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Bishop's Homily for the Red Mass

January 17, 2023

(Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace [Speaker: Robert Van Tassel, CEO of Catholic Charities Hawaii])

I wish I could be a millionaire. I wish I could fly without an airplane. I wish that there will soon be peace in the world and justice for all. As we gather today, we are not here to engage in wishful thinking, in fantasies that may or may not come true. We are here to engage in something much more profound than wishing: hope. Yes, there is a certain bit of wishful thinking in hope, because we only hope for what is not yet seen or accomplished. If it is already a concrete reality, there is really no need for hope about it – certainly thanksgiving for the good things that we have been given, but not precisely hope.

The symbol of hope is the anchor, and this shows us that, while it deals with a yet-unaccomplished future, it is anchored firmly on something that keeps it from floating away in fantasy. And we are gathered here at this Red Mass precisely because we believe that anchor is Jesus Christ himself and all he has accomplished. If we have only our own ideas or ideologies, we are likely to fly off into whimsical fantasies. But if we are anchored in the law of God, who made us, knows us, and loves us, then there is great reason for hope.

We honor our lawmakers and those who must execute or judge the laws. But unless the laws we make and live out are anchored in the reality of God, who made the world and knows it through and through, we are bound to fly off and ultimately create more chaos than community, more ideology than human striving for what is true, good, and beautiful. This is why the anchor of faith, expressed in our prayer is essential for the good of our community.

In the Gospel we see that John the Baptist hoped that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, so he sent messengers from jail, where he has been confined because a tyrant chose his own law over the law of God. Jesus answers by pointing to what has already been accomplished and points out that hope has indeed been fulfilled.

After Communion today, we will have a reflection for the CEO of Catholic Charities Hawaii. It is our deepest hope that everyone in our community will live in dignity and not be robbed of that dignity by debilitating poverty. It is our hope that migrants and refugees be welcomed, even as our own ancestors were welcomed when they were migrants and refugees. It is our hope that people who deal with depression, domestic violence, or sex trafficking will be liberated. And there is good reason for our hope, because Catholic Charities Hawaii – and many other agencies – has accomplished so much already in bringing hope into people’s lives, a hope anchored in our faith in Jesus Christ. It is our hope that our churches and other social service agencies will work hand in hand with our government, not to fantasize about a world that will never be without our vision and efforts, but to anchor our vision and efforts in the hope that Jesus himself gives us.