What Can We Possibly Do? A Homily by Deacon Jim Hyatt

This week has been a difficult week, I have to admit it; I have felt… angry, incredulous, sad and helpless. It’s 2022 – countries don’t just invade other countries anymore, right? How can this be?  

People in the Ukraine are living in subway stations, their apartment buildings in ruins. They are terrified, angry and probably feel incredibly helpless. This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and for the Ukrainian people, the joy of Easter must seem a terribly long way off, almost an impossibility. Tribulation is replacing hope.

What are we to take from this week’s events? How can we possibly do anything about this?

Well, maybe there is something we can do. This is a time when our Catholic faith must step to the forefront, when we must act in Catholic ways. Jesus Christ is the complete antithesis of helplessness, always has been and always will be, so there in fact is hope if we turn to him.

In the first reading from the book of Sirach, we heard that, “in tribulation is the test of the just.” So how do we respond in this time of tribulation? By lashing out at the invaders? Believe me, that’s what I want to do, but what does that accomplish? That is not what our Catholic faith says we should do. Maybe instead, it is time for our faith to not take a backseat or to be only a small part of what we do. Maybe we are supposed to do more. 

I think Saint Paul has a message for us in this morning’s reading from Corinthians. He says, “Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 

Saint Paul gives us an excellent reminder of what we are to do in tough times – remain steadfast, firm and devoted to His work. On Thursday morning, one of the Ukrainian Bishops spoke exactly about this when he said that, “while it had been a sleepless night for many, it is important for Catholics and Ukrainians to model the virtue of hope.”

So how do we model the Catholic virtue of hope? How can we respond as Catholics? I think our faith and scripture gives us a guide of what we can do to combat this feeling of helplessness. 

Here’s what we can do:

  • Pray – every day for an end to the violence and for the women, men and children in harm’s way.
  • We can also fast. Pope Francis has declared Ash Wednesday this week to be a day of prayer and fasting for the Ukraine. 
  • Another option is to engage the Blessed Mother by praying the Rosary. The Patriarch of the Catholic Church in the Ukraine has asked that we pray the Rosary in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and Catholics around the world every day at noon our time, 7pm Ukrainian time.
  • We can also come to daily Mass and spend time in Adoration.
  • Pray for those who have died – on both sides.
  • And pray for the Russian people to have the courage to voice their objection to war and for the Russian leaders to have a change of heart.

It is interesting to note that one of the U.S. Ukrainian Archbishops this week said, “We trust that history is in God’s hands. Yesterday … I prayed for President Putin and for Russia, for the conversion of hearts.”   Jesus taught us to pray for those who persecute us, and this demonstrates that fully. We can do the same.

  • We can also consider supporting the Catholic Relief Services emergency call to help families in the Ukraine and in refugee sites around Europe.

In the Gospel this morning, Luke tells us, “Every tree is known by its fruit…. A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good.” When our faith is in the driver’s seat, people will see what it means to be Catholic at a time when it is most needed. 

We pray, we act, we help, we serve, and we are devoted to the work of the Lord. We bring Jesus Christ into the fray with our prayers. We bring hope, when others see helplessness, because Jesus Christ hears our prayer. We can make a difference because we are that tree that bears good fruit.

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