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The Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 5, 2021

Watch this homily! (Begins at 32:40)

     On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the cataclysmic events of 9/11, and in the wake of the chaotic conclusion of our nation’s longest war, we are much in need of a message of hope and that’s what we got in today’s passage from Isaiah. The words come as a healing balm: “Thus says the Lord, say to those whose hearts are frightened: be strong, fear not! Here is your God. He comes…to save you. He comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you!” Those words, spoken to a broken and defeated people in exile in a foreign land, should speak to us today as painful images of the 9/11 attacks haunt our memories and as we try to make sense out of the endless war in Afghanistan and it’s heartbreaking, explosive ending. And all of this in the midst of a killer pandemic that refuses to release its iron grip on the world!

     No wonder, to use Isaiah’s words, our hearts are frightened, and no wonder we are badly in need of the vindication, the recompense, the salvation which only God can give. For once again, my friends, human power has revealed its limits, and military might, in a courageous effort to obliterate violence has sadly succeeded in fueling it, creating more of it.

     The passage we heard from Isaiah today was meant to give hope to a people whose weapons of war and defenses had utterly failed them. In their defeat they had been taken into exile in a foreign land. At this low point in their history, God inspired Isaiah to speak words of hope: “Say to those whose hearts are frightened: be strong, fear not!  Here is your God, he comes…to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared. Then will the lame leap like a stag, and the tongue of the dumb sing. Streams will burst forth in the desert…the burning sands will become pools and the thirsty ground, springs of water.” Isaiah was assuring a frightened, defeated people that deliverance would come, and it would come from God - not from anything they would do; it would come from a compassionate God, ever faithful to the covenant.

     That’s a message we need to hear, too. In the wake of our painful 9/11 memories; in the midst of the recent and tragic loss of life – and, for many, loss of hope – in Afghanistan; in the face of a world where way too long a litany of nations and peoples are either at war or threatening war and, yes, in the grip of a relentless and ruthless pandemic, Isaiah’s message is one we most certainly need to hear: “Be strong, fear not…God comes to save you!”  God is the one who opens blind eyes, frees deaf ears, makes the lame leap like stags, and causes streams to burst forth in the burning desert sands. It is all God’s doing. Or, better: the God who has power to bring about such amazing physical changes in our world has power to change us, too, and through us, to bring about change in our wounded world.

     This power of God broke into our world in a most unique way in the healing, compassionate ministry of Jesus Christ. We witnessed it in today’s gospel where Jesus heals the deaf mute. It was as if Jesus was saying, ‘You know Isaiah’s great prophecy about the ears of the deaf being cleared and the tongue of the mute singing? Well, open your eyes and see these very things coming to pass right now! God is true to his promises. At this moment, in my ministry, God is in your midst saving you and delivering you!’

     And some people got the message. “He has done all things well,” they said of Jesus. Those are words that can apply only to God, wouldn’t you agree? Only God does all things well. But those words call to mind another story in the Bible, a very familiar one: the first of the creation stories in Genesis where “God looked at everything he had made and found it very good.”  For me, “He has done all things well” echoes those very words from Genesis, and well they should because in doing all things well Jesus was showing that he shared in God’s own creative power. The God who created all things from nothing and found them very good was now re-creating all things in and through his son Jesus who did all things well.

     And, my friends, this work of re-creating still goes on – in the Church. It’s in and through the likes of you and me that God continues to live and act in our world. In a frightened and broken world, a world where there is so much wrong: so much deafness and blindness, so much inhumanity, so much hatred and violence, so much fear, our call is clear: we are to do the works of Jesus who did all things well – Jesus, the peacemaker, the reconciler, the healer. For followers of Jesus there is no room for violence or retribution; there is only room for love – his love - and we are to bring his love, his compassion, his healing wherever we can and to whomever we can. It is the way we do our part to help transform this broken world of ours into the New Creation. And, my friends, it is the Bread of the Eucharist, Christ’s Body broken for us, that makes it possible.

Father Michael G. Ryan





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Seattle, Washington  98104
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