Pastoral Sharings: " Fourth Sunday of Lent"

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
March 30, 2014

In the Gospel of John we often find stories which are not to be found in the Synoptic Gospels. And even though we know that John’s Gospel is considered to have been written later than the others we should not give in to the temptation to think that this old man John has made the story up.

All of the Gospel writers were confronted with such a great mass of written and oral material about the public ministry of Jesus that they had to be very selective in what they included. What the Evangelists have done is to take the incidents that they regard to be the most important and included them in their Gospel and so ensure that they would be handed down from generation to generation.

You will have noticed that Matthew, Mark and Luke have many similar accounts of specific incidents from the life of Jesus. It is considered by scholars that they used a common source which is now lost; a sort of first draft of the life of Jesus written or put together at an earlier date.

But John does not seem to use this document and his Gospel differs markedly from the others. He takes the long view and his Gospel is the outcome of considered reflection over very many years. It is not that he made up those incidents that are not recorded in the other Gospels but rather that he sees the significance of particular miracles that the Synoptic writers passed over.

In fact, John stresses only seven miracles or ‘signs’ as he calls them. And each of these miracles has an important lesson to teach us. The healing presented to us in today’s liturgy is that of the man born blind which takes place at the Pool of Siloam. And the lesson we are being taught is that besides our ordinary sight there is another kind of sight, that of seeing the truth of the Gospel.

This particular miracle is about light and darkness. The man had lived in darkness all his life but through healing he comes into the light in two senses: literally, since his sight was restored; and spiritually, since he was given the gift of faith. Of course, it is this gift of faith which concerns us most of all.

After the healing there follows a series of interrogations during which the scepticism of the Pharisees only increases while the faith of the blind man develops and strengthens.

First he claims that Jesus is a prophet, then he states that he is from God and finally when faced with Jesus once more he declares his faith in him as the Son of Man and kneels down and worships him.

They say that people who have lost, or never had, one human faculty often more acutely develop one or more of the others. This man was born blind but he is certainly not dumb. He is extremely fluent in his speech and, despite a presumed lack of education, he is clever enough to trounce the supposedly learned Pharisees and expose their plan to entrap Jesus.

He is also quite bold and forthright in his speech. Nowhere else in the Gospels do you read of a poor person speaking to those in authority in the way that this blind man does. It is clear to him that Jesus is good and truthful and that these supposedly religious men are nothing but hypocrites. They pretend to look for the truth but when he gives it to them they cannot accept it. At first they insult him and finally chase him away.

Despite his boldness towards the Pharisees this blind man is revealed to be quite humble and not without self-knowledge. Three times he confesses his ignorance: once to the people, once to the Pharisees and finally once to Jesus. As we have seen, each of these confessions of ignorance is followed by a profession of faith.

We are being subtly told that it is only when we honestly admit our ignorance that faith can find its way into our lives.

After being driven away by the Pharisees our blind man eventually encounters Jesus once again. But actually it is Jesus who seeks him out and who then asks him if he believes in the Son of Man. The blind man says, ‘Tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus replies, ‘You are looking at him.’

Notice the wonderful use of the senses in this brief but extremely significant exchange. This man who has been blind all his life and who has had to rely heavily on speech and hearing says, ‘Tell me who he is.’ Jesus who has given him sight tells invites him to use it and says, ‘You are looking at him.’

In the early history of the Church this miracle was thought of very highly. It was often depicted in the paintings on the walls of the Catacombs and the three-fold interrogation was taken up and used in the Baptismal Liturgy where adults were put through three scrutinies. During the last of these this very Gospel was read to the Catechumens finishing at the line, Yes, Lord I do believe.

This magnificent story tells us that light triumphs over darkness, truth over untruth, faith over disbelief. It also tells us that while physical blindness is certainly a terrible affliction how much worse an affliction is that of spiritual blindness.

