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The 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 4, 2022

Watch this homily!


    “Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends?”

     Those words from today’s first reading from the Book of Wisdom about the mysterious workings of God and how far beyond our understanding are God’s plans, got me to thinking of a rather remarkable – inconceivable is really not too strong a word - thing that occurred last week. In the Vatican. And it’s about us! Yes, about our parish.

     A little background. This all has to do with the upcoming global Church Synod that’s familiar territory to all of you who participated in our parish synodal sessions back in the spring of this year. Many of you gathered together in small groups – some in person, some by Zoom – and with the help of some great facilitators you listened carefully as fellow parishioners opened up to each other, sharing their hopes for the Church and their love for the Church, as well as their impatience, sadness, and frustration with how the Church can at times get in the way of the gospel of love and mercy that Jesus came to preach.

     I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you who took the time to participate in those sessions had a somewhat cynical – maybe even jaundiced – view about what would come of the effort. Would anything you had to say ever get beyond the confines of your small group? The Church, after all, is immense: it lives in every time zone, on every continent, and in every nation and culture. The Church numbers well over one billion people world-wide, and even though only a fraction of those billion-plus people actually took part in a Synodal session, still the numbers who did have to be staggering. And then, there was the hard work of summarizing in an intelligent, organized fashion the heart of what people had to say. That would have challenged even the most gifted of editors, statisticians and social scientists. And yet it happened. It happened here, it happened across this country, it happened in Latin and South America, in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. I’m sure it didn’t happen evenly in all those places, and I doubt it was reported evenly, but happen it did, and reported it was.

     All of this by way of background for what happened a week ago Friday in the Vatican. The Cardinals charged with leading the preparations for the Synod which is going to take place next fall in Rome held a major press conference in order to bring people up-to-date on the progress that has been made so far, and to mark the conclusion of the worldwide listening effort. Needless to say, this was kind of a big deal and it had the attention not only of Church leaders in the Vatican but of Church leaders – ordained and lay – all over the world.

     At one point during the press conference, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the Jesuit archbishop of Luxembourg, whom Pope Francis has put in charge of the Synod, took to the microphone to give his summary of what has been learned so far from the innumerable consultations around the world. The Cardinal concluded his remarks by zeroing in on one parish in all the Catholic world. He did so by name, and the parish was, believe it or not, St. James Cathedral parish in Seattle, Washington! Somehow (I wish I knew how!) the Cardinal had come across the most recent issue of our parish journal, In Your Midst, in which we reported extensively on our parish synodal gatherings. He liked what he saw and proceeded to quote at length from it. And not only that, he went on to say (and I quote) “What this parish did is what we had hoped would happen.”

     Well, to be honest, I am still in almost total disbelief about all of this, but I’m not going to call into question the Vatican New Service!

     If I’ve piqued your curiosity and you didn’t get a chance to read our parish report in In Your Midst, you can find it on our parish website and I would encourage you to do so. The report pulled no punches. It was blunt, it was frank, and it was honest — very honest. To think it has reached the Vatican is incredible and incredibly encouraging.

     I share this with you this morning at homily time fully aware that in no sense can this pass for a homily. But this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing and I thought it was important for you to be aware of it and even though it’s not a homily, it is certainly good news! It should make you proud and give you hope. We may be in a far-off corner of the Catholic world, and secular Seattle may be about as unchurched a city as you can find; but the efforts so many of you put forth in response to the invitation of Pope Francis have travelled far, indeed, and penetrated the highest echelons of the governing structure of the Church. Whoever would have thought!

     For me it’s a reminder - if I needed one - that the Holy Spirit is alive, active, and present here at St. James Cathedral and in the Church – a reminder, too, that God is full of surprises.

     Let me conclude by quoting once again from that reading from the Book of Wisdom: “Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends?”  Who indeed!

Father Michael G. Ryan





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804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303