important than being in his presence.

Just as this story has been told for two thousand years, we need to repeat it, so that today those who have become so distracted by the demands of life may turn to Jesus, sit at his feet, listen to his Word, and be nourished by the food that will bring us, not just good health and a long life, but joy beyond our imagination and eternal life.  How blessed we are that Jesus wants so much to be with us that he makes himself so accessible to us, so close to us whenever we come to share in this banquet of his love!