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Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 13, 2016

Click here to listen to this homily (mp4 file)
 
     Today, as we come to the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy – a great gift to the Church from Pope Francis, I find myself wondering what difference it has all made.  The cynic in me says, ‘not much.’ Our world still overflows with hostility and hatred; innocent people die daily from war and terrorism; life in the womb is still considered expendable; homeless people hunker down in doorways and alleys; migrants and refugees, many of them children and babes in arms, drown during their desperate pursuit of freedom; people are discriminated against because of race, gender, and sexual orientation; the environment continues to be threatened and assaulted; rancor is rife in a nation hopelessly divided in the wake of an election in which fear, anger, and self-interest seem to have replaced the better angels of our nature.  The list of sins against mercy is long and wearying. And it’s not limited to the world out there. Mercy often fails to find a home in us: in how we deal with family members, friends, coworkers, people we disagree with.

     But that’s the cynic in me.  The more optimistic, hope-filled side of me is able to recognize some strides we have made during this Year of Mercy.  A couple of examples close to home in our own parish – small, perhaps, but not insignificant: some of our fellow parishioners are working hard in the area of restorative justice – working with the justice system to bring juvenile offenders face-to-face with those they have offended, helping them come to terms with their offences and to pay their debt to society in positive, healing ways. They are doing the works of mercy.  And I think, too, of our wonderful high-school youth mentors who week after week lovingly and quietly minister to special needs kids in our Faith Formation program. These young people are mercy personified.

     And they are not alone. So many of you have prayed your way through the Year of Mercy, and in doing so have found your eyes opening up in new ways to the hungry, the homeless, the immigrant, the mentally ill, the forgotten. Our nation’s priorities may shift, but yours hold fast. That’s because you have embraced the Gospel and immersed yourselves in the healing power of the sacraments, refusing to be ruled by anger or fear. For you, this Year of Mercy has been about far more than simply walking through Doors of Mercy with a prayer on the lips and a good feeling about graces gained; it’s been about showing mercy, becoming channels of mercy – loving, healing ministers and messengers of the God whose very name is mercy.

     At every Mass I have been privileged to preside at during this Year, I have sent you away with words from Luke’s gospel: “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.”  I’ve never tired of saying those words and I hope you’ve never tired of hearing them. I will miss saying them, to be honest, so don’t be surprised if I return to them now and then. More than ever, I think we need gentle reminders about who we are and what we are called to do.

     The readings today, for all their alarming apocalyptic overtones and undertones – wars and insurrections, earthquakes, famines, plagues, and disturbing signs in the heavens – the readings brought words of mercy.  I think, for instance, of the powerful image in the reading from the Prophet Malachi of the dawning of the sun of justice with its healing rays.  The dreaded Day of the Lord may be coming - the day when the proud and the evildoers will be set on fire and burned like stubble - but for those who hold fast and fear God, there will be mercy, and healing, and peace.

     And, for all their ability to alarm, Jesus’ prophetic words in the gospel about the end times are merciful words, too. As Pope Francis noted in his homily earlier today, “those who follow Jesus pay no heed to prophets of doom…or to terrifying sermons and predictions that distract from the truly important things.” Then the Pope went on to say, “Amid the din of so many voices, Jesus asks us to distinguish between what is from him and what is from the false spirit. This is important: to distinguish the word of wisdom that God speaks to us each day from the shouting of those who seek…to frighten, and to nourish division and fear.”  In other words, in spite of terrible things that may happen, in spite of great angst and confusion, judgment and mercy will prevail for all who are faithful to the gospel or who strive to be faithful. So, my friends, there is hope, great hope, and we are part of that hope.

     For that reason, at the end of Mass today, I’m going to ask all of you who are able to join the ministers in the procession out through the great bronze doors, the Doors of Mercy. I realize that may be a slight inconvenience and a departure from your normal pattern, but I’m asking you to do it for a reason. It will be a strong, symbolic way of saying that we are going to take out there – to our homes, our neighborhoods, our workplaces, to the world in which we live – we are going to take out there the message our world needs more than ever to hear: the message we receive in this place week after week from a loving God, the message of mercy – God’s mercy for us and the mercy we are to give to others. I called this a strong symbol. As Catholics, symbols are our very language. We are mute without them. So I do hope we all seize this moment to say something very simple, very strong, and very symbolic about God’s mercy and ours.

Father Michael G. Ryan 

 

 

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Seattle, Washington  98104
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