In Your Midst
The Dawning of the Third Millennium
Winter 1999

This is a reprint of a letter to parishioners from the September 26, 1999 bulletin, addressing the celebrations about to commence for the new millennium

Dear Friends, Jubilee 2000 Logo

It's pretty hard to avoid talk of the millennium in these waning days of 1999. For some, the subject immediately conjures up dire predictions about Y2K, but with all our sophistication here in Microsoft-land, we have probably let go of most if not all our worries about what could happen as 1999 clicks over to 2000. And with our Catholic, non-literal, approach to understanding the scriptures, I would hope we haven't succumbed to any of the rampant millennial madness about the End Times. But I wonder if we've stopped to think in a positive way about what this new moment can be for believing Christians.

Which moment? A good question. Does the third millennium begin on January 1, 2000 or January 1, 2001? There are definitely two schools on this, with more support for the latter. But does it matter? Well, yes and no. Time certainly matters in the Christian scheme of things. The story of God's love affair with the human family is one that has unfolded in time and for that reason we are able to view time as something sacred: an unfolding progression toward a divinely ordained end - that timeless point in time, if you will, when Christ will deliver over the kingdom to the Father, and God will be all in all.

So, yes, it does matter, this business of time. And it even matters when one millennium ends and the next begins. But only because of Christ. The millennium is about his coming in time, none other. And for this reason, it centered on Christmas Day not New Year's Day!

The church, instead of getting drawn into the debate about 2000 or 2001, has wisely chosen to embrace both dates. By announcing the Year of the Great Jubilee, and by beginning it on Christmas, 1999, and extending it all the way to the Feast of the Epiphany, 2001, the church has neatly finessed the question about exactly when one millennium ends and another begins. But notice that it has centered the beginning of the Jubilee on Christ-events (Christmas and Epiphany), not January 1. In doing so, the church makes it easy for us to center our thoughts and our celebrations right where they should be: on Christ.

The bishops of this country have taken this a step further by zeroing in on the Christ of Luke's gospel who, when he stood up to read in his hometown synagogue at Nazareth, went to this familiar passage in Isaiah: "the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me. God has sent me to preach glad tidings to the poor...to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free; to announce a year of favor from our God." As you remember, after Jesus read those words to his friends in the synagogue, he said to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." So it is the prophetic and liberating Christ who stands before us on this eve of the year of the Great Jubilee: the servant Christ who invites each of us, not to millennial fear and trembling, but to the work of justice found in THE JUBILEE PLEDGE FOR CHARITY, JUSTICE AND PEACE which we have brought to your attention for many months.

On Sunday, December 5, we will be inviting each parishioner to get very serious and formalize his or her commitment to working for charity, justice, and peace by actually signing the pledge.

There is still time to get on board with this. Leave Y2K to the wizards, and let New Year's Eve take care of itself (it won't need a lot of help). As a parish, let's look to Jesus, the gentle prophet of justice and peace, and find ways to make his agenda for a more just, loving, and peaceful world our own.

Father Michael G. Ryan
Cathedral Pastor

Back To Winter 1999 Issue