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The 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 2, 2017

Click here to listen to this homily! (mp4 file)

     The readings today are full of wonderful promises but each promise comes at a price.

     In the reading from the Second Book of Kings, the prophet Elisha promised the Shunamite woman that she would have the son she dearly wanted.  But there was a price: and it wasn’t just the price of the hospitality she so generously offered the holy man of God, it was also the heartbreaking price of later having that child die in her arms – for that is how the story unfolds.  In the end Elisha did bring the child back to life but there is enough heartache and death in that story to remind us that life’s blessings are almost always mixed blessings. Promises do have a price.

     In the gospel, Jesus promises that if we receive him we are also receiving the One who sent him, and that if we offer even so much as a cup of cold water to one of his “little ones,” we will be amply rewarded.  But these promises come at a price, too. In this case, the price is putting Jesus in the first place – the very first place -- before all else: before self, before father or mother, son or daughter, for that is what Jesus asks.  Or to put it differently, the price is taking up the cross, losing our lives – being willing to let go of everything – which is what we must do if we are ever to find our lives.

     God’s promises do come at a price but, in the end, God’s promises turn out to be priceless.  When we think we’re losing everything we end up having everything.  More than we ever could have imagined.

     I’m trying to hold onto that these days as I deal with my sister’s precarious health situation, with cancer continuing to take a steady toll on her life and energy.  You may remember that I shared with you about my sister Janet’s diagnosis a couple of years ago. Since then, she has received incredible treatment here at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and, like so many cancer patients, she has fought the good fight – with determination, hope, humor, and lots and lots of courage.

     Over the many months of this fight, I’ve learned so much from my sister and we’ve had some wonderful times together but we haven’t talked much about the ultimate things.  I’ve respected her desire to remain upbeat, and to enjoy the company of her five great kids and fifteen grandkids - living in the moment with them, and seizing and celebrating each moment.  But I’ve prayed with her, of course, and I’ve anointed her, and one day I gave her a wonderful prayer, a favorite of mine, by the Jesuit, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. After we prayed it, she smiled at me and nodded her head. The prayer is about promises made, promises kept, and promises that come at a price.  Let me share it with you:

When the signs of age
begin to mark my body
(and still more when they touch my mind);
when the illness that is to diminish me
or carry me off
strikes from without or is born within me;
when the painful moment comes
in which I suddenly awaken to the fact
that I am growing ill or growing old;
and above all at that last moment
when I feel I am losing hold of myself
and am absolutely passive within the hands
of the great unknown forces
that have formed me;
in all these dark moments, O God,
grant that I may understand that it is you
(provided my faith is strong enough)
who are painfully parting the fibers of my being
in order to penetrate
to the very marrow of my substance
and bear me away within yourself.

     Whenever I leave my sister as I did earlier this week after a brief but wonderful visit, there are tears in my eyes (which I do my best to hide), but there is also hope in my heart. Hope for her – knowing that, in the end, God has only good in store for her, hope, too, for her family who love her so much and who know, as she does, that God is faithful to his promises and that life will get the last word no matter how things seem!

     My friends, the promises of Jesus are everything: they are for my sister and they are for each of us.  But no promise comes without a price.  In one way or another, in order to find our lives we must lose them.  The words of today’s passage from the Letter to the Romans are not just words: “We who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death…. But if we have died with Christ we shall also live with him.”

     Dear friends, Jesus demands much, that’s for sure, but never as much as he promises, never as much as he gives.  But he must come first. He wants us to give him, not half our heart but all our heart. And he promises that in giving we will receive and in losing we will find.  Find everything!

Father Michael G. Ryan





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Seattle, Washington  98104
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