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Bishop's Homily for the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time

July 9, 2017

Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A – July 9, 2014
[Feast of Our Lady of Peace and 190th Anniversary of the Arrival of the First Catholic Missionaries in Hawaii – Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Honolulu]

Imagine this place 190 years ago.  There were few buildings in Honolulu, and certainly nothing as magnificent as this cathedral.  Missionaries of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary arrived in Honolulu Harbor after approximately six months at sea.  They had left behind forever their homeland, their families, and most of their friends.  They knew little of the language or culture of the people who lived here, but they did know one thing.  They longed to share with them the Good News of someone they had come to know and love, the Lord Jesus Christ.  They wanted people not just to know about him, but to encounter him intimately after they were initiated into his way of life and prepared to be nourished with the Body and Blood of the Savior of the whole world.  They brought with them copies of a statue that stood in their motherhouse chapel on Picpus Street in Paris, the statue of Our Lady of Peace.  Could it have been a simple coincidence that their arrival at this “peaceful harbor” (the meaning of the word “Honolulu”) was on the feast day of Our Lady of Peace, this very day we celebrate in this beautiful Cathedral Basilica dedicated to her honor?  As they sang joyfully for the safety of their missionary voyage, perhaps they prayed the very words we heard in today’s reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah:  “Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!  See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he….”  Yes, they had a civil king who ruled over them in love, but the joy of the missionaries was that now the people of Hawaii would come to know the King of kings and to be able to be members of his Body through intimate communion with him.  For them no sacrifice or suffering was too much to pay for the joy of the Gospel they were to proclaim with their words and their witness.

They did have formidable obstacles to overcome:  learning a new language and culture; gaining the trust of people who did not know them; claiming legitimacy in the face of Protestant Christians who had already made inroads here and who were in many ways hostile to a faith they thought had become corrupted.  Yet the Holy Spirit opened the hearts of many, because they learned through the example of these missionaries that the Spirit of God actually wanted to dwell within them, a spirit that does not live according to the flesh, but that sets its sights on what is immortal and eternal.

While we celebrate and honor these missionaries whose child-like faith caused them to take so many risks and to put up with so many hardships, we also must recall that the missionary mandate of Jesus is no less urgent today than it was 190 years ago.  While some among us may be called to leave our own homeland to proclaim the Gospel, most are called to do so right here where we live.  We may not have to go on a long sea voyage, but we certainly need to go beyond what is familiar to us to explore new arenas where the Gospel has not yet been preached.  We may not have to learn a language or a culture that is foreign to us, but we are sent out into a culture that is either indifferent to God’s love or that rejects it as competition against the self-worship that often characterizes our culture.  And so we look to the childlike faith of these first missionaries, and to the simple and pure faith of Our Lady of Peace to inspire and encourage us to do the work the Lord calls us to do.

Our first work of evangelization is to families, since marriage and family life these days are like the man beaten up and left by the side of the road.  We are called to stop, to take note of the sufferings and the dysfunctions, and to pour in the oil and wine that will heal by being dedicated to marriage and family life according to the Lord’s plan.  This missionary endeavor can be as treacherous as sailing the open seas, but it is the yoke the Lord asks us to take upon ourselves.

We also need to be attentive to those who are lonely, so that they may know that they are loved by the Lord, whom we worship.  This, too, can be risky, because at first we may be rebuffed or rejected with suspicion.  But if we take up this yoke, it will be a source of joy and a lessening of the burden of our suffering sisters and brothers.  Then there are those who live lives in the flesh only and who are constantly looking for something to fill up the unnamed emptiness within their hearts:  those who seek to be anesthetized from such emptiness by turning to drugs or alcohol, to self-centered sex, or to accumulation of wealth.  To them we have the mission to witness the Gospel of contradiction:  that the greatest fulfillment of our sexuality is in chastity according to our state of life; that the greatest wealth is in our poverty of spirit; and that the greatest power we can exercise is to be humble and childlike in our faith in God. 

Just as those first missionaries were but tiny seeds sown in a vast field, which have now yielded a rich harvest, so we are called to be little seeds in an overwhelming vast field without faith, so that one day all can sing the song, “Rejoice…, shout for joy…!  See your king shall come to you, a just savior is he!  He is the Son of Our Lady of Peace, and he is the Prince of Peace for whom the world so desperately longs.