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Bishop's Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent

December 10, 2023

[Sacred Heart Church, Waianae]

I was speaking to a woman who was very distressed because she raised her daughter to be a faithful Catholic, taking her to Mass every Sunday, and assuring that she regularly attended religious education classes as she was growing up; but as a young adult, her daughter no longer attends Mass.  This weighs heavily on the mother.  (Sound familiar?)  So I asked the mother, “Do you ever talk to your daughter about how in the Mass we physically encounter Jesus, who loves us so much, and who wants to be with us to show us his love?”  She looked at me with surprise and said, “No, I was never taught to talk to her about Jesus and his love.  I am not sure I would be comfortable doing that.”  I told her that it was unlikely her daughter would return to Mass unless she felt some attraction of love, and that is certainly what the Mass is all about.

Mark begins his Gospel very simply:  “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.”  Mark makes it very clear that it is a person who is at the center of the Gospel, not commandments or programs, or even the person’s teachings.  The person of Jesus is central to our faith!  But how easy it is for us to forget this.  We often hear the exhortation, “Keep Christ in Christmas;” but we also need to say, “Keep Christ in Christianity.”

It is our duty and our salvation, the mission entrusted to us by Jesus himself, to proclaim the Gospel to others – to evangelize.  But we need to be aware of how we evangelize.  I have often heard people speak of evangelization and say things like, “We should invite people to our parish because we have such friendly people;” or “We have beautiful music;” or “We have a wonderful pastor;” or “We have so many great programs for all ages and needs.”  But do we ever talk about how Jesus makes himself physically present to us right here in the Eucharist, so that he can enter into us in a most intimate and holy communion?  Do we ever talk to people about the physical encounter with Jesus we can have here and nowhere else?  Yes, it is important that we have good programs, good music, and good pastors, but even if any of these things are not quite what they should be, we still have the presence of Jesus.  We need to be more explicit about this in inviting people into our Church, because without Jesus, none of these other people or programs in themselves are going to remain very attractive.  The same Jesus who was born in Bethlehem, died on the cross and rose from the dead, and who ascended into heaven, is the same Jesus who is the living Bread come down from heaven, who comes right here to love us with a love we can hardly fathom.

John the Baptist was sent as a messenger, and he had a message of repentance, but the centerpiece of his preaching was a person, the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world.  All the preparation was for one purpose, welcoming a person who was the Savior of the world.

Just as Mark did so simply and succinctly, it is our duty and our joy to focus on the center of our faith, Jesus Christ, and to proclaim the good news that he is with us here to love us and to make us more loving of each other, to call us into intimate communion with him.