• 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 Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 13, 2022

Watch this homily!


    Picture, if you will, these two Russian peasants, Ivan and Peter, gloriously in their cups one night in a country tavern. Carrying on and slapping each other on the back, they get to telling each other what great friends they are. Then, in a lucid moment, Ivan looks at Peter and says, "Peter, tell me, what is it that hurts me?" Bleary-eyed Peter shoots back to Ivan, "How would I know what hurts you?" Ivan shoots back, "If you don't know what hurts me, how can you say you’re my friend?"

     It may be a stretch, but that little story got me thinking about Jesus and our friendship with him. What is it that makes Jesus the perfect friend? Isn’t it that he is fully in touch with – fully embraces - all that is human, including human hurts, human heartaches, human pain? Our hurts, our heartaches, our pain. Time and again in the Gospels we witness the compassionate Jesus who knew human struggles and sufferings like no other. He spent much of his time in the company of people who were just plain hurting. He readily forgave sinners and was a pushover when it came to the sick, the blind, the deaf, the mute. He gave peace of mind to the disturbed, made lepers clean and the lame leap to their feet. Jesus instinctively felt what those people were feeling, knew their pain, their hurts - not because he was the all-knowing God, but because he himself was so completely human.

     It is this Jesus who says, "Blessed are you who are poor; blessed are you who are hungry; blessed are you who are weeping; blessed are you when people hate you."  How could he say such seemingly incongruous things? I think it’s that, in one way or another, he knew those hurts himself, and he also knew that he was blessed. He could say, "Blessed are you poor," because he was poor: born poor, lived poor, and had no place to lay his head. And he could say, "Blessed are you who are hungry," because he knew hunger - he who fasted for forty days and nights and who wouldn’t send a hungry crowd away without feeding them. And he could say, "Blessed are you who are weeping," because he knew what tears were - he who wept over Jerusalem and shed tears at the death of his friend, Lazarus. And he could say, "Blessed are you when people hate you," because he knew the hurt of hatred and rejection – he whose fellow villagers tried to cast him off a cliff, he who “came to his own and his own received him not.” The Beatitudes of Luke’s gospel are a challenge to all, but they are also a window onto the very heart of Jesus.

     But we have to be careful here. The Jesus who knows what hurts us humans and who reminds us where true blessedness is to be found would not want us to hide behind the Beatitudes as an excuse for canonizing the status quo. True, the poor we will "always have with us", and there will always be hunger and hurt in this world, but the same Jesus who told the poor and hungry, the weeping and the despised, that they were blessed, also told his followers that their blessedness would come from reaching out in love to these very people.

     And that takes us to the second part of Jesus' sermon from today's Gospel. First there were the Beatitudes, and then came the "woes." "Woe to you who are rich; woe to you who are full now; woe to you who laugh now; woe to you when everyone speaks well of you."

     If we are challenged by the Beatitudes - and we should be - the “woes” should totally pierce our complacency. For Jesus addresses those woes to us - we who are rich - not all of us, of course, but most of us, and I include myself. We have more money, more things than most people in the world: more food, more drink, more creature comforts, more security. So, yes, we need to hear those woes and take them to heart.

     But maybe we will be able to hear them better if we give them a little twist, a positive twist, if you will. So, instead of "Woe to you rich", how about "Blessed are you rich” – blessed are you who have money and power. Why? Well, because with all you have, you can do so much good, so much for the poor! Blessed are you rich, but only if you realize that you are stewards of your possessions, not owners; only if you do not place your trust in what you own. Blessed are you rich, but only if you share what you have with your sisters and brothers who have not. Only then are you truly blessed.

     And instead of “Woe to you who are full now,” how about "Blessed are you who are full now”? Why? Well, because you are strong enough and healthy enough to do for others – to feed and care for the hungry. Blessed are you, but only if you do not take your food for granted, and only if you are uncomfortable, deeply uncomfortable, as long as there is even one brother or sister who cries out for bread or for justice, and only if you are in touch with how profoundly empty you are without God.

     And lastly, instead of “Woe to you who laugh now,” how about "Blessed are you who laugh now”? Blessed are you because you can bring joy to others - to those whose days are often drowning in tears, whose lives are one long agony after another. Blessed are you who laugh, yes, but only if it means that you don't take yourselves too seriously: that you are able to laugh at yourselves, and that you make room in your life for those for whom laughter is a little-known luxury. Blessed are you who laugh."

     My friends in Christ, the little story about the two drunken peasants stated the simple truth that if we’re really going to love someone, we need to know that person’s hurts. May we awaken to a whole world around us that is hurting. Only then will we truly love, and only then will we be truly blessed!

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