This miracle tells us that admission of ignorance can open the door to knowledge of God. It tells us that the poor and the afflicted frequently have far more insight than the religious elite. It tells us that Christ the Light of the World wants to enlighten the lives of each one of us.

In our language we speak of sight and insight. We see by ordinary physical sight the things around us, even though to call this ordinary could hardly be correct since sight is in itself one of the most extraordinary aspects creation.

But with insight we see at quite another level, we come to a realisation, we make connections that are not immediately apparent. There is a moment when the real truth of something dawns on us, the moment of insight.

But if we go one step deeper even than so-called ‘ordinary’ insight we recognise the moment of coming to faith. I am certain that almost everyone here has experienced such a moment which is something much deeper even than insight.

It is the moment when we came to realise that God exists, that he is the author and sustainer of all creation, and that Jesus is his Son and our Saviour.

And that the only appropriate thing for us to in the face of this realisation is to do just what that blind man did: kneel down and worship him.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
March 30, 2014

Fourth Sunday of Lent
John 9: 1-41
Gospel Summary
Jesus, in order that the works of God might be made visible, gives sight to a man who had been blind from birth. Members of the community then proceed to debate the meaning of the various aspects of the event: why Jesus put clay on the man’s eyes and sent him to wash in the pool of Siloam; whether the man was really the blind man they had known; the significance of Jesus’ making the clay with his saliva on the Sabbath; the fear of the man’s parents to acknowledge that Jesus was from God; the expulsion of the man who had been blind because he insisted that Jesus really was from God.

4th Sunday of Lent: Called from Darkness to Light
A man had just sat down at his desk to begin the working day when one of his associates came storming into his office.  “You won’t believe this,” he said. “I was just almost killed outside.  I had just walked out of the deli where I buy my egg sandwich every morning.  Suddenly a police car came down the street with its lights flashing and sirens blaring.  The police were chasing another car.  The other car stopped right in front of me.  The guys jumped out and began shooting at the police.  I hit the ground and could hear bullets buzzing over my head.  I’m telling you, I’m lucky to be alive.”  After a moment of silence the first man said: “You eat an egg sandwich every morning?”

Sacraments From the Lion of Judah
Lion of Judah is no tame lion.  Neither is he predictable.

While walking along the streets of Jerusalem one day, Jesus sees a common enough sight in the Holy City.  There is a disabled person by the side of the road begging for alms (John 9).  What else is the poor man to do?  He has been blind from birth, so employment opportunities are limited.  He has no ability to see, but he can speak.  So he cries out for assistance.

Scripture Speaks: Seeing & Believing
Today’s Gospel tells an engaging, sometimes humorous, story of a blind man who can see and men with vision who are blind.

Gospel (Read Jn 9:1-41)

In the Gospel we are immediately introduced to a contrast that appears in all four lectionary readings:  sight and blindness, darkness and light.  There are layers of meaning for us as we follow the action of this story; it is no surprise that we are given this passage as a meal from the Table of the Word during Lent.  There is much nourishment here.

40 Days Of What? On Doing God’s Will Instead Of My Own
I slipped away recently for a women’s retreat and while in a “prayerful” state, I decided to list my Lenten resolutions, the sacrifices I would offer during the forty-seven days in the desert.  While comfortably nestled in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I tore open my floral covered journal, wielded my Bic pen and scribbled all the ways I would deny myself during the upcoming penitential season.

What is the Resurrection of the Dead?
Q: At Easter we celebrate that Jesus rose from the dead. In the Creed, we believe in the “resurrection of the dead.” Could you better explain these beliefs?

In the Gospels, Jesus had predicted three times that He would be arrested by the chief priests and scribes, suffer, be condemned to death, and be crucified; however, He also predicted that He would be “raised up” on the “third day” (cf. Mt 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:17-19). The predictions came true.

Waiting for God
“All human wisdom is contained in these two words—Wait and Hope.” Alexandre Dumas’ masterpiece, The Count of Monte Cristo, concludes with this startling truth. But a question immediately presents itself: what are we waiting and hoping for? In his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul provides an answer: “Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (8:19). Humanity, along with the whole created order, is waiting for the saving and illuminating action of God Himself.

