1184 Bishop St, Honolulu, HI 96813
Phone: (808) 585-3300 Fax: (808) 545-5063
Roman Catholics

Roman Catholic Church in the state of hawaii

Diocese of Honolulu

Witness to Jesus

News & Events

News & Events

Help me find...

News Articles

Bishop's Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

March 10, 2024

[Newman Center/Holy Spirit Parish, Manoa (Episcopal Visitation)]

I recall a family that seemed so close and loving. Then the mother died, and it soon became clear that she was the glue that kept them together. When she was gone, they drifted away from each other and even became a bit hostile. Unfortunately, that family was glued together by the personality of one member. It was apparently not founded on a very firm foundation that would enable it to weather storms.

This is what happened to Israel. They were a people with a strong identity, and the center of their lives was their worship of God, the God who revealed himself to them as mercy and love. They turned to other gods and forgot about the true and living God. As a consequence, their culture disintegrated, not only religiously, but socially, politically and economically, to the point that they were so weak that Babylon took them over by force and exiled many away from the Promised Land to Babylon, where they suffered for 70 years. But God was merciful and raised up someone very unlikely to turn them back to God. Cyrus was King of Persia, who had conquered the Babylonians. Remember that Persia is the present-day Iran. Can you imagine Iran wanting to help Israel in any way, much less to rebuild its Temple? But God himself moved this pagan King to encourage the people of Israel to go back to their roots, and to build a firm foundation once again by their worship in the Temple.

In so many ways, our own culture is unravelling. How is it that in one of the richest countries in the world we have so many homeless people? How is it that so many people are depressed that depression has almost become a pandemic? How is it that people find life so meaningless that they turn to alcohol, drugs, or pornography to bring a little more zest into their lives, with the ultimate result that their lives are slowly ruined. How is it that a culture that touts the value of science over faith can so readily ignore science when it chooses to do so in favor of one’s own desires? We see so much conflict, even in our Congress. There was a time when Republicans and Democrats could disagree with one another, yet still work together for the good of the country. It seems that this has disintegrated into demonizing one another to the point that I wonder how any laws benefitting our country can be made. And that is just one example of the discord and conflict that we see around us.

I think all these things happen because our culture has lost its center, forgetting that it is God who loves us and holds us all together as one. Without God we may be able to survive for a while, but ultimately we will be at each other’s throats and will live in such a way that “I” am the center of the universe and not God. And then we become so weak that we can easily be led off to captivity, even while we think we are living in freedom. We disintegrate very easily.

We are here, of course, because we believe in God. In a sense, I am “preaching to the choir,” because you are obviously people who do believe in God and want to come to worship him here, even though there are many other things you could be doing right now. Although Lent reminds us that faith still needs to be refined and to grow, but at least we do have a faith to be refined. But look at all the empty seats! What responsibility do we have to go out with the good news of Jesus so that others may know the One whom God sent into the world because he loves us so much? Just as the Israelites in the desert were cured from the deadly snake bites by looking at the bronze serpent that God had Moses lift up before them, so Jesus is lifted up on the cross to heal our broken world. And like Cyrus, we are called to rebuild the living Temple that gives glory to God, so that the disintegration of our world can be reversed and healed. It is through Jesus that we can be united once again.

But in sharing the good news with others, it is important that we point them to Jesus crucified. We sometimes invite people to join us because we have such wonderful music, such a loving community, a great pastor, or many programs that serve others. But we forget that God so loved the world that he sent a person, his only begotten Son, Jesus. We share the joy we have of coming together to listen to the voice of the living Lord Jesus in his Word, and to be fed and nourished with his own risen Body and Blood. We share our joy that, even though we are weak and sinful ourselves, Jesus chooses us to be in such an intimate and holy communion with him that he makes us members of his own Body. Then we are raised up to bring healing to the world. Like Jesus, we may suffer rejection and ridicule, but if we are faithful to our mission, we will see the day when what has become so disintegrated will be integrated once again, bonded firmly by the amazing love of Christ.