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Bishop's Homily for the Good Friday Liturgy of the Lord's Passion

March 30, 2018

[Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Honolulu]

Sometimes the loudest voices win! 

Pilate, the one who could decide on the guilt or innocence of Jesus, questioned him thoroughly and then came out and said, "I find no guilt in him."  But to appease the cries of the crowd, he offered the deal of a holiday prisoner release, thinking the crowd would be reasonable.  When that did not work, Pilate had Jesus scourged, perhaps thinking that if he beat him up and showed him to the angry crowd, that would satisfy them.  But no, they cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him!"  At which Pilate declared again, "I find no guilt in him."  Then the clever crowd threatened Pilate's political career by raising the specter that if he did not succumb to their wishes, he would be "no friend of Caesar."  So even though Pilate declared the innocence of Jesus over and over again, he handed him over to be crucified.  The loudest voices won over the truth that Pilate knew.

But what is truth?  That was, of course, Pontius Pilate's famous question.  Is there an objective truth that comes from God and that has universal validity?  Or is truth only what I want it to be, or the group that I belong to believes it to be?  Is there my truth vs. your truth; or our truth vs. their truth?  And even if in my heart I know the truth, as Pilate did, today's commemoration reminds us that sometimes louder voices that want what they want can prevail over truth.  And so we put much stock in polls, thinking that if we can get enough people to express the same opinion, then it must be true.

The debate in our culture about abortion is one example.  If a couple wants a child and a child is conceived, it is called a baby.  If a couple -- or one of the parties -- does not want a child, then it is called a blob of tissue that can be disposed of easily.  When the voices that assert a right to abortion include even the Supreme Court -- as the loud voices of that crowd in Jerusalem included even the Chief Priests and leaders of the people -- then the loudest voices win.  What is truth, after all?  Your truth may be different from my truth, right?

The recent decision of our State Legislature is yet another example of the loudest voices winning.  For centuries, if a person deliberately ingested a substance with the express purpose of ending his or her own life, we called it suicide, and we tried to prevent such a tragedy from happening.  But if polls indicate that the majority of people are OK with it, and the leaders of the people approve it, then suddenly it becomes acceptable -- as long as we don't call it suicide!  What is truth, after all?

Our culture makes fun of someone who tries to live chastely, who teaches children that sex should be reserved for the committed relationship of marriage.  Instead it says teaches our children, in effect, that they simply cannot control themselves, so they should take precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.  Then when someone crosses a line that they have deliberately tried to obliterate, they suddenly become puritanical.  This voice is so loud in our movies, our advertising, and our internet offerings, that the voice that tries to preserve chastity and authentic, genuine love is drowned out so that one wonders what truth really is.

Today we are asked to open our eyes to the real truth, to the one who is Truth itself.  We are invited to fix our gaze on the one who insisted on living the truth of authentic love, even when it meant his own rejection, criticism, suffering and death.  We are reminded that for a while, those who shout the loudest may prevail, silence the Truth, and lock it up in a tomb so that they can go their merry ways unchallenged.  But we call this Good Friday, because we know that in the end, one solitary voice prevailed above all the shouting and cacaphony, the voice of the one who "came into this world to testify to the truth."  We kiss and venerate the cross, the instrument that was meant to silence him forever.  We do that because we know that this solitary voice is the Truth that has gone out to all the world and who pursues it with a passion, so that all may listen to his voice and belong to him.