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The Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
during the coronavirus pandemic
June 28, 2020

Click here to watch Father Ryan give this homily. The homily begins at 27:00.

       The readings today are full of wonderful promises but the promises come at a price. In the reading from the Book of Kings, the prophet Elisha promised the Shunamite woman that she would have the son she dearly wanted. But there was a price: not just the price of the hospitality she so generously offered the holy man of God, but the heartbreaking price of later having her son 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 in that story to remind us that life’s blessings are almost always mixed blessings. Promises come at a price.

     In the gospel, Jesus promises that if we receive him we will also receive 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: the price involved in 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.  We pay the price by taking up the cross, losing our lives – being willing to let go of everything – which Jesus says is what we must do if we are ever to find our lives. And that’s pretty scary stuff, isn’t it? Is it any wonder, then, that we try to avoid it?  But when we do accept the grace of letting go, losing everything does, in the end, mean finding everything.

     This is something I’m still trying to learn, believe me, but in my ministry, it’s something I get to witness in powerful ways. I think, for instance, of the privilege I had of walking with a wonderful man as he battled cancer. He fought long and hard but it was becoming clear that the battle was nearing its end. One afternoon I walked into his hospital room to check on him. He greeted me warmly as he always did and I asked him the predictable but probably not so appropriate question: “How are you doing?” “Ready to go home,” he said with his characteristic smile, and eyes just misty enough to make the smile believable. “Ready to go home.”  But it wasn’t his family home that he was talking about. He made that clear when he told me that he had lived his whole life for this moment and that he not only accepted it, he embraced it. His words.

     When I left his room that day, there were tears in my eyes, but joy in my heart. Joy for him – knowing what God had in store for him, joy for the privilege of knowing this good, faith-filled man who ministered so beautifully to me. And here I thought I was the minister!

     My friends in Christ, there was someone who really ‘got’ the gospel and embraced it in ways I can only hope to. The promise of Jesus was very real to him and he was quite willing to pay the price. He had discovered what losing one’s life in order to find it meant. He had also discovered the meaning of today’s passage from the Letter to the Romans: “We who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death…. If we have died with Christ we shall also live with him.”

     Dear friends, maybe that is homily enough for a summer Sunday. Jesus demands a great deal, but never as much as he gives. He must come first, it’s true – before all else - before self, before family, before life itself.  He doesn’t want half our heart, he wants all our heart. He asks us to let go – to lose – everything, but promises that, in the losing, we will be finding. Everything. Where better to discover that than right here at the table of the Eucharist where, time after time, “we proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” But the death we proclaim turns out to be life - more life than we could ever hope for. Life unending!

Father Michael G. Ryan

 

 

 

 

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Seattle, Washington  98104
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