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Bishop's Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter

April 14, 2024

[St. Joseph Church, Hilo (Confirmation & First Communion), Holy Rosary Church, Pahala (Confirmation & First Communion), Sacred Heart Church, Pahoa (Confirmation & First Communion)]

While I am not expert in Greek, I would like to speak about a particular Greek word that is sometimes used to describe the Mass, the Eucharist: anamnesis. We are all familiar with amnesia, which means someone forgets something or loses the ability to remember. The “an” that goes before it in Greek indicates the opposite; in this case the opposite of forgetting. This is, of course, “remembering.”  And didn’t Jesus, when he gave us the Eucharist say, “Do this in remembrance of me”? We also refer to the Eucharist as a memorial sacrifice, a living remembrance of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

I mention this, because this day is a day to be remembered forever – but not just as something that happened in the past, but rather as something that sharpens our memory that God is always with us.

You see, the people who put Jesus to death, as St. Peter reminds them, did not remember many things about their own Jewish faith, including that the Messiah, the Savior, must suffer and so enter into his glory.  Peter reminded them of this, actually risking his own life to do so, because many of them did not want to remember that they were the ones who put Jesus to death.  Then there are the disciples, the friends of Jesus, and they, too, forgot that he had told them he must suffer and then rise from the dead.  When they saw him standing right before him, they thought he was a ghost, some specter of the past.  But, in fact, he was truly alive, standing right before them, showing them the wounds he had suffered for them on the cross, but clearly showing his victory over suffering and death.

We, too, can forget that Jesus is really and truly present with us, in the breaking of bread, in this Eucharist we celebrate today and every day.  Like the disciples who walked with the risen Jesus on the road but did not recognize him until he took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to them; so we sometimes do not recognize Jesus because he hides himself under the appearance of bread and wine.  But we are challenged never to forget that the same Jesus who died on the cross and rose from the dead, is physically present right here with us in this “breaking of the bread,” in this Eucharist, in this Mass.  Long ago, he ate a piece of baked fish to demonstrate that he was no ghost, but was truly alive with a body risen from the dead.  Today he gives himself to us so that we can remember that we are no dead body, but the living Body of Christ, who lives in us whenever we come to receive him in this most intimate and holy Communion.

Very often we forget – have amnesia – that Jesus is here with us now.  We act as if he only lived in the past tense, long ago, far away, and once upon a time.  But he is here now with us.  He comes into us so that we can be so filled with love that we will want to turn away from sin, to repent.  When we receive him in Holy Communion, he can be present in our homes, in our schools, on our sports teams or dance classes, or wherever we find ourselves.  We try to form our lives on the question, “What would Jesus do?”  That implies, “What would be do IF he were still here?”  No, we are challenged to remember that he is still here, Body and Blood, soul and divinity, especially when we encounter him in the Eucharist.

We can only see this reality by the power of faith.  Some may think we have lost our minds by thinking that Jesus, who lived two thousand years ago, can be physically with us today.  But we know better.  It is the Holy Spirit you will receive in a special way in the sacrament of Confirmation who can enlighten and inspire you with his wisdom, understanding, and knowledge to remember what so many forget:  that Jesus is no ghost or phantom or the invention of our imagination, but he is truly present with us here and now.

If we never forget this, Jesus’ presence with us and within us, will enable us to do incredible things in bringing light and love to the lives of others.  We are called here every Sunday – and more often, if possible – so that we never have amnesia about this, and so that we always remember that Jesus is risen and lives with us and in us today, so that through us he can take his love wherever we go.  Never forget!