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Bishop's Homily for the Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time

August 20, 2023

[St. Damien of Molokai Church, Kaunakakai (Confirmation & First Communion)]

Worshipping the right God is the most important thing you can do!

We know that Jesus was very open to foreigners, and he had no problem associating with non-Jews.  He healed the son of a Roman centurion, and he praised the Samaritan who rescued a man beaten and left by the side of the road to die.  So why was he ignoring the pleas of the Canaanite woman, who begged him to heal her daughter from the grip of a demon?  My guess is that she was seeking some kind of magical healing of her daughter without any intention to praise and worship the true and living God of the Jews.  She wanted a product, and Jesus might be the one who could provide it for her.  So Jesus at first ignores her.  Gradually, she must have started to believe in him as God, and to recognize that, even though she was a foreigner, she was confident he would heal her daughter.  And then, when he saw her faith, Jesus did heal her daughter.

We can always approach God with a “what’s-in-it-for-me” attitude.  For example, we say, I go to Mass, because I like the music, I enjoy seeing the people, or I like Father So-and-So’s homilies; or I don’t go to Mass because I don’t like these things.  The reality is that we should go to Mass because we have been so blessed by God that we want to worship and praise him for all the gifts he has given us.  We might say that we want our child to be confirmed now so that we won’t have to bother taking him or her to religious education classes after this.  At the same time, we may miss the fact that all of us, no matter how old or how many years we study, need to learn more and more about our faith, because the Lord has given us a mission to share his Gospel with others and to do so in the most effective way possible.

Sometimes we can worship the god of convenience, giving praise to God when we feel like it, but neglecting him when we don’t.  Sometimes we worship the god of consumerism, running to God when we need something and expecting him to give it to us, but ignoring him when things are going well for us.  We can also worship the god of self, thinking that I am the one who makes all the ultimate decisions about life, truth and good and evil, as opposed to listening to the Word of the true and living God, who made us, knows us intimately, and loves us infinitely.

But God gives us many helps to drive out these evil spirits that cause us to worship false and selfish gods.  He gives us himself in the gift of the Holy Spirit, who anoints us, seals us, and marks us as God’s very own, so that he can guide us throughout our lives with his sevenfold gifts.  Every Sunday – indeed every day! – God gives us the gift of himself in the Eucharist, where the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ, makes himself truly present to us and allows us to take him into ourselves in a most intimate and holy communion.  The Eucharist is not just a sacred object we receive, but it is a living person who wants us to become one with him and with each other so that he can continue to reach out to others with his healing and merciful love through our hands.

Like the woman, perhaps we struggle with who we should really be worshipping: the gods of our own culture and our own choosing, or the true and living God.  Once we do homage to Jesus, the incarnation of the true and living God, things change.  The Lord is even more anxious to bless us, heal us, and embrace us in our needs.  It is for this reason that we gather here every Sunday, to be reminded that there is only one God, and that when we worship him, even if we have to suffer, he will always be with us to strengthen, heal, and love us.