The 12 Step Biblical Guide to the Pope and Infallibility
Listers, the Office of the Papacy and Infallibility are biblical gifts to the Church. According to the Gospels, St. Peter – the first to be given the Office of the Papacy – was commissioned by Christ to be the vicar of the kingdom of God, to strengthen the faithful, and to be the chief shepherd of the Lord’s flock. In short, the Vicar governs the kingdom according to the King’s laws until the King returns. The following list is meant to demonstrate the strong biblical argument for the papacy, but it is certainly not an exhaustive list.

Is Confession in Scripture?
The Lord declares in Isaiah 43:25:

I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.

Psalm 103:2-3 adds:

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases…

Saint Augustine on Sin, Fear and Love
Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here, here  and here to read the first three posts in the series, we come to Augustine’s discussion of why we should avoid sin.  Augustine thought that refraining from sin due to fear of Hell did not involve the rejection of sin but rather fear of burning.  The true reason for avoiding sin is love of God and therefore rejection of sin as a result of that love.  Our Act of Contrition mentions both motivations but is clear what should be the most important:

Why the Bible Alone is Not Enough
“Deacon Mike, why do we believe that it belongs to the Church to interpret the bible? Can’t we just read the bible for ourselves? The guys I do bible study with say that we (Catholics) add things that are not there.”

A young man who participates in a “non-denominational” bible study asked this just last week. This question comes up from time to time, so I thought we might look at the question again in a slightly larger context.

The Chief Exorcist, “Go back to your family.”
In Mark’s Gospel, after Jesus Christ delivers the Gerasene demoniac He tells him, “…Go back to your family.” With these words, The Chief Exorcist, gives his newly liberated disciple the secret to continuing freedom and protection from the demonic. The family, as a reflection of the Holy Family, is a spiritual hedge of protection from the demonic.

Mary’s Virginity and the Brothers of Jesus
During the last few hundred years it has become in vogue for some Protestant Christians to not only question the virginity of Mary, but to actually oppose it openly and militantly. Many traditional Protestants have gone the way of doubting the virginity of Mary altogether, relegating it to an early Christian myth. Meanwhile most of the more contemporary Evangelical Christians firmly adhere to the virginity of Mary during Christ’s conception on up to his birth, but vigorously deny her virginity thereafter. This article will demonstrate why both assumptions are wrong.

Mary as Hero
Has it ever occurred to you that Mary is a hero? I think it occurred to Tolkien.  As Joseph Pearce points out in his 2003 piece on Christian themes in Tolkien, it’s no coincidence that the One Ring was destroyed on March 25.  Pearce says:

10 Ways to Contemplate Christ’s Passion
No greater love has a man than to lay down his life for his friends.  Jesus died for all of humanity, but for you and me individually. He would have died for you and for or me if we were the only person in the whole universe for all time. How great is the love of Jesus for you and me!

The Value of Reading Exodus, a Chapter at a Time
I’m not sure how I fell into this habit.

I come home from work, fix a cuppa Joe, the dogs whisk around me excitedly as I add the milk and sugar (they know what’s coming next) … pick up my Bible from the hearth and open the patio door, the dogs race to the bottom of the yard together, and I go out to sit in the sun.

I sit in the sun and open up my Bible to Exodus to slowly read the next chapter.

These Two Commandments…
When Jesus was asked which of the commandments was most important he replied that we should love God and love our neighbor, and he added that on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. He might have added that on these two things hang everything that matters to everyone everywhere.

Most importantly, it is the love of God and the love of our neighbor that matters if we take our Christian faith seriously. All the rules and regulations and rubrics, all the debates and doctrines and dogmas are meaningless if we do not have the love of God and the love of our neighbor.

