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The Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 3, 2022

Watch this homily!


    On this Independence Day weekend, I thought I’d turn things around and offer a message about dependence: dependence on God and dependence on one another as the only path to true freedom, to true independence.

     Dependence. There were hints of it in the reading from Isaiah – words addressed by the prophet to God’s people who had finally returned home to Jerusalem after long years of exile in Babylon. Of course, it had been their fierce and selfish assertion of independence – independence from God and from God’s Law – that had brought about their downfall, their shame, their being dragged into exile. Now, they were home again and the prophet spoke to them passionately of their dependence on God, comparing it to an infant’s dependence on its mother, nestled in her arms, fondled in her lap, nursing at her breast. The picture he painted for them was one of profound comfort, of deep and abiding joy and, yes, of utter dependence.

     There is more of that same theme in the gospel reading from Luke where Jesus sends forth the seventy-two disciples. (A little aside, in case you wondered: seventy-two is not an arbitrary number. In the ancient biblical world, it was commonly believed that seventy-two was the sum total of all the nations of the world - a calculation based on the number of descendants of the three sons of Noah – Shem, Ham, and Japheth - who had survived the Great Flood and who became the ancestors of the human race.)

     So, when Luke says that Jesus sent seventy-two disciples out ahead of him, it’s a way of saying that he sent his disciples to the whole world – to all the nations – and not just to the people of Israel. It’s a very universal message.

     And it’s important to note the way Jesus sent out those seventy-two: not solo, but two-by-two--as if to say that they were not only to depend on God, they were also to depend on each other. Disciples are partners in the gospel – collaborators, not Lone Rangers! This is something many of you experienced firsthand as you took part in our parish’s recent synodal sessions, gathering together in small groups, listening to one another, and gaining strength from one another’s stories.

     And there is even more about dependence in that gospel story. The seventy-two disciples were to travel light. Very light. They were to carry no money bag, no sack or sandals, no food or drink – which is a way of saying that they were to depend entirely on God’s care for them and on the generosity of others. Now, there’s a challenge if ever there was one! I have to tell you that it’s one that hits me squarely between the eyes - I who don’t travel very light, whether on a trip or in my day-to-day living, for that matter. I tend to weigh myself down with more than I need, depending more on my careful planning and provisioning than on Jesus’ assurance of God’s providential care. That’s a far cry from Gospel dependence.

     Now, let me share a little story with you. It’s about a bishop in France a century or more ago who loved to tell about a young man who day after day stood outside the great Cathedral of Notre-Dame, shouting insulting and derogatory words at people as they entered to worship. He called them “fools,” “naïve,” and “stupid.”

     One day, as the bishop told the story, a priest decided to confront the young man. He dared him to enter the Cathedral with him. To the priest’s surprise he agreed, and he walked the young man over to a crucifix, challenged him to look at it, and to shout out as loud as he could, “Christ died on the cross for me and I couldn’t care less.” Well, the young man took up the challenge and said those words, but in a somewhat muted voice, and the priest told him, “louder!” So, a second time he said it with his voice raised, but the priest said, “I dare you to shout it at the top of your lungs.” At that, the young man raised his fist defiantly and fixed his eyes on the crucifix, but now the words would not come. He simply could not look at the face of the crucified Christ and say those words again.

     But the story didn’t end there. The ending came when the bishop said, “That young man was me!” Then he would go on to say, “I had become firmly convinced that I did not need God in my life, but I found, as I stood before that image of the crucified Christ, that I was wrong. And that changed everything!”

     My friends, from complete independence to total dependence. It’s the story not just of that bishop, it’s the story of people who have struggled to believe down through the ages and, if truth be told, in one way or another, it’s our story, too. We depend on God, we depend on one another. We may try, but we simply can’t go it alone.

     In this spirit, and with this conviction, we will stand together in a moment to profess our faith. Think of that as a ‘declaration of dependence.’ And then, not long after, we will come forward to receive the Eucharist. And that is a ‘declaration of dependence’ if ever there was one!

Father Michael G. Ryan





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Seattle, Washington  98104
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