Sunday, March 26, 2017

Homily for the 4th Sunday of Lent

Homily for 4th Sunday of Lent
“A weary mother returned from the store, lugging groceries through the kitchen door. Awaiting her arrival her 8 year old son, anxious to relate what his younger brother had done. While I was out playing and dad on a call, T.J. took crayons and wrote on the wall! It’s on the new wall paper you just hung in the den. I told him you’d be mad at having to do it again. She let out a moan and furrowed her brow, where is your little brother right now? She emptied her arms and with a purposeful stride, she marched to the closet where he had gone to hide. She called his full name as she entered the room. He trembled with fear; he knew this meant doom! For 10 minutes she ranted and raved about the expensive wallpaper and how she had saved. Lamenting all the work it would take to repair, she condemned his actions and total lack of care. The more she scolded, the madder she got, then stomped from his room, totally distraught! She headed for the den to confirm her fears. When she saw the wall, her eyes filled with tears. The message she read pierced her soul with a dart. It said I love mommy, surrounded by a heart. The wallpaper remained just as she found it, with an empty picture frame around it. A reminder to her; a reminder to us all: TAKE TIME TO READ THE HANDWRITING ON THE WALL…

 The handwriting on the wall; just one of many sayings we use to remind each other how blind sometimes we may be. Even if nothing is wrong with our vision, we may be blind. We remind ourselves that things are not often as they seem, don’t judge a book by its cover, we can’t see the forest for the trees, you have to read between the lines. In light of today’s Gospel, and as people of faith, we all are being challenged to address spiritual blindness. We all are being challenged to see with the eyes of Christ.

 On this 4th Sunday of Lent, as we wear the rose colored vestments, we listen to John’s Gospel once again and the story of the man born blind. John’s Gospel comes much later than the other 3; written almost 60 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. His audience is already dealing with the early years of the Church. First, John gives us the physical healing of the blind beggar. In a sacramental way, using matter and form in the mud, spit and words, Jesus cured the blind man; physically. But the larger lesson in this Gospel is the gradual spiritual blindness that Jesus heals too. As the Gospel passage continues, the blind man recounts what happened and declares Jesus a prophet and later tells Jesus I do believe and he worshipped Him. Our spiritual blindness sometimes prevents us from seeing Jesus. We may have our physical sight, but often we remain blind to all Jesus calls us to see. Most importantly, He tells us to see Him in the Most Blessed Sacrament. As we approach to receive Him in Holy Communion today, do we see Jesus in the tiny host? With physical eyes we may see ordinary bread. With eyes of faith, we see Jesus, fully present. And Jesus challenges us to see Him in our brothers and sisters; most especially our persecuted and marginalized brothers and sisters. With our spiritual eyesight can we see Jesus in the homeless, the street corner beggar, and the elderly left alone in the nursing home, those we still fear because of race or color, the dying, the poor, the prisoner?

 I’ve shared with you my prison ministry at Rayburn. I visit some pretty hard core guys. Many are doing some serious time. I always thought that my job was to be Jesus to them, and I try to do that. What I have found, week after week, is Jesus present in them, sharing Him with me. On our retreat two weeks ago I sat with an inmate who told me he just as soon kill me as pray with me. By the end of the weekend he was hugging me and praying for me and asking God for mercy and forgiveness. With spiritual eyesight, I saw Christ in that inmate.

 Our spiritual eyesight is also what Jesus asks us to use to see our own sinfulness so we may ask for God’s forgiveness and mercy. In this 4th week of Lent we should challenge ourselves to return to confession and see with eyes of faith Christ’s forgiveness in the priest who says I absolve you of your sins.

 In this Gospel we also are challenged to consider the beggar. Many of us have passed beggars in our life and have thought; what a waste. We may also have those same thoughts with the people in our lives that seem to have no remaining value. Remember when Jesus said to the disciples that he was blind so that the works of God might be made visible? Again, this is a challenge for us. At the end of my mom’s life, she was weak, frail and afraid. To a stranger, it may have appeared pathetic, hopeless. In those last days, God revealed to me, through my mom, that those who are frail, weak, lost or marginalized help us to reveal His glory. By our response to their needs and our spiritual vision to see Jesus in them, we give glory to God.

 This week, can we work on our spiritual blindness? Can we pray: open our eyes Lord; I want to see your face? May we not be like the Pharisees, saying surely I’m not blind? Acknowledge our spiritual blindness this week in confession or a Lenten devotion or in our response to all that we encounter during the week. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost but now I’m found was blind but now I see. And take time to read the handwriting on the wall!

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