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Bishop's Homily for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

January 14, 2024

[St. Stephen Diocesan Center, Kaneohe (Rite of Admission to Candidacy for Permanent Deacon Aspirants); Our Lady of the Mount Church, Kalihi (Santo Niño Fiesta)]

Listen!

Can you hear the cries of a teenaged woman who is single and pregnant, and whose boyfriend has abandoned her?  Can you hear her embarrassment and her anguish about telling her parents as she decides what to do with the baby?

Can you hear the anguish of our brothers and sisters in Myanmar, Ukraine, or the Holy Land, who are suffering so much because of the war that is raging around them?

Can you hear the lament of the teen who thinks there is nothing to live for and who is contemplating ending life now?

We could go on and on with the litany of laments that people all around us are crying out, whether they are shouting or simply holding their screams in the silence of their own hearts.  We will only hear them if we engage in the kind of discipleship that allows us to say to the Lord, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Listening, however, is a skill that must be honed.  It took Samuel -- and even the great prophet Eli -- three attempts to finally realize who was calling Samuel, even though they were both very close to the Lord, sleeping in his temple.  And while it seems that Andrew and his brother Simon were quick learners, they, too, had to stay with Jesus for years to truly hear the saving Word that Jesus was.  With a few exceptions in which God gives the gift of profound knowledge of himself almost spontaneously, for most of us, we must be like little children, growing gradually in our ability to understand the language of salvation, and needing even more time to speak it.

It is the call of every one of us who are disciples of Jesus to learn how to listen to the cries of the poor, to attune our ears and our hearts to the needs of our sisters and brothers.  [For Santo Niño:  It is the Child Jesus who humbles himself to teach us how to listen as growing children, to learn the language of God’s love and mercy, and to be able to speak it.]  [For Rite of Admission to candidacy:  The journey of formation, on which you who are to be candidates for Holy Orders embark today in a formal way, is long and arduous, with many twists and turns.  Yet they are all meant to be opportunities to sharpen your ears, so that you can better hear your brothers and sisters in need and reach out to them with the love of the Lord.]

But hearing what God wants us to hear can be dangerous.  It can compel us to go where we would rather not go, to leave behind what is most familiar to us, as did Andrew and Peter, and later Paul, and to set out on an uncharted sea of service to others.  To hear the cries of need and not respond is worse than not hearing at all.  And if we are to stay with Jesus, to be part of his risen Body, we can do none other that offer our lives in service wherever we may be called.

The young woman struggling with her pregnancy, the people suffering in war, the teen who is in so much darkness we must not only hear, but that hearing compels us to respond in some way.  It is in this response, which we must also carefully discern from the voice of the Lord, that we can make it possible for others to abide with Jesus, the great healer or Savior of the world.  It is in that hearing of the voice of the Lord that we can offer ourselves to be sent wherever the Lord sends us, knowing that we are continuing the work of the risen Lord himself.