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The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 17, 2021

Click here to watch this homily (begins at 33:10).

     The familiar story of the calling of Samuel in today’s first reading seems timely for the moment in which we find ourselves. If ever we needed to be attuned to the voice of God, and to what God is calling us, it’s now. If ever we needed to say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening,” it’s now.

     On this weekend when we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I thought we would do well to listen to some words of his — first spoken in a sermon in the National Cathedral in 1968, but as timely now as then.

     All too many people find themselves living amid a great period of social change, and yet they fail to develop the new attitudes, the new mental responses, that the new situation demands. They end up sleeping through a revolution.

     Firstly, there can be no gainsaying that a great revolution is taking place in the world today. Whenever anything new comes into history it brings with it new challenges and new opportunities. No individual can live alone, no nation can live alone, and anyone who feels that he can live alone is sleeping through a revolution.

     Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as sisters and brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.

     Secondly, we are challenged to eradicate the last vestiges of racial injustice from our nation. It is an unhappy truth that racism is a way of life for the vast majority of white Americans, spoken and unspoken, acknowledged and denied, subtle and sometimes not so subtle—the disease of racism permeates and poisons a whole body politic. And I can see nothing more urgent than for America to work passionately and unrelentingly—to get rid of the disease of racism.

     Something positive must be done. Everyone must share in the guilt as individuals and as institutions. The government must certainly share the guilt; individuals must share the guilt; even the church must share the guilt.

     And now if we are to [act] we must honestly admit certain things and get rid of certain myths that have constantly been disseminated all over our nation.

     One is the myth of time. It is the notion that only time can solve our problems. There is an answer to that myth. It is that time is neutral. And it may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, "Wait on time."

     Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God. And without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. So we must help time and realize that the time is always ripe to do right.

     We are asking America to be true to the huge promissory note that it signed years ago. We are engaging in nonviolent action, to call attention to the gulf between promise and fulfillment; to make the invisible visible.

     One day we will have to stand before the God of history and we will talk in terms of things we’ve done. Yes, we will be able to say we built gargantuan bridges to span the seas, we built gigantic buildings to kiss the skies. We brought into being many things with our scientific and technological power. It seems that I can hear the God of history saying, "That was not enough! For I was hungry and you fed me not; I was naked, and you clothed me not…”

     On some positions, cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right?

     There comes a time when we must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but we must do it because conscience tells us it is right.

     Let me close by saying that we have difficult days ahead in the struggle for justice and peace, but I will not yield to a politic of despair. I’m going to maintain hope. However dark it is, however deep the angry feelings are, I can still sing "We Shall Overcome." We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. We shall overcome because "No lie can live forever."

     With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair the stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

     And that day the morning stars will sing together and the children of God will shout for joy.”

     My friends, we are the children of God, and if we do our work – together – we will indeed have cause to shout for joy!

Father Michael G. Ryan





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