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The Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 23, 2018


    
The checkout clerk at my neighborhood supermarket is a young, very engaging African American fellow with an unfailingly positive outlook on life and really big dreams – which he sometimes shares with me: a higher-paying job, a law degree, winning the lottery, a knockout of a wife (his words!), a round-the-world cruise, and most recently, a trip to Mars.  Whenever he shares one of his dreams with me he looks me in the eye and adds, “You know, ain’t nothin’ impossible for God.”  I love his spirit and, of course, I never disagree with him!

     “Nothin’s impossible for God.”  That’s the message that literally leaps out of today’s scripture readings. In the reading from the Prophet Micah we were told that Bethlehem, little, insignificant Bethlehem – no more than a wide spot in the road, a fly speck on the map – would produce the One who would be ruler in Israel. Bethlehem?  Why not mighty Jerusalem, the glorious city on the hill?  Why Bethlehem?  Well, the short answer is that God likes to work wonders with very little; the short answer is that “nothing is impossible for God.”

     We got the same story in today’s passage from Luke’s gospel.  A nobody, an unknown young girl by the name of Mary in a backwater town called Nazareth is visited by an angel, finds herself with child by the Holy Spirit, and then runs off into the hill country to visit her cousin Elizabeth - old and presumably sterile – who is herself about to give birth to a son.  Unlikely?  Absolutely.  Impossible?  No.  Because “nothing is impossible for God.”

     My friends, this will be a short homily because I’m going to ask you to complete it and I don’t think you’ll have much trouble doing so since this story about God doing the unlikely and even the impossible is not only written into all the pages of scripture (think of Moses, David, Peter, the Twelve, Paul, Magdalene, the Samaritan woman), it is also written into your lives and mine.

     So let’s turn the mirror on ourselves for a moment and ask a few questions: What have I declared to be impossible in my life?  Shaking an old habit? Overcoming a crippling addiction?  Breaking out of my self-centeredness?  Saving my marriage?  Loving a difficult family member? Being more ethical at work?

     Or take a little broader look and ask ourselves what else we’ve given up on?  Our idealism?  Our hopes for the Church, for our country?  Making a dent in the glaring inequalities that cause hunger and homelessness?  The possibility of world peace?

     If we find ourselves saying yes to these things and others like them, the question then becomes: what will it take for us to believe again – really believe - that we have a God who, with our cooperation, turns things around: makes the crooked ways straight and the rough ways smooth, a God who never runs out of surprises, a God who can do so much with so little – with tiny Bethlehem, with insignificant Mary, with you, with me.

     My friends, what would it be like if we were to draw close to the crib this Christmas – with all its smells and all its squalor yet with all the glory of the Godhead wrapped in rags – what would it be like if we were to see there, perhaps for the first time, a whole new world of endless and exciting possibilities, thanks to the God for whom nothing – absolutely nothing – is impossible!

Father Michael G. Ryan

 

 

 

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Seattle, Washington  98104
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