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Bishop's Homily for the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time

July 1, 2018

[Samoan Catholic Community – at St. Anthony Church, Kalihi]

There is an opioid epidemic that very much concerns health officials.  These are prescription pain killers that people have become addicted to.  There is a spike in teen suicides, and some of our youth are finding life so difficult that they just decide it is easier to check out.  There are addictions to electronic screens, and particularly to pornography, by which a person tries to have a thrill with virtual people rather than with real people.  It is insidious because it actually takes one away from loved ones and from life and leaves one with a feeling of growing emptiness.  Soon in our state we will be able to escape the pain and suffering of a terminal illness with a physician prescribed lethal poison.  Many states have legalized recreational marijuana.

With all of these epidemic forms of escapism, one wonders why people are feeling such a huge need to anesthetize themselves from reality.  Yes, we realize that life can be difficult at times, and we may suffer from violence and bullying, from tremendous loneliness, and from fear that there simply is not much of a future to our lives or even to our world.  We have forgotten how to suffer well and live with the presumption that suffering and pain is the end of the story.  And if they are the end of the story, if they are all there is, then it is no wonder we want to escape or anesthetize ourselves from these great burdens.

Jesus has come with the good news of life, of joy, and of freedom from our sins.  He is the great healer of our souls, of our bodies, and of our culture.  Yet we must learn from Jesus that bearing our sufferings and crosses is a reality in our lives, but that suffering is not the end of the story.  In the end there is life, and life in its fullness.  But in order to access this life, we must have faith, even in the midst of sufferings, that he can heal us when we touch him or are touched by him.

The woman with the hemorrhage has suffered for twelve years, not only a physical infirmity that must have drained her of her energy, but a spiritual one, because in Jewish custom of the time, anyone with such bleeding was unclean and must be separated from the community.  Yet this woman never lost hope, going to doctors and spending all her money in anticipation of a cure.  And one day that hope turned into a deep faith in Jesus.  She dared not even ask him to heal her, but simply believed that merely touching his clothes would bring her healing, and it did.  She suffered through, and in the end was given blessed relief.

Anyone who has had a sick child or who has lost a child in death can relate to the pain and anguish of the synagogue official whose daughter was deathly ill and finally died.  But this man had faith in Jesus that suffering and death were not the end of the story, so he asked Jesus to heal his daughter.  Perhaps he was disappointed when he was given the news that his daughter had already died, but Jesus challenged him to stretch his faith and not give up.  So the man and his wife witnessed their daughter’s restoration to life, all because he never lost faith in the power of God to bring life.

“God did not make death, and does not rejoice in the destruction of the living,” we are told in the Book of Wisdom.  At the same time, there is Jesus, the Son of God, was no stranger to the pains and sufferings of life.  He was criticized by many, hunted down by others, betrayed by a disciple, and denied by one of his best friends.  He was scourged and mocked, and he was put to death in a most painful way.  Yet he never anesthetized himself from this suffering, because he always knew that in the end there would be life, and joy, and the fullness of love.

And so it is that we, who have our share of sufferings in life, have the privilege of being inspired by the saving faith of those who have gone before us.  They did not try to escape from life’s difficulties, but tried to deal with them head on, believing – sometimes beyond belief! – that suffering and death were not the end of the story.  It is only by putting our faith in Jesus, who bore his sufferings on the cross and who rose from the dead, that we can face the trials of life with peace and calm, and not try every means at our disposal to anesthetize ourselves from life’s difficulties.

But there is more!  We also have been given the mission of proclaiming this good news to others.  With faith in Jesus, who overcame suffering and death, we, too, can look forward to a day of healing, no matter how difficult the sufferings might be.  And this is a message the world desperately needs to hear.  It will only hear it if we who here celebrate the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Lord take it out to our brothers and sisters who long for such good news.