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The 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 19, 2023

Watch this homily! (Begins at 36:15)

     Today, as we near the end of another Church year – Advent is almost upon us, believe it or not – there are a couple of questions on my mind. One of them: does our world inspire any more hope than it did a year ago at this time? And the other: what about our Church? Is there anything more hopeful there?

      Well, our world is still convulsed with hostility and hatred; innocent people die daily from war and terrorism; many still look upon life in the womb as expendable; homeless people hunker down in doorways and alleys; migrants and asylum seekers are still on the move in their desperate pursuit of freedom; people are discriminated against because of race, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation; our planet is threatened by global warming. So, not a lot of hope there, sadly.

      And what about our Church? Well, our church certainly has its scandals, its divisions, its open hostilities. And there is still a steady hemorrhage of people leaving the Church because of doubt, disillusionment, or perceived irrelevance.

     But is that the whole story? Are things really that hopeless in the world and the Church? Let me zero in on the Church to make a different case. The recent session of the Synod that took place in Rome was, despite what you may have picked up from the media, a moment of grace and hope for the Church. Cardinals, lay women and men, bishops, priests, and vowed religious from across every country and culture – north and south, east and west – sat together at round tables, listened intently and prayerfully to the gentle promptings of the Holy Spirit - listened to each other, too - engaged in respectful dialogue, and in some cases, agreed to disagree – politely, for the most part!

     In doing so, they were engaging in something quite revolutionary: they were modeling a whole new way of being Church - something never done before in our long history. And you were part of it - all of you who participated in our parish’s synodal sessions – our conversations in faith – back in the spring of 2022. You played a part.

     But has anything changed? In a way, everything has changed. I doubt we will ever be the same as a Church – ever go about teaching, learning, and decision-making in the same way. From now on, all the voices – not just those of the hierarchy – all the voices will be at the table, the same table. And there’s no telling what the Holy Spirit can do with that! Now, I doubt that change will come about quickly – nor would I want to predict what the changes will be - but changes there will surely be…!

     So, there are signs of hope. Leaving aside the world and its seemingly intractable challenges, there are definite signs of hope in our Church, signs that are evident here in our parish: in our prayer together each Sunday, in the efforts we make to grow in our faith and in our understanding of our faith, in the way we welcome one another, in the ways we reach out to serve the poor and needy and to advocate on their behalf.

     But what does any of this have to do with today’s readings, with all their alarming apocalyptic overtones and undertones – wars and insurrections, earthquakes, famines, plagues, and disturbing signs in the heavens? Even with all of those, the readings brought words of hope. I think, for instance, of the powerful image in the reading from the Prophet Malachi of the dawning of the sun of justice with its healing rays. The dreaded Day of the Lord may be coming - the day when the proud and the evildoers will be set on fire and burned like stubble - but for those who hold fast and fear God, there will be hope, and healing, and peace.

     And, for all their ability to alarm, Jesus’ prophetic words in the gospel about the end times are hopeful and merciful words, too. If I may quote Pope Francis in one of his homilies, “those who follow Jesus pay no heed to prophets of doom…or to terrifying sermons and predictions that distract from the truly important things.” The Pope then went on to say, “Amid the din of so many voices, Jesus asks us to distinguish between what is from him and what is from the false spirit. This is important: to distinguish the word of wisdom that God speaks to us each day from the shouting of those who seek…to frighten, and to nourish division and fear.” In other words, in spite of all kinds of negatives, in spite of great angst and confusion, hope will prevail for all who are faithful to the gospel, all who strive to be faithful.

     So, my friends, we hold onto hope, and we are part of that hope. We are! And nowhere is hope more evident or accessible than here at the table of the Eucharist. Think of it: when we celebrate Eucharist, we are not only remembering and giving thanks to God for the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of Christ. There’s even more: we also receiving Christ, the risen Christ – taking into our own bodies and broken lives his Body broken for us, his Blood poured out for us.

     Now, I ask you: how can we not find hope, and how can we not be changed by this sacramental encounter? Christ comes to us, embraces us, takes up his dwelling within us! So, for all the hopeless things going on around us in world and Church, there is hope, great hope, and, as St. Paul wrote so long ago, “hope does not disappoint!”

Father Michael G. Ryan





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Seattle, Washington  98104
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