• Mass Times

• Coming Events

• Sacraments

• Ministries

• Parish Staff

• Consultative Bodies

• Photo Gallery

• Virtual Tour

• History

• Contribute


• Bulletin

• In Your Midst

• Pastor's Desk


• Becoming Catholic

• Bookstore

• Faith Formation

• Funerals

• Immigrant Assistance

• Liturgy

• Mental Health

• Music

• Outreach/Advocacy

• Pastoral Care

• Weddings

• Young Adults

• Youth Ministry




The Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 25, 2021

Watch this homily! (Begins at 37:00)

     Some of you will remember Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, who preached the Tre Ore here on Good Friday quite a few years ago. Timothy is an Englishman, former Master General of the worldwide Dominicans, and a very popular spiritual writer. In one of his books he writes compellingly about the beauty of God. “I know,” he says, “that to keep alive a sense of the transcendent beauty of God, I need the obvious forms of beauty around me: sunlight streaming into the cloister on a spring morning; the frescoes of Giotto or Fra Angelico; the blue windows of Chartres; the music of Mozart; an occasional dose of English countryside; the company of beautiful, bright people.  But,” he goes on to say, “my eyes also need educating so as to see God’s beauty when it is concealed in the apparently ugly.  That’s where compassion comes in.  Compassion trains me to see the loveliness of God in unexpected places.”

     Father Timothy then goes on to tell just how difficult this is for him. “On my extended trips around the world to visit brother Dominicans, I have found myself shutting my eyes to ugliness which I find almost too terrible to behold:  people mutilated by war in Rwanda; deformed beggars in Calcutta’s railroad station; a convicted murderer behind prison bars, a young person dying from AIDS.  And he concludes, “I hope, with grace, to learn to see God’s hidden beauty there one day, too....”

     When I read those words, I found myself hearing them as something of a commentary on the parable of the Good Shepherd.  Jesus contrasts the good shepherd with the hireling. The hireling is a fair-weather shepherd. He’s there for the good times, but he runs from danger and from problems of any sort.  The good shepherd, on the other hand, is always there for all the sheep but the ones in danger and trouble, the ones who are ugly and unlovable - he has a special love for these.  He seeks them out and, amazingly, lays down his life for them.

     “I am the good shepherd,” Jesus says.  “I know my sheep and I lay down my life for them.” I find it amazing that if he really knows his sheep, this shepherd, he could actually lay down his life for them. If he really knows his sheep, knows us, doesn’t he know too much?  Doesn’t he know all the flaws, the sins, the dreary compromises, the meanness, the downright ‘unloveliness?’ Yes! But he also knows the good, this good shepherd does: he knows the deep-down goodness planted there by God. He knows the hope that springs eternal in us, the faith that struggles to hold on, the love that in its nobler moments is capable of great sacrifice. And he sees in all this wretched yet glorious humanity - our humanity - he sees what Timothy Radcliffe calls the hidden beauty of God.

     My friends, we are made in the image and likeness of God.  Sometimes, because of our own sinful choices, and sometimes simply because of the ravages of life over which we have no control, that divine image can get blurred: it can become difficult, if not impossible, to see. But the good shepherd never loses sight of it.  The good shepherd has eyes to see the spark of divinity within each of us.

     “I am the good shepherd.  I know my sheep.  I lay down my life for my sheep.”  I believe the good shepherd is able to lay down his life for his sheep because he sees in his sheep - sees in each of us - what we so often fail to see: “the hidden beauty of God.”

     Now let me take this out of the realm of theory.  As with all the parables of Jesus, this one is meant to get translated into the now.  And this is where I must confess to you, my friends, how personally challenging I find the parable.  I am called to be a shepherd in the Church, a pastor. To be honest, I find it pretty easy to see the face of God in many people, maybe even most people. My challenge is to see the divine face in the angry, disgruntled parishioner, the anonymous letter writer, the demanding mentally ill person, the turned-off teenager, the rigid reactionary. Yet that is what I am called to do. And, in fact, it is what we are all called to do.  We do have our work cut out for us, don’t we!

      May Jesus the Good Shepherd give us eyes to see the hidden beauty that only God sees, and hearts to love all those whom God loves. No matter what!

Father Michael G. Ryan





Return to St. James Cathedral Parish Website

804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303