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Bishop's Homily for the Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time

June 25, 2023

[Sacred Heart Church, Pahoa (Confirmation/First Communion), Malia Puka O Kalani Church, Hilo (Confirmation/First Communion), St. Joseph Church, Hilo (Confirmation/First Communion)]

You may be aware that every new bishop has to choose a motto that will mark his ministry as a bishop.  I chose “Witness to Jesus” as my motto.  It is from the Book of Revelation, Chapter 19.  Why did I choose it?  Because I know the Catholic Church is known for many things:  parishes, schools, hospitals and social service organizations; doctrines and moral teachings; a complex hierarchy including the Pope, Cardinals, bishops and archbishops, priests, deacons, etc.  It has many programs:  youth ministry, ministry to the sick, grief ministry, outreach to the poor, prison ministry and many others.  It has many rituals.  And because of all these things – which are all important – it is sometimes easy for us to forget that all of this exists because God loves us so much that he sent us his only Son, Jesus, to live among us, to give his life for us, and to conquer our greatest enemy, death, in his resurrection.  When all is said and done, if we forget about Jesus, all of these other things become much less important or even meaningless for some.

That is why we are together today – and why we come together every Sunday, and every time we celebrate Mass – to encounter the real, living, risen and alive person of Jesus.  He did not just live in the past tense, but he lives with us here and now.  Just as he breathed on his apostles the night of his resurrection to give them the gift of the Holy Spirit, so he does today when we anoint our candidates for Confirmation and seal them with the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It is Jesus himself who is breathing out that Spirit upon them to set them on fire with his love, and to give them this gift that will lead them to all truth, if they continually listen to his voice.

We also will be giving our brothers and sisters their First Holy Communion.  This is not merely some sacred object, but it is a person, the person of Jesus himself, who gives us his body and  blood, soul and divinity, in the appearances of bread and wine.  The same Jesus who taught his disciples two thousand years ago, who was born in Bethlehem, died on the cross and rose from the dead, is here, physically present with us.  And he is not only physically present, but he wants to enter us, to be in the most intimate and holy communion with us, so that we can forever be one with him who is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

If you think of this as simply a ritual and not as an encounter with someone who loves you more than you can possibly imagine, it is likely that you will wander away from the faith, that you will be bored with the Mass, and that you will find other things to do on a Sunday morning.  But if you understand – with the help of the Holy Spirit – that Jesus is longing to live in you and wants to renew his presence with you at least every week, you will never tire of coming here, even if the externals, such as music or preaching, are not as engaging as we would like them to be.

Jesus wants to be with us, not only because he loves us, but because he has a mission that he began but has not yet fully accomplished.  He wants to be in us so that wherever we are, he can be.  He wants to be in our homes, our schools, our places of work, our sports activities – wherever we are – and he can be there when he lives in us.  Jesus wants to continue healing the sick, and he does so through those in whom he lives whenever we pray for the sick or care for them.  I have heard many stories of people who were very ill, but recovered, and they are sure it was because of the prayers and love poured out upon them by the Christian community, the Body of Christ.  There are many affected by evil spirits, whether of depression or spirits that lead them into self-destructive paths, and Jesus wants to drive out these evil spirits through us, the members of his living Body, who are in intimate communion with him.  Jesus wants to continue bringing good news to the poor through us, whenever in his name we reach out to them, sharing our love and resources to assure their proper dignity.  So it is always important to remember that Jesus is alive and active among us.

Yes, there will still be a complex of rituals and hierarchical structures, of programs and institutions in the Church, and they are all important.  But they are important for one reason:  They all allow us the opportunity to proclaim that Jesus is alive and well, and to joyfully give witness to Jesus.