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Bishop's Homily for the Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

July 31, 2022

[St. Ann Church, Waihee (Installation of Pastor); St. Rita Church, Haiku (100th Anniversary of Parish); St. Anthony Church, Wailuku (Confirmation & First Communion)]

A catastrophic house fire.  A devastating earthquake.  A huge tsunami.  An unexpected lava flow.  These are all very real situations that have turned people who had a comfortable, if not a luxurious, home into paupers.  Unlike the man in the Gospel who was only thinking of himself, people who experience these disasters may be the most generous people you can imagine.  Yet whatever materials possessions we own can be gone in an instant.  This does not mean, of course, that we should not provide good housing for our families and the resources we need to live decent human lives.  It simply reminds us that “vanity of vanities; all things are vanity.”  And, of course, no matter how elaborate a funeral a person may have, they take nothing materials with them to their place of eternal (we hope!) rest.

But that does not mean that we should not invest in the future.  On the contrary, Jesus urges us to do so always, but the treasure he is referring to is a treasure that we can take with us beyond the grave, a treasure that will last forever, that no disaster can destroy nor any thief steal.  It is the treasure of faith in God.  It should be the fervent hope of everyone not to be rich or powerful in this world, but to prepare for eternal life, where we will be happy forever with God.  And while eternal life is a gift from God, we can best receive the gift and appreciate it if we treasure it here and now.

There is nothing more important we can do than what we are doing at this moment as we celebrate the Eucharist together.  Here we listen to the Word of God, which is the voice of Jesus himself, and we try to digest that Word and let it nourish us so that we can grow in it.  Sometimes it comforts us, and sometimes it challenges us, but learning to live by it is a treasure that no one can take from us.  But even more wonderful is the fact that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us in the person of Jesus, and that the same Jesus is physically present with us in the Eucharist, not just to live among us, but to live within us in an intimate communion with him.

It is here that we most diligently invest in our eternal happiness and prepare for our everlasting future.  But how easily we are tempted to see our own pleasures, our own leisure, our own pursuits as more valuable than this pearl of great price!  We do need a specific kind of vision to see clearly that all these other things will pass away, but the heavenly love we experience in Jesus will never pass away.  It will sustain us always!

This why we make such a festive occasion of Confirmation and First Communion.  In them we receive not just some valuable object, but the person of God himself.  In Confirmation the Holy Spirit, symbolized by the Sacred Chrism, marks, seals, kisses, and oozes down into every pore of our being to make us his own forever and to strengthen us to see real value and distinguish it from what is only vanity.  In Holy Communion, we receive Jesus Christ himself, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, so that we may more fully understand his great love for us.  He loves us so much that he died on the cross to save us from our sins, though he himself was sinless, and to raise us up on the last day to live with him forever.  Coming here Sunday after Sunday, day after day, to celebrate the Eucharist may not seem to be so valuable; it may seem boring at times.  But on this earth, there is no better gift we can be given than this physical embrace of God himself.  The bigger the barns we build for Jesus in our hearts, the more expansive our hearts become, not to hoard him for ourselves but to share his love with others.

This is what the pastors of the Church are called to do every Sunday and every day of the year:  to help us widen our capacity for the truest treasure on earth, the love of Christ.  This is why parishes exist:  to gather us around the altar of worship and praise so that we can expand our capacity to love by caring for all those around us, whether the sick, the poor, the grieving, or the confused.  It is here that we build our capacity to enjoy and appreciate gifts that can never pass away, the gift of eternal life.