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Bishop's Homily for the Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time

June 23, 2024

[Sacred Heart Church, Hawi (Opening of Centennial Celebration and Blessing of Renovated Church)]

Marriage is a wonderful sacrament that joins a man and a woman together in a lifelong bond of love. But we know that sometimes marriages can be a bit stormy, and we may even wonder if they are ultimately going to sink if there is no major intervention. Things can be going along very well in a family, until one of the members is diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease, and then their lives can be tossed about with worry and anxiety. We can be gainfully employed, earning what we need to support the family, and suddenly we lose our job, and this can rock us to the core, tossing us about with many anxieties and even despair. The Gospel we heard today about the disciples of Jesus being on a boat in a storm-tossed lake, full of anxiety and fear is not just about boats on a lake. It is about all the torments and storms that shake us up in life.

Like the disciples, our first reaction may be panic, thinking we are going to perish. We may have the sense to call upon Jesus, or we may think that he is asleep somewhere, uncaring about our own fate. But, as he did so long ago, so Jesus can intervene for us and calm any storm. He is God, the maker of all things, and he has power over all things. It is never the case that he simply does not care if we perish. However, sometimes these storms we go through in life are tests of our faith and trust in the Lord. The first thing we must do is call upon the Lord in faith, knowing that whatever he does or does not do will be for the best.

This does not mean that Jesus will calm every storm in the way we hope he would. After all, he is God, and has much more wisdom than we do to see the big picture, to see beyond the current struggles in our lives to help us see more clearly his larger plan of salvation. Sometimes we can learn much through our sufferings and storms. Sometimes our love for others can deepen, or we can see sins in ourselves that we may have not seen before, leading to greater freedom and calm. And while Jesus certainly wants us to call upon him in our need, we must be careful that we do not think that we control him by a snap of our fingers. What is needed most is our trust in Jesus, which he will increase, if we are faithful to him.

As this parish opens its centennial celebration, during these years it has witnessed many storms that have shaken its people deeply: the Great Depression, World War II, the closure of the sugar plantation. These events and many others have caused great turbulence and turmoil in many lives. But where did people come to survive the storms and to strengthen their faith and trust? They came here, where they could encounter the same Jesus the disciples encountered in that storm-tossed boat so long ago. Yes, of course, we know we can encounter Jesus in the privacy of our rooms, on the beautiful seashore, and in the magnificent mountains of this island. But there is nowhere we can encounter Jesus physically, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the most intimate and holy communion. The same Jesus who was in that storm-tossed boat so long ago, is present with us here to give us hope and confidence in his desire that we have the fullness of life.

Of course, it is not only the role of the parish to be a place where its own parishioners grow in their faith and trust in Jesus so that they can find stability in times of turmoil. It is always the role of the parish to reach out to others to let them know that Jesus is here for them, too. How many of our brothers and sisters have been with us and have drifted away? How will they come back, unless we are the ones who reach out to invite them back? Then there are many who do not even know who Jesus is and how much he desires to be with them in the storms of life. How will they know this, unless we are the ones who tell them? I often tell the priests that they should think of their parishes as seminaries. Every priest must go to the seminary to be formed and learn, and he usually enjoys his time there, making many wonderful friends. But I have yet to meet anyone who wanted to be a seminarian forever. He wants to go forth and minister to others. So it should be in a parish. We come here to grow in our faith, and we meet many wonderful people here, but it is our mission to leave here to share what we have received with others.

Storms will always be a part of life. If we approach them only with fear and panic, they will more than likely overwhelm us. But if we put our trust in the living Jesus, whom we encounter physically here in the Eucharist, we, like those early disciples, will be able to survive them and praise God for his power over them and his constant care for us.