Editor’s note: Bishop Douglas J. Lucia offered a livestreamed holy hour for the nation Jan. 6, hours after rioters attacked the U.S. Capitol. The text of the homily the bishop preached that evening from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse appears here.
In the Gospel of the day [Mk 6:45-52], we heard of Jesus sending his disciples away in the boat after feeding the multitude. It talked about, particularly, the watches in the night and how during those watches at night they were crossing the Sea of Galilee.
It was a blustery evening and they were struggling to make headway. Yet because they were fishermen, I am sure when it came to the first watch — which is really the first three hours, so, say from 6 to 9 — they thought, “Well, it’s a little more challenging tonight, but we’ll get there.”
From 9 to 12, the second watch, they were probably getting frustrated, wondering what they could do, but they decided to carry on.
And at the third watch, the disciples were probably becoming nervous, in the hours from 12 to 3, that they weren’t making any headway. They probably were concerned about, are they going to make it?
And the fourth watch of the night, from 3 to 6 in the morning, that’s when they’re desperate. That’s when the disciples probably feel that all is up. They probably feel they are going to have to throw in the towel, they might even sink.
Yet, it is in the fourth watch, that is found in Mark’s Gospel account [of the storm at sea], that Jesus comes to them in their hour of desperation and he gets in the boat, and there is peace.
I don’t think any of us ever expected to see what we saw today, and yet as we continue to watch with the Lord tonight, he comes to us. He gets into the boat with us. Yet as we hear in the Gospel used for this Holy Hour [Jn 20:19-23] — the Gospel that comes from that first Easter day after the darkness of Good Friday — he comes to them on that first evening after the resurrection and darkness is setting upon them. And he says, “Peace be with you.” And he says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” And who is the Holy Spirit, but God with us? And in receiving the Holy Spirit, he does one other thing: he sends them forth to carry his peace.
Brothers and sisters, as St. Francis of Assisi prayed so many centuries ago, we pray tonight: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” We have been basking in the light of Christmas. And it is meant to be a light announcing God’s presence with us — bringing peace, bringing hope, bringing love. Let’s not forget that tonight. Let’s not forget that we are still in the Christmas season.
This Sunday when we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, we not only renew our own baptismal commitment, but we hear the words of the Father as the dove descends on Jesus: “This is my beloved Son.” Why did he send Jesus but to remind you and me of that? And so we have to ask ourselves, how do we treat one another as God’s beloved sons and daughters? And as we remind ourselves of the baptismal calling to live as a member of God’s family, we ask now for the grace to do that.
I am sure right now many of us want to yell and scream and say a few choice words about what happened today. But what’s more important is that we once again remember the Word become flesh and his message, and that you and I are called to be God’s messengers here and now. That is what will make the true difference in our world. All the violence, all the hate, all the angry words will do nothing. But never forget the difference that one kind word makes, the difference that one loving act makes, the difference that you can make living as a child of God.