A Clean Heart Create for Me
Psalm 51 was recently given to me as my penance after a confession heard by a young visiting priest to our church. “What is Psalm 51?” I asked.
He said, simply, “It is beautiful.” He shared with me that he always adds this Psalm to whatever penance he is given during his own confessions.

Marriage is Not a Fairy Tale
I read this piece by Simcha Fisher that was a response to this piece by Emma Smith on Catholic Exchange. I thought I would add my piece. I feel like I have a different point of view than both Simcha Fisher and Emma Smith, but I agree with Simcha when she says that marriage is “a tangled ball of good intentions and bad habits, unhealed wounds and unfounded desires.” These words should be written on the top of every single sheet of paper handed to a couple preparing for marriage, in or out of the Catholic Church.

A Simple and Public Act of Faith
Several weeks ago, I had lunch with one of my new clients, a senior human resources executive of an Atlanta-based company. Our working partnership had been very business-focused since the beginning, and I wanted to forge a stronger personal connection, which I enjoy with most of my other clients.

We made small talk about a number of subjects until our food arrived. I said I was going to say a blessing over our meal and that she was welcome to join me. As I made the Sign of the Cross and started to pray, I noticed that she also made the Sign of the Cross. I smiled to myself and said a quiet prayer of thanks for the opportunity I had been given.

Feeding the Hungry: Giving the Poor What Is Justly Theirs
In 1968, Paul Ehrlich, declared defeat in his book The Population Bomb: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. …  In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.”

The prophet of doom didn’t reckon on Norman Borlaug, the father of the “Green Revolution,” who bred fantastically fruitful strains of food plants that kept the burgeoning population of the world (especially the Third World) from starving to death.

You Welcomed Me’ The Blessings of Catholic Hospitality
Hospitality has a long tradition in the Catholic faith.

Pope Francis spoke of it last November, telling new Catholics: “God did not create us to be alone, closed in on ourselves, but to be able to meet him and to open us to a meeting with others.”

He has also extended it to the many people he meets and helps, from the disabled to the homeless.

The Bible also has a lot to say about being hospitable.

Why You Ought to Come Inside the Church
G. K. Chesterton remarked once that the Catholic Church is larger on the inside than it appears from the outside. Saints come from all walks of life, and pursue their sainthood in multifarious ways. They include such diverse personalities as the gentle, innocent Thérèse of Lisieux, the acid-tongued scholar Jerome, the mirthful mystic Teresa of Ávila and the hard-headed, combative Wilfrid. It includes people who were saintly their whole lives (Philip Neri), people who found sainthood after years of sin (Ignatius Loyola, Camillus de Lellis), at least one who was martyred before his hair was dry from his baptism (Genesius of Rome), and one who was promised heaven while he hung on a cross for thievery (Dismas). They come in both sexes and from all around the world in ethnicity.

Vatican, Rome gear up for canonizations of John XXIII, John Paul II
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Just over five weeks before the canonizations of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II, Rome hotels are reporting they are almost fully booked and the Vatican has confirmed the Mass will take place in St. Peter’s Square, despite knowing that hundreds of thousands of people will have to watch the ceremony on large video screens.

Pope Francis had announced in late September that he would proclaim the two popes saints in a single ceremony April 27, Divine Mercy Sunday.

Living a Holy Life Is Child’s Play
Just  like C.S. Lewis,  I was Surprised by Joy.  Of course, there are certain serious Catholic bloggers who have a problem with my spirituality. Often traditional, Pre-Vatican ll prophets of doom, who religiously fast and recite prescribed set prayers for hours each day, take the exception to my childlike spirit of joy. Yet this path was not of my choosing. I craved the life of an intense regime of self-sacrifice as a consecrated, contemplative religious. When God called me to marriage and to be a mother, I really did feel like I was taking second best. Then, twenty years ago, a consecrated, lay contemplative who served in a  listening house,  said to me, ”You really have been given the best of both worlds. You are married with children yet you are living the contemplative life.